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 3, 2016

Be Afraid! Stop smoking before it's too late..

This image displays one of the adverts in a campaign by the National Health Service in the UK called 'Smokefree'. This is a public health campaign which aims to encourage smokers across the country to quit smoking, with its emphasis on 'FREE support' and promotion of taking 'the first step'. This particular advertisement, as one of many of its kind, contains a rather grotesque image of a cigarette opened up to reveal a rotting inside and hints of blood. Above this image is a line of text: 'Every cigarette rots you from the inside out', thereby relating the imagery to one's own body. 

The advert is an example of evoking fear as a means of persuasion, by heavily implying that smoking is so bad for your health that it will cause your organs to rot. The idea is that when people see this advert, this arouses fear for their own health and even their mortality, causing an avoidance tendency towards smoking (Nielsen & Shapiro, 2009). This advert also offers a simple way of overcoming and avoiding the fear, by contacting someone associated with the ‘Smokefree’ campaign.

 Smith and Stutts (2003) investigated the effectiveness of short-term cosmetic versus long-term health fear appeals in preventing or reducing smoking. Some of the participants were exposed to short-term cosmetic fear appeal advertisements, depicting smoking as associated with bad breath and yellow teeth, using the tag line 'smoking stinks'. Another group of participants were exposed to long-term health fear appeal advertisements, placing more emphasis on the serious disease that can result from smoking such as lung cancer, using the tag line 'smoking kills'. A control group was not exposed to any anti-smoking related advertisement. Questionnaires assessing behaviours and attitudes towards smoking were administered before and after fear inducing advertisement exposure. Results showed a significant difference between the control group, which did not show much change in smoking behaviour or attitudes, and both experimental groups which reported an overall decline in smoking behaviour. This research therefore supports the idea that fear can be used to control certain behaviours. Interestingly, it appears that the short-term fear appeal campaigns had a greater influence in reducing smoking for males than females; while long-term fear appeal campaigns had a greater influence in reducing smoking for females (negative numbers indicate a decline in smoking behaviour). However, overall long-term fear appeals were more effective in reducing smoking behaviour (See Table 2).             

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