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

Why is Charlize Theron so beautiful?

This advert always manages to capture my attention. My eyes are fixed, my mouth slightly open and I start to wish that I was taller, thinner, had beautiful blond hair and the perfect nose. She is absolutely beautiful. Talk about a Halo effect the advertisers have literally immersed her in a radiating golden glow. She attracts the attention of everyone in that room which just exaggerates her social desirability (Dion & Berscheid, 1972).  I then start to believe that if I douse myself in Dior then I too will radiate a golden fa├žade just like Charlize Theron (Lott & Lott, 1965).

Only the other day I drove past a billboard for this ad, my attention was diverted and nearly crashed my car!! The Aston Express Way really is not an appropriate place for such an ad to be placed. They are clearly trying to get someone killed!
So many other individuals must have the same response, hopefully they do otherwise I seriously need to seek some professional help regarding my response to Charlize Therons beauty.
Well I was happy to discover that I am not the only weirdo and that my reaction to this advert is exactly what the advertisers were planning on. It turns out that us human beings have an automatic response to physical attractiveness, which makes beauty very hard to ignore (Olson & Marshuetz, 2005).
After all I completely doubt that the advert would invoke the same response if this lady was the leading the campaign.

Well turns out she is!! But how come she looks so unbelievably different in the ad? Well apparently we prefer good-looking individuals to us normal types, but would never openly admit it of course. Efran and Patterson (1976) discovered that good-looking political candidates got two and a half more votes than unattractive candidates. But when asked about it the participants did not know about their bias. 

On top of this Cialdini and colleagues (1976) discovered that we like to associate ourselves with positive things and disassociate ourselves with the negative (the latter photo!).

So the advertisers have captured my attention, they have made me believe that Charlize Theron is the most socially desirable woman alive, they have tricked my unconscious and made me want to associate myself with this everything about this product. But they are not happy to stop there, on no!

Further to this the advert has been placed all over the media and on billboards across the country increasing exposure and increasing Charlize Therons attractiveness (Peskin & Newell, 2004). This is all done so that her attractive traits rub off onto the product and entice me to purchase (Smith & Engel, 1968).


Cialdini. R., Borden. R., Thorne. A., Walker. R.M., Freeman. S., & Sloan R. L.  (1976) Basking in reflected glory: Three (football) field studies. Journal of personality and social psychology, 34. 366-375.   

Dion, K., Berscheid, E., & Walster, E. (1972). What is beautiful is good. Journal of personality and social psychology, 24(3), 285.

Efran, M. G., & Patterson, E. W. J. (1976).  The politics of appearance. Unpublished
manuscript, University of Toronto.

Lott, A. J., & Lott, B. E. (1965). Group cohesiveness as interpersonal attraction: A review of relationships with antecedent and variables. Psychological Bulletin, 64, 259-309.

Olson, I, R. C, Marshuetz,(2005) Facial Attractiveness Is Appraised in a Glance.
Emotion 4, 498-502.

Peskin, M. & Newell, F. N. (2004) Familiarity breeds attraction: effects of exposure on the attractiveness of typical and distinctive faces. Perception 33, 147-157.
Smith, G.H. & Engel, R. (1968) Influence of a Female Model on Perceived Characteristics of an Automobile, Proceedings from the 76th  APA Annual Convention, 681-682.

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