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 7, 2016

White Tea

The advertisement opens with a simple rhetorical question. Ahluwalia and Burnkrant (2004) found that salient use of rhetorical questions leads the viewer to simply answer the questions. Answering the question, and thereby engaging with the advertisement, leads to greater attention on the message content. If the message arguments are strong, then this has been found to increase persuasion. The use of rhetorical questions from a liked source has also been found to increase persuasion as it suggests openness and allows the reader to make a decision on their own terms. 

The advertisement also exploits the principle of reciprocity to aid persuasion. It offers a ‘free sample’, which can lead to a feeling of indebtedness and encourage a purchase as a means of returning the favour (Cialdini, 1984). The offer of a free sample also plays on the Cialdini principle of commitment. Cialdini suggested that people have a desire to be seen as consistent, so once we have publicly committed to something, we are more likely to follow through on this commitment. Once someone has received the free sample, they are more likely to be able to see themselves as customers, and therefore more likely to go on to make a purchase.

The final persuasion technique employed in this advertisement, is the principle of scarcity (Cialdini, 1984). Research shows that products become more attractive when their perceived availability is limited. When something is not scarce, it suggests that it is not that desirable and therefore not worth purchasing; whereas one something is scarce it appears coveted and therefore increases its attractiveness. The line ‘while stocks last’ used in the advertisement, creates a sense of urgency and encourages people to make an order before it is too late. 


Ahluwalia, R., & Burnkrant, R. E. (2004). Answering questions about question: A persuasion knowledge perspective for understanding the effects of rhetorical questions. Journal of Consumer Research, 31, 26-42

Cialdini, Robert B. Influence: how and why people agree to things. 1st ed. New York: Morrow; 1984

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