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J Interpers Violence. 2011 Mar;26(5):971-90. doi: 10.1177/0886260510365870. Epub 2010 Jun 3.

Using social self-identification in social marketing materials aimed at reducing violence against women on campus.

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Department of Sociology, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824, USA.


Bystander-focused in person sexual violence prevention programs provide an opportunity for skill development among bystanders and for widening the safety net for survivors. A social marketing campaign was designed modeling prosocial bystander behavior and using content familiar to target audience members by staging and casting scenes to look similar to the people and situations that the target audience regularly encounters. We refer to this sense of familiarity as social self-identification. In this exploratory study, we attempt to understand how seeing oneself and one's peer group (e.g., social self-identification) in poster images affects target audience members' (e.g., college students) willingness to intervene as a prosocial bystander. The posters in the social marketing campaign were displayed throughout a midsize northeastern public university campus and neighboring local businesses frequented by students. During the last week of the 4-week poster display, the university's homepage portal featured an advertisement displaying a current model of an iPod offering undergraduate students an opportunity to win the device if they completed a community survey. We found that among students who had seen the posters, those who indicated that the scenes portrayed in the posters looked like situations that were familiar to them were significantly more likely to contemplate taking action in preventing a situation where sexual violence had the potential to occur. Furthermore, students who indicated familiarity with the poster content were more likely to indicate that they had acted in a manner similar to those portrayed in the poster. Future directions based on findings from this exploratory study are discussed.

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