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.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Eat Breakfast: 68% of people do, do you?

During a busy morning it’s far too easy to forget to eat breakfast. Let’s face it, we’ve all done it. However, taking just a few minutes to eat breakfast can provide you with the energy and the concentration you need to kick start your morning (NHS Lothian, 2011). No wonder it’s called the ‘most important meal of the day’.

Therefore, the below advert attempts to get more of the population to eat breakfast by using three persuasive techniques: Social Proof, Physical Attractiveness and Rhetorical Questions.

Firstly, whether we like it or not, the people around us influence the way we behave. Indeed, we are more likely to do something if we think other people are doing it too. Van de Linden (2013), for instance, noted that people are more likely to reduce their bottled water consumption if they believe other people have started to already. By suggesting a large proportion of the population eat breakfast, the above advert attempts to tap into this powerful phenomenon of Social Proof.

Secondly, a message delivered by a physically attractive source is far more persuasive than an idea suggested by a lesser attractive person (Chaiken, 1986). This is especially true when the issue in hand is of low importance to the consumer (Chaiken, 1980). From the personal experience of struggling to crawl out of bed each morning, I argue that eating breakfast is low down on most people’s importance list (it definitely is on mine!). Therefore, people may be more easily persuaded to eat breakfast simply by having the attractive woman eating breakfast on the advert.

Lastly, we all love rhetorical questions, don’t we? In this case, we definitely do. The inclusion of rhetorical questions in an advert increases the elaboration of its content by the consumer and ultimately boosts the persuasiveness of messages containing strong arguments (Ahluwalia & Burnkrant, 2004). Assuming that the argument of increased energy, concentration and improved heart health is a strong one – and being realistic, they are vital characteristics for anyone in today’s society to possess – the use of rhetorical questions in the above advert may have made the proposition of eating breakfast all the more persuasive. 

The use of these three highly influential persuasive techniques aimed to provide an effective advert that encouraged people to eat breakfast. So, hopefully, you’ll now be off to eat it. 


Adult Health and Lifestyle Survey (2004) Retrieved from

Ahluwalia, R., & Burnkrant, R. E. (2004). Answering questions about questions: A persuasion knowledge perspective for understanding the effects of rhetorical questions. Journal of Consumer Research31, 26-42.

Chaiken, S. (1980). Heuristic versus systematic information processing and the use of source versus message cues in persuasion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39, 752-766.

Chaiken, S. (1986). Physical appearance and social influence. In C. P. Herman, M. P. Zanna, & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), Physical appearance, stigma, and social behavior: The Ontario Symposium (pp. 143-177). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Harvard Health Publications: Eat breakfast to lower heart risk (2013). Retrieved from

NHS Lothian: Breakfast (2011). Retrieved from

Van Der Linden, S. (2015). Exploring Beliefs About Bottled Water and Intentions to Reduce Consumption The Dual-Effect of Social Norm Activation and Persuasive Information. Environment and Behavior47, 526-550.

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