Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"Where r..." A second look!

The above advert shows the disastrous consequences that can occur from texting whilst driving. As mentioned in an earlier blog on this advert, advertisers have used a dimensional alteration effect and also the consequences templates. However, there are also other persuasive tactics in use.

The company who created this advert, AT&T, are an American telecommunications provider, similar to Vodafone or O2 here in the UK. The very fact that it comes from them, shows the use of the Expert-Unknowing altercast. As they are experts within this field they cast the target of the advert into the position of someone no in the know. In general, it has been seen that linking a message with a source of expertise increases persuasion (Hoveland, Janis & Kelly, 1953). This effect increases the source credibility which in turn increases the persuasiveness of the message.

A further increase in Source credibility comes from the use of the Defector-Confident Altercast. For AT&T, it would be in their interests for their customers to be sending texts and using their services as often as possible as this increases money in their own pockets. So, the very fact that they advertise against this and highlight what is a very important issue, the overall effectiveness of their communication will be more effective (Walster Aronson & Abraham., 1966).

Additionally, the use of Fear can have a strong influence on increasing the persuasive power of a message. By linking an undesired action (texting whilst driving) with negative consequences (Brain damage and injury) an avoidance tendency toward that behaviour is created. Leventhal (1970) has shown this technique to be particularly effective when the appeal arouses intense fear, offers recommendation for overcoming this fear (not texting whilst driving) and the target believes the negative consequence of the undesired action will be avoided by performing the recommendation.

Clearly then, this advert is built to be persuasive on a number of levels. The combination of the dimensional alteration effect and consequences template previously mentioned with the Expert-Unknowing altercast, Defector-Confident Altercast and the Fear technique, will ultimately result in a very persuasive message to stop people texting whilst they drive.

George Coe

Hovland, C.I., Janis, I.L., Kelly, H.H. (1953). Communication and persuasion. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.   

Leventhal, H. (1970). Findings and Theory in the Study of fear communications. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental and social psychology (Vol. 5, pp.119-186). New York: Academic Press. 

Walster, E., Aronson, E., & Abrahams, D. (1966). On Increasing the persuasiveness of a low prestige customer. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2, 325-342. 


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