Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills 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, September 28, 2016

Propaganda for Change

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” Jiddu Krishnamurti

On August 28th 1963, Martin Luther King took centre stage in Washington D.C and delivered one of the finest speeches in recorded history to 250,000 people- 250,000 people willing to listen to the voice of a minority, a voice that challenged the archaic racial view embedded in the masses. One year later President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. The opinion-deviant majority alter-cast or minority influence principle (Moscovici, Lage & Naffrechoux, 1969) accounts for some of history’s defining moments and proposes that if the minority is consistent, confident and committed in their judgement they become effective communicators (Moscovici, 1976). To give a more contemporary example, take Russell Brand- Dave Grohl and Jesus Christ’s cockney, comedian lovechild recently appeared on Newsnight and in the space of 10 minutes delivered one of the most well-articulated, slightly verbose accounts of bullshit ever presented on national television. However, the critical factors of consistency, confidence and commitment in his own argument managed to transform the generic largely politically unconcerned Facebook statuses of the British youth from the tedium of hangover updates and circling reviews to those of fierce aspiring revolutionaries. The point is whether you're a hippy, conservative, liberal, homosexual, terrorist, freedom fighter, average Joe, anarchist, Pope, white, black, clinically insane, partisan, Christian, Muslim, pagan, masochist, peasant, president, romantic, ladies, gentleman it does not matter, if you have enough belief in an idea you can change the world.

Moscovici (1976) demonstrated the effect of minority influence in one of the classic psychological studies. In the control condition a group of up to 6 naïve participants viewed a series of slides depicting various shades of blue. After being shown a slide participants were in turn required to say out loud the colour they had just seen before moving on to the next one. Under such conditions near much everyone identified the slides as being blue meaning the colour of the slide was deemed relatively unambiguous. In two experimental conditions a numerical minority (2/6) of the group were confederates of the experimenter and gave pre-agreed responses (Martin & Hewstone, 2012). Similarly to the control condition when presented with the series of blue slides participants were in turn asked to say aloud the colour they perceived. Confederates responded first and identified the depicted colour as ‘green’, an interpretation which clearly differed to that of the naïve participants. In the ‘consistent-minority condition’ confederates answered with the incorrect ‘green’ response on every trial and those in the ‘inconsistent-minority condition’ deliberately responded incorrectly on 2/3 of all trials.

Figure 1: a bar chart demonstrating the percentage of green responses by naïve participants in each condition.

Results reported that the presence of a minority that consistently provided unusual responses influenced the judgments made by naive participants in that 32% of the consistent-minority condition conformed to the confederate response at least once and as can be deduced from figure 1 18% of all responses in this condition were green . However, the inconsistent minority had virtually no influence over the majority whatsoever, which supports Moscovici et al.'s (1969) claim that consistency is one the keys to minority influence. In summary either we need to confiscate Russell Brand’s thesaurus or wait until he inevitably begins to make contradictory statements before we switch off when he says something he didn't intend to be a joke- power to the people. 

Rory MacLeod


Martin, R., & Hewstone, M. (2012). Minority influence: Revisiting Moscovici’s blue-green afterimage studies. In J. R. Smith, & S. Alexander-Haslam (Eds.), Social psychology: Revisiting the classic studies (pp. 91-106). London, England: Sage Publications.

Moscovici, S., Lage, E., & Naffrechoux, M. (1969). Influence of a consistent minority on the responses of a majority in a colour perception task. Sociometry, 32, 365–379.

Moscovici, S. (1976). Social influence and social change. London: Academic Press.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

"Smell Like a Man, Man"

The more unique, bold and attention-grabbing an advertisement seems, the more standardized and clichéd it probably actually is. Or at least that that is what Goldenburg, Mazursky and Solomon (1999) believed. They identified 6 basic templates that 89% of 200 award-winning advertisements seemed to fall into. These templates included: Pictoral Analogy, Extreme Situation, Consequences, Competition, Interactive Experiment, Dimensionality Alteration. The above Old Spice ad created a lot of stir amongst viewers, and gained great popularity, reaching over 50 million views on YouTube. One explanation for its effectiveness may be due to its use of the consequences template, specifically the extreme consequences version

In the extreme consequences version, a set of situations is linked to a set of consequences via a linking operator. A consequence is a phenomenon, flow of events in the situation. "The situation in our example is a action, or behavior which results from the product attribute appearing in the message" (Goldenburg, Mazursky & Solomon, 1999, pp. 342). The consequences themselves need not be extreme, for example the advertisement repeatedly mentions that Old Spice will make "your man" smell more like a man (and less like a lady), an attainable consequence. In fact, this consequence needs to be both realistic and familiar to the audience. It is the linking operator which takes a select potential consequence and takes it to the extreme. This is demonstrated in Table 1 below.

In this situation, smelling more like a man is a feasible goal. The advertisement takes this a step further by implying that once this goal is attained anything is possible - "your man" may become attractive like the Old Spice man who has tickets "for that thing you like", diamonds and rides a horse. This linking operator is clearly quite extreme and absurd, and probably the very reason this ad has been so effective.

Goldenberg, J., Mazursky, D., & Solomon, S. (1999). Creative sparks. Science285, 1495-1496.

Shareen Rikhraj

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Celebrate Your Self(ie)

Background: The aim of this project was to encourage people to break away from stereotypical behaviour and also learning to do something new. The idea stemmed from ruminating about stereotypical behaviour and how that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy in that it socialises people to behave according to the stereotypes placed upon them. For example, a common stereotype for men is that they aren’t overly emotional and showing affection towards friends the same sex and the opposite being true for women - this applies more to heterosexual gender stereotypes as there are nuances with homosexual relationships.

The first challenge was for people to address these stereotypes by carrying out an act which falls against them, for example, a heterosexual man sending his male friends flowers as a gift etc. Secondly, we challenge people to do something new, for example to start a blog or ride a bike, and challenge their friends to do the same. As proof of their participation in our project, all they had to do was post a selfie onto our Facebook page or on Twitter, with the hashtag #breakthemould. We thought about the impact of novel actions and experiences on the overall perception of one’s quality of life and also how fear can hinder one from doing things that could potentially be fulfilling.

Our project looks mainly at popular gender stereotypes as aforementioned and not racial, religious, cultural stereotypes as those are very complex to address.

Techniques: Our project employed self-efficacy as its main persuasion technique (Bandura, 1977). Strecher et al’s review of studies on health behaviour i.e. cigarette smoking, weight control, contraception, alcohol abuse and exercise behaviors. Self-efficacy revealed a strong relationship between self-efficacy, change in health behaviour and maintenance of such behaviour. Self-efficacy rests on the ability of the individual to organize and execute the actions needed to reach their goal. It can be manipulated through techniques such as guided mastery which involves successfully learning new things (acting against stereotypical behaviour and doing something new), social modelling and social persuasion which leads to action based on other’s actions or as a result of verbal influence/encouragement (posting selfies and challenging friends to do so), and physiological states which influences action based on mood and motivation.  

Action: We made a poster featuring a model taking a selfie. This poster was also used as the profile picture for the Facebook page, which a number of people were invited to like. The Facebook page explained the goals of the project, and encouraged people to post their own selfies or text stories for those less inclined to share their photo.

Limitations: Although people engaged with our paged by liking and joining it, most weren’t inclined to share their selfies. We posted our own selfie in order to encourage people to join in but did not  spur action from others. A Twitter account was also made, but gained no traction. This could be because people weren’t interested in sharing personal achievements with a group of strangers. It could also be that the project nonetheless encouraged people to try something new even without their posting it to the Facebook page and self efficacy may develop over a longer time period.

Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84, 191-215.

Strecher, V., McEvoy DeVellis, B., Becker, M., & Rosenstock, I. (1986). The Role of Self-Efficacy in Achieving Health Behavior Change. Health Education & Behavior, 13(1), 73-92.

Teju Soyinka, Nat Holding & Oktay Ulker

Surviving the Stress Age

Stress is an increasingly prevalent issue, particularly in students who are often newly independent young adults whobeing introduced to certain challenges they must encounter for the first time. Stress has been linked with both negative physiological and psychological health outcomes (Goldenhar, 2005), as well as behavioural outcomes such as poorer performance in exams, which is especially relevant for students just prior to exam periods. 

With this in mind, a self-help technique was devised in order to help students cope with their stress. The self-help technique incorporates ideas from positive psychology – grateful thoughts are crucial to subjective well-being. Utilising these principles, people were asked to generate a grateful thought each day, with the idea being that this change in mind set will lead to a reduction in stress. 

On the advert itself, two main persuasive techniques were implemented to increase the likelihood of students engaging with the positive behaviour change procedure.

Firstly, the advert contains a manded altercast – a technique which makes a social role salient with the hope of this effecting their future behaviour. Students within the project were made aware of the importance of their role as a student in coping with the stress that comes with it. Also, the project utilised source credibility, promoting the fact that ‘experts’ from the field of psychology promote exercises like our self-help technique to reduce stress and enhance subjective well-being (Hovland and Weiss, 1951). 

Students who participated were encouraged to write a grateful thought down in each of the boxes, every day for a week. It was anticipated that following this week, participants would feel significantly less stressed and be on route to a developing a behaviour which would enable them to cope with any future stressful situations. 

Hovland, C. I., & Weiss, W. (1951). The influence of source credibility on communication effectiveness. Public Opinion Quarterly, 15, 635-650. 
Goldenhar, R. M. (2005). The effects of a stress reduction intervention on quality of life in psoriasis patients. Dissertation abstracts international: section b: the sciences and engineering, 66, 1169

Daniel Bell, Disha Koshal & Vanessa Ajagu

The Upside of Quitting

You all have probably heard the saying “a quitter never wins and a winner never quits.” It’s a social trap: a situation in which not quitting produces a small, immediate positive outcome at first (i.e. pride), but eventually results in a larger negative outcome after a delay. It’s become so ingrained that we don’t even think about it anymore.

We are looking to help with some small problems which can eat away at people’s time and resources. For example, reading the whole of the book just because they started it and are determined to finish it despite not enjoying it. Herein lie the two concepts: sunk cost (the money they spent on the book and the time they have spent reading it, which they cannot get back and must not use as a reason to continue) and opportunity cost (they could spend the time on a book they enjoy more). We created a website where people would look to solve these small dilemmas. Here’s the website’s map:

We weren’t able to compare if the coin toss or the deciding for themselves led to a higher chance of following through with quitting the behaviour, but we hope that we have created a positive change in people’s lives through freeing them from wasting their time on rewardless and costly endeavours.

Ande Milinyte & Jacob Barker

Warwick Chains of Altrusim

The aim of this project was to promote altruistic behaviour. Not only do altruistic behaviours make our environments a better place, a great deal of past studies have found that engaging in altruistic behaviours have great benefit to our physical as well as mental health (Post, 2005, Thoits & Hewitt, 2001)!

We came up with the idea of forming chains of people helping one another. We named those chains Chains of Altrusim. A number of persuasive techniques have been employed in this project.We created a webpage to promote the idea of our project and also a Facebook group for people who are interested to get involved and start chains.

How to start a chain?
All you need to do is to do something nice for another person. That can be a friend, your neighbor, your flatmate, or a total stranger. Once you've done something nice for someone else, take a picture or write a post and tag them in the Facebook group - Warwick Chains of altruism. Ask them to return the favor, not to you, but to another person. That way good deeds are passed from one person to the next! 

In order to get the project rolling, we cooperated with the societies 'Warwick Effective Altruism', as well as 'Warwick RAG - raising and giving'. We got the agreement of their respective presidents and promoted the project on their facebook group pages.

We uploaded a post in the Warwick effective altruism group


Post, S. G. (2005). Altruism, happiness, and health: It's good to be good. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 12(2), 66-77.

Thoits, P. A., & Hewitt, L. N. (2001). Volunteer work and well-being. Journal of health and social behavior, 115-131.

Cindy Chan
Nickie Ching
Robert Jagiello

Library Etiquette: "Don't do that, it's not very library-like."

There are over 23,000 students at the university but only enough facilities for a small fraction (Warwick University, 2015). Seat hogging is therefore a common occurrence in the library, as well as using computer desk spaces for written or laptop work and talking on silent floors. This is inconsiderate and an urgent problem. A change is necessary in order to maximise the availability and efficiency of the limited library space. The upcoming exam period justifies this as talking on silent floors disrupts the learning of students who require silence in order to work efficiently. Further justification resides in the fact that certain courses may require specialist software which are exclusively available on Warwick computers (e.g. SPSS).

Our project aimed to promote ‘library etiquette.’ In an attempt to change the said behaviour, we dispersed posters promoting the proper ‘library etiquette’ - that is, the opposite behaviour to the common problem behaviours exhibited. These posters were placed around the library and within the Psychology common room. They included various persuasive techniques known to be effective in influencing behaviour. Rhetorical questions, social proof and guilt/fear are just three examples of techniques which have been used due to evidence showing their success in influencing behaviour changes (Cialdini, 2009; Burnkrant & Howard, 1984; Dillard & Anderson, 2004).

We also created a Facebook page to share the posters online. This allowed us to reach a wider audience and reinforced the messages we were promoting. This follows the mere exposure effect, a technique which indicates individuals prefer, and are more receptive towards, familiar faces (Zajonc, 2001). 

Group Members: Nazarene Sutherland, Helen Munt & Damola Adebari. 

Burnkrant, R. E., & Howard, D. J. (1984). Effects of the use of introductory rhetorical questions versus statements on information processing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47, 1218-1230.

Cialdini, R. B. (2009). Social Proof: Truth Are Us. Influence: Science and Practice USA: Pearson Education Inc.

Dillard, J. P., & Anderson, J. W. (2004). The role of fear in persuasion. Psychology & Marketing, 21,909-926. 

Warwick University. (2015). Retrieved from

Zajonc, R. B. (2001). Mere exposure: A gateway to the subliminal. Current Directions in Psychological  Science, 10, 224-228.

Mindfulness Matters

For our project we created a Facebook page, 'Mindfulness Matters', to persuade followers to start practicing Mindfulness. Research has shown mindfulness to be effective in many areas, particularly in reducing stress (Brown & Ryan, 2003; Khoury et al., 2013). As university can be a highly stressful time for many people, we felt that educating people on how to practice mindfulness would equip them with the appropriate tools to prevent and deal with stressful periods.

Various tips and posts relating to the topic of mindfulness were posted on this page. Through this page we managed to reach 79 Facebook users and shared useful information about mindfulness with them, which could help them incorporate it into their own lives. 

We also used this page to publicise an upcoming even at the University of Warwick library. This event included a meditation session and a talk about mindfulness which both relate to the stress-release exercises that we previously suggested on our page. We shared the event and promoted it on our page, encouraging students to go and participate in the sessions targeted at reducing anxiety and helping students cope with stress. We had permission from the library staff to do so. 

To promote awareness of mindfulness, we created posters which were then stuck up at the University of Warwick library. As is shown above, the poster features an image of celebrity actress, Emma Watson. Our reason for using her image was so that we could increase compliance for mindfulness use through the celebrity endorsement effect. Celebrity endorsement has been shown to increase compliance (Erdogan, 1999) as people often associate perceived characteristics (e.g. likability and attractiveness) of the celebrity with the product (or in this case, mindfulness) being advertised, thus making it more desirable for the audience. 

Along with the posters, we also stuck up a sign up sheet, which encouraged people to sign and publicly show their commitment to mindfulness by agreeing to take 2 minutes out of their day to just focus on themselves and their breathing. This was aimed at reducing their stress and anxiety and to help them feel more positive. The sign up sheet makes use of the 'foot-in-the-door' technique (Freedman & Fraser, 1966), which suggests that if someone agrees to a small request then they will be more likely to agree to a subsequent larger request. 
By asking them to comply to a small request of trying out a mindfulness technique for 2 minutes, we hoped that our audience would be more likely to try out mindfulness properly for an extended period of time on their, although we did not measure this. This also incorporates the principle of consistency (Petrova, Cialdini & Sills, 2007), as we hope that people will be more likely to try out mindfulness in the future having signed up and committed to this two minute trial, to remain consistent with their previous behaviour. 


Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role 
in psychological well-being. Journal of personality and social psychology, 84, 822.

Erdogan, B. Z. (1999). Celebrity endorsement: A literature review. Journal of marketing management, 15, 291 - 314. 

Freedman, J. L., & Fraser, S. C. (1966). Compliance without pressure: the foot-in-the-door technique. Journal of personality and social psychology, 4, 195. 

Khoury, B., Lecomte, T., Fortin, G., Masse, M., Therien, P., Bouchard, V., ... & Hofmann, S. G. (2013). Mindfulness-based therapy: A comprehensive meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 33, 763-771.

Pretrova, P. K., Cialdini, R. B., & Sills, S. J. (2007). Consistency-based compliance across cultures. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 43, 104-111. 

Navina Gandhi
Rebecca Rooney
Liam Ward
Florence Cambridge 

We want to be more connected!

The aim of our project was to make a positive change in students’ attitude towards the participation in on-campus activities and promote the involvement in the SU societies outside their academic life. To tighten the connection between students and on-campus societies, we introduced the idea of having a forum for societies with up-to-date information on all events. We propagated our idea using a variety of mediums, including a questionnaire survey, a poster and emails to the societies officer at Warwick University.

First, we carried out a survey in the library by randomly asking 52 students to fill in a short questionnaire with questions about their current involvement in societies and whether such a forum could raise their interest in society events (Figure 1).

Figure 1. A survey on society participation and experience

As shown in Figure 2, 21% of the students were not involved in any societies; 80% felt that they could be more aware of the up-to-date events on campus. What has been emphasized was that the majority of students (85%) would like a societies forum with up-to-date information of all society events.

Year of study
Year 1
Year 2
Year 3
Year 4
Involved in any society?
Could be more aware of what's going on on-campus?
I don't know
Having a forum for societies with up-to-date info on all events?
Would it increase your involvement with societies?
Positive attitude changes in non-society members' behaviour
Change in attitude
Attitude remain unchanged
Figure 2. Results of the survey

After collecting the responses, we created a poster in order to persuade Warwick students, societies' committee members, and the societies officer to support setting up of the events forum.

Figure 3.  Persuasive poster - We want to be more connected!

Subsequently, we wrote an email to George Creasy, the societies officer of Warwick, together with the poster in an attempt to persuade him to consider the forum as an effective platform on which latest information could be found. Finally, we received the reply from George (Figure 5 & 6).

Figure 4. An email to the SU societies officer

Figure 5. A reply from the SU societies officer

Emma Huang
Nkhanise Phiri
Yannie Lau