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.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Chairs are like Facebook?

The advert from beginning to end features a series of images and clips of various types of chairs and people sitting on chairs in different settings. Along with this imagery we are hit with a bunch of no s**t statements such as “anyone can sit on a chair and if the chair is large enough they can sit down together”, until you reach the end of the video where the narrator states "Chairs are for people. And that is why chairs are like Facebook." This advert left me rather confused and disappointed, disappointed that such an influential company like Facebook would think this dull advert was a great way to commemorate it's 1 billion members and recruit new members. 

The tactic Facebook tried (and failed) to employ in the advert was “association” , an idea or object is linked to a positive or negative concept which is then transmitted to another object or idea. Facebook attributed all the positive qualities and the importance of chairs to Facebook. Association is an effective tactic, but when the object you wish to create an association with is not only completely random but boring it becomes confusing and the tactic loses it's effect. Unfortunately for Facebook, Youtubers have picked up on the lame advert creating their own parodies comparing Facebook to people or totally unrelated objects such as a toilet. Facebook could have used a better association - perhaps by linking Facebook users to pro-social people, maybe showing Facebook users unite for a greater good making a positive change in the world. Or how Facebook itself is a tool for good - how Facebook brings people closer together, showing off what Facebook has achieved and how it has enhanced communication throughout the world. This would surely increase membership and make for a better advert.

Miller, Brickman and Bolen (1975) investigated the effectiveness of the attribution tactic by labelling children as "pro-social" to encourage fifth graders not to litter and generally clean up after themselves and others. Children were split into three groups: the persuasion group, the attribution group and the control group. Children in the persuasion group were constantly told they should be neat and tidy people whereas children in the attribution group were constantly told they were neat and tidy people. The control group were not told either. Children were tested before the manipulation (pretest), straight after the manipulation (immediate posttest) and 2 weeks after the manipulation (delayed posttest). The testing phase consisted of various tasks and opportunities where the children could demonstrate their behaviour towards littering. For example, for one of the tests children were given sweets just before break time, the experimenters counted the number of sweet wrappers thrown in the bin placed in the classroom or on the floor.  

Figure 1.

Figure 1. summarises the results of the study showing the effects of the manipulation (whether children littered or cleaned up their mess) before and straight after the manipulation and 2 weeks later. The graph shows that those in the attribution condition were more likely to clean up by throwing litter in the bin compared to those in the persuasion or control condition who were less likely to do so. This behavioural change was stable 2 weeks later for the attribution condition compared to the persuasion condition, where there was a decline in this behaviour. Miller, Brickman and Bolen (1975) conclude that attributing pro-social qualities to an individual increases compliance and promotes a positive behavioural change, thus it is a highly effective persuasion tactic. This study demonstrates just how effective association is as a persuasive tactic, something Facebook may want to consider in its future advertisements.


Miller, R. L., Briackman, P. & Bolen, D. (1975). Attribution versus persuasion as a means for modifying behaviour. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31(3), 430-441.

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