A random collection of things that inspire, interest and trouble me
from the world of design, politics, art and culture.

The Age of Stupid

Posted: September 14th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: behaviour, environment, film | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Go see this film. Everyone is talking about it, even Thom Yorke. The basic premise of the film is that we are a stupid species who seem to be hell bent on destroying ourselves and the planet that was unlucky enough to be lumped with us. I fear that it might be one of those films that only the converted go to see. So please—if you are going—take a climate change sceptic with you. You are bound to find one somewhere (hint: they are the ones driving the SUV).

Message framing and risk

Posted: April 12th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: behaviour | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

‘Creating Fear in a Risky World: Generating Effective Health Risk Messages’ by Michael T. Stephenson & Kim Witte. In Rice, DE, & Aktin, CK (Eds.), Public communication campaigns (3 ed.). (pp. 22-48). London: Sage.

Risk is defined as the likelihood of a specific event occurring multiplied by the magnitude of consequences associated with that event (Douglas, 1985)… Rothman, Klein, and Weinstein found that study participants overestimated their vulnerability to hazards that have lower probabilities of occurring, such as dying from chronic liver disease, dying from colon canceer, or dying by committing suicide. In contrast, participants underestimated their risk to hazards that occur more frequently, including contracting a sexually transmitted disease, becoming pregnant, or getting a divorce. p89

Gain-framed messages emphasize the advantages or benefits of certain behaviors or the likelihood that one would gain by adopting them. In contrast, loss-framed messages highlight the disadvantages or costs of certain behaviors or the odds that individuals will lose or not be successful in taking certain actions. Framing is generally based on the invariance postulate of Kahneman and Tversky’s (1979; Tversky & Kahneman, 1981) prospect theory, which suggests that people are risk averse when presented choices involving gains and risk seeking when presented choices involving losses, even though the gain and loss options are different representations of the same choice (Rothman & Salovey, 1997, p. 7). P92

Persuasive impacts

Posted: April 9th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: behaviour | Tags: , , | No Comments »


Apparently persuasive impact is greatest immediately after a message is received. The impact receeds in impact thereafter. This of course varies depending on the message and the credibility of the source (page 34 Input/Output).

MEDIA p 36

  • Because people switch channels when ads come on TV, public service announcements could be more effective if incorporated into the program (It’s not easy being green).(McGuire 1984 Piotrow 1990)
  • People are more persuaded by messages when alone (Keating & Latane 1976)


Campaigns can also try to influence people to resist the persuasions of things like cigarette advertisements. McGuire says that there are six things that can help influence this resistance:

  1. Having the person publicly express their position (he quotes Lwein’s 1951 world war II group decision research here);
  2. Affecting emotional states such as anger, self-esteem or anxiety (fear based messages or positive ones);
  3. “Anchoring the person’s initial stand on the issue to another person’s beliefs or values”, especially someone they respect;
  4. Educate people in critical thinking (but can backfire as people who are more educated can also be more persuadable, see Sente notes);
  5. Show people examples of other people resisting (“unyeilding models)
  6. Expose people to weaker innoculation messages so that when exposed to stronger messages they will already have in-built defenses.