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.

Monday, March 23, 2015

If Katie Can Lose Weight, So Can You!

The above video is the trailer for Katie Hopkins, My Fat Story, in which Katie Hopkins documents her way through gaining 4 stone and her journey to lose the weight. Not only is she trying to show that those who are obese have no reason not to lose their weight, but she also aims to show the consequences obesity can lead to. There are multiple persuasive techniques in this documentary, such as shocking individuals into leading a healthy life and showing individuals the consequences of being obese, however the most prominent tactic used, is the just plain folks; similarity altercast.

The just plain folks altercast suggests that a high profile individual is in many ways similar to the lay person. This tactic works using Festinger’s (1954) social comparison process, in which we have a tendency to cooperate more and listen to others who may be similar in some way to us. Similarity is thought to create a bond between the individuals concerned enhancing the likelihood compliance will occur.

For example, Mills and Jellison (1968) conducted an experiment in which they examined the effects on opinion change due to similarity. In their experiment they asked an individual to give a speech to a group of college students about general education and had 4 conditions. There were 2 audience conditions, music students and engineering students, and there were also 2 conditions for the speaker; a music student or an engineering student. The experiment examined how likely an opinion change was when the subject of the audience matched the subject of the speaker, compared to when the speaker was of a different subject to the students.

Therefore the conditions were
Music student speaker, music student audience
Music student speaker, engineering student audience
Engineering student speaker, engineering student audience
Engineering student speaker, music student audience

The results, shown below in table 1 indicate that when there was a match between audience and speaker, and consequently similarity between the two, opinion change was more likely, thereby influencing the behaviour.

With reference to Katie Hopkins, is it suggested she is just like everybody else through the fact she doesn’t have a gym membership, nor does she eat expensive meals. Therefore Katie is just like everyone else and so no one has any excuse for not leading a healthy lifestyle, just like her.  The show suggests Katie can put weight on and lose it again, with no special tricks. By using techniques everyone can afford such as running through her neighbourhood, Katie can lose weight and lead a healthy lifestyle and as she is just like you, you can too!


Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human relations, 7(2), 117-140.

Mills, J., & Jellison, J. M. (1968). Effect on opinion change of similarity between the communicator and the audience he addressed. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9(2), 153-156.

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