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, November 6, 2016

I like big butts and I cannot lie…

A vast obsession with butts has led to an unsurprising increase in the rate of cosmetic procedures such as butt implants and augmentations. Known by many as the ‘Kardashian effect’, this rise has been attributed to the likes of celebrities such as Kim Kardashian as well as Beyonce, J-Lo and Nicki Minaj.

So why is this butt craze in an all time overdrive?

Availability heuristic
According to Tverksy and Kahneman (1973), how important something is perceived depends on how easy it can be retrieved and how often it is seen in the environment. With this heuristic in mind, there’s no doubt then as to why there have been an influx of butt procedures; the saliency of social media is almost impossible to miss and there is no choice but to become fixated on all things butt related. From Instagram to reality TV to song lyrics, this infatuation is unavoidable and can even lead to unhealthy ideals that are mistakenly culturally valued (Markey & Markey, 2012). For instance, it is extremely difficult to control and monitor what's posted on social media sites such as Facebook, the audience that it reaches is of a huge amount and most apparently, it is always there and available to everyone.

This ties in with Gerbner’s cultivation theory, which explains that being repeatedly exposed to the media causes people to view and accept media information as an indicator of reality. Therefore, the distinct nature of beauty as seen in the media and the beauty that the ‘ordinary’ female is likely to achieve, weakens as media contact increases (Markey & Markey, 2012).

Theory of planned behaviour
This theory links beliefs and behaviour more specifically, that attitude toward behaviour, subjective norms and perceived behavioural control combine to shape one’s behavioural intentions. Attitudes describe how one thinks about something so for example, your opinion on how good butt implants looks compared to a butt augmentation. Second, subjective norms are based on the fact that the individuals see the so-called ‘sources’ of these butts as credible. As a result, people may be attracted to things that they may not have even considered before just because others are doing it. Perceived behavioural control is the belief that one has of how in control they are of their own behaviour. For example, if one has low perceived behavioural control, they may be predisposed and easily influenced by such celebrity and media obsessions.

According to Festinger’s social comparison theory, when people compare themselves to others, this provides individuals with a means in which they evaluate their own qualities, especially when the criteria for evaluation are not clear or available. However, it can also be said that it’s difficult to evaluate your own physical beauty without comparing yourself to the models and celebrities that are so widely available via the media. (Markey & Markey, 2012).

Mere exposure and familiarity
As Hitler so eloquently described, having a simple message that is repeated often is the best way to persuade people.
 The more times you see something, the more accessible it becomes and eventually, you will end up liking and believing what is shown to you even if that means getting a butt lift yourself.

Taking all these heuristics and theories into account, it is not surprising to see how we can be so engrossed and fixated on what may have once seemed like a bizarre phenomenon, but when surrounded with big butts, we too crave one. But it would also be interesting to consider whether these beliefs can be unlearned for instance through media education and acceptance of a healthy and attainable appearance.


Markey, C.N. and Markey, P.M., (2012). Emerging adults' responses to a media presentation of idealized female beauty: An examination of cosmetic surgery in reality television. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 1, 209-219.

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