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.

Thursday, March 3, 2016


This advertisement aims to encourage people to eat more broccoli. It uses many persuasion techniques in order to successfully convey health benefits of broccoli, in the hope that more people will be encouraged eat broccoli regularly (Medicalnewstodaycom,2016).

The use of the rhetorical questions in this advert are designed to capture the audience’s attention. Research has demonstrated that the use of rhetorical questions in advertising, results in both better recall of the adverts as well as superior persuasion. Overall, people show more preference for adverts with rhetorical questions in, and subsequently pay more attention to them (Tom & Eves, 1999). Furthermore, Petty, Cacioppo & Heesacker (1981) demonstrated through their research, that the use of rhetorical questions as a persuasive technique can enhance thinking and a recipients cognitive response to an advert. These pieces of research suggest that this advertisement will lead to enhanced thinking regarding the benefits of broccoli and will therefore successfully encourage people to eat more of it.

It has been continuously shown that people respect authority and so will follow their lead. For example Milgram (1963) demonstrated subjects blind obedience to authority in his electric shock study. In the study, participants administered lethal shocks to other participants, merely because the person giving the orders was wearing a white lab coat. The presence of an authority figure increases the likelihood that people will comply with the requests they make. Therefore, the use of the image of a doctor holding broccoli in this advertisement, will act as a persuasive technique. If the audience believes that a doctor is eating broccoli and is stating the health benefits (e.g. reducing cancer risk) then they are more likely to comply and act the same as them. So, generally, as a doctor is seen as a credible source, the presence of this image makes the advertisement more seem more credible (Milgram, 1963; Bushman, 1984).

The information on the poster is presented in a gain frame (demonstrating the health benefits). The aim of the advert is to demonstrate the diseases that can be prevented. Showing the gains rather than the losses that can be made, has been shown to have a positive impact on people’s decisions and can therefore be more persuasive (Rothman, Bartels, Wlaschin & Salovey, 2006). People will read in the advertisement how they can reduce their risk of certain types of cancers, hypertension, as well as having better skin and bone health and this will subsequently lead to more compliance (more people will start eating broccoli).

Additionally the use of the image of the man, woman and broccoli can be seen as another persuasive technique - social proof. We look at others behaviour to make a decision of what we should do. People will see others are joining in eating broccoli to improve their health and as a result, this will persuade them to imitate the behaviour they see (Cialdini, 2009). More specifically, Salmon, De Vet, Adriaanse, Fennis,Veltkamp & De Ridder (2015) demonstrated how the use of a 'social proof heurtistic' and social proof cues in advertisements encouraging purchasing healthy foods, can lead to more people buying healthier foods. Therefore, the presence of this image should lead to more people going to buy broccoli. Lastly, this image also acts in line with the gain frame as its demonstrating that compliance will lead to good things - you will look happy and healthy alike to the people featured in the advert if you eat more broccoli (Rothman, Bartels, Wlaschin & Salovey, 2006).

Bushman, , B. J. (1984). Perceived symbols of authority and their influence on conformity. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 14, 501-508.

Cialdini, R. B. (2009). Social Proof: Truths Are Us. Influence: Science and Practice (pp.97-139). United States of America: Pearson Education Inc.

Medicalnewstodaycom. (2016). Medical News Today. Retrieved 28 February, 2016, from

Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral Study of Obedience. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67, 371-378.

Petty, R. E., Cacioppo, J. T., & Heesacker, M. (1981). Effects of Rhetorical Questions on Persuasion: A Cognitive Response Analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 40, 432-440.

Rothman, J. A., Bartels, R. D., Wlaschin, J., & Salovey, P. (2006). The Stategic Use of Gain- and Loss-Framed Messages to Promote Healthy Behavior: How Theory can Inform Practise. Journal of Communication, 56, 202-220.

Salmon, S. J., De Vet, E., Adriaanse, M. A., Fennis, B. M., Veltkamp, M., & De Ridder, D. T. D. (2015). Social Proof in the supermarket: Promoting healthy choices under low self-control conditions. Food Quality and Preference , 45, 113-120. 

Tom, G., & Eves, A. (1999). The use of rhetorical devices in advertising. Journal of Advertising Research, xxv, 39-43.

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