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, June 4, 2014

The Magic of Disney: A new Analysis

Disney World - A Magical Place

This is a short advert for Disney World. The previous blog entry looked at a few key techniques used in this advert such as human salience, priming affect, and targeting affect. There are a few others that we can attribute to this advert. Firstly let us look at social consensus. This basically states that the more people are observed to support a particular position or be doing something, the more likely others will join and agree. Milgram et al. (1969) placed confederates on a busy street and had them look up at a building. They found that passers by copied this behaviour and looked up as well. As more people looked up, this increased conformity. In this video, seeing numerous clips of parents telling their children they are taking them to Disney World, increases the likelihood of the viewers to do the same. It even increases the likelihood of them recording the event as seen in the video. This way Disney World gains more homemade videos for future adverts without even asking for them.

This leads on to the next technique that is closely related to social consensus. It is called multiple sources. This advert is made up of multiple clips of parents telling their children that they are taking them to Disney World. In each of these numerous clips, it is seen that the children’s reactions are all extremely positive, and this is recreated over and over again with children of varying ages, both boys and girls. Seeing just one family have such positive reactions is quite persuasive, but by showing numerous ones, this advert becomes even stronger. Harkins and Petty (1981) showed the effects of multiple sources compared to one on persuasion strength. They showed that using three different speakers for three different arguments, was more persuasive than having just one speaker for all three arguments. This finding was replicated using synthetic voices as well by Lee and Nass (2004). These experiments showed that increasing the number of sources, increased the amount the recipients of the message thought about them. When the arguments are strong this increases persuasion. In this case the fact that the children’s positive reactions were so strong is very compelling and persuasive.

A third lesser technique used in this advert, which comes about as a by-product of the previous two is repetition of a message. Repeating a message over and over again generally increases it’s believability and increases people’s acceptance of said communication. Message repetition works by creating a liking for the object or product through the exposure effect. This is shown in a study by Zajonc (1968). Message repetition also increases the validity of facts stated within the message, which is seen in a study by Boehm (1994). In this video, the slight difference is that the message caption, revealing the meaning of the message, comes after the message evidence itself. The message of happiness, or ‘magic’ as the caption labels it, that Disney World brings, is repeated over and over again in the form of the homemade reaction video clips.

All of these, as well as the ones described in the previous analysis contribute to the successful persuasive power of this Disney World advert.


Boehm, L. E. (1994). The validity effect: A search for mediating variables.Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin20(3), 285-293.

Harkins, S. G., & Petty, R. E. (1981). The Multiple Source Effect in Persuasion The Effects of Distraction. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 7(4), 627-635.

Lee, K. M., & Nass, C. (2004). The multiple source effect and synthesized speech: Doubly disembodied language as a conceptual framework. Human Communication Research, 30(2), 182-207.

Milgram, S., Bickman, L., & Berkowitz, L. (1969). Note on the drawing power of crowds of different size. Journal of personality and social psychology13(2), 79.

Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of personality and social psychology9(2p2), 1.

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