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How to change them: persuasion
Dr April Hargreaves
The effort to change others’ attitudes through the use of various kinds of messages.
The science of persuasion
Persuasion: Communicators, Messages, and Audiences
Communicators who are credible (i.e. seem to know what they are talking about) are more persuasive.
Members of our own group - more credible and more likely to influence us.
Most credible when perceived to be arguing against their self-interests.
Communicators who are attractive in some way (e.g., physically)
We are more likely to be persuaded by a communicator we like than one we dislike.
2. Messages and Audiences
Messages that do not appear to be designed to change our attitudes are often more successful
Simply knowing that a sales pitch is coming your way undermines its persuasiveness.
Fear appeals - attempt to change people’s behaviors by use of a message that is fear-inducing.
Mild fear-inducing messages result in the greatest behavior change (Janis and Feshbach, 1953).
Overly fear arousing = genuinely feel threatened and likely to react defensively / argue against the threat
Lack of belief that we can change / behave, then fear will do little except induce avoidance and defensive responses.
A clarifying example:
Imagine you’re a smoker, and you see an anti-smoking campaign displaying a cruel image and words like “a slow and painful death”.
What would you do? Would you think “Oh but I don’t want to die, and surely not slow and painful. I quit!” Well, it turns out that smokers simply deny the message. And even if they don’t, they’ll come up with all sorts of counter-arguments, such as “I smoke only 1 cigarette a day”, “but I eat very healthy”, “there is no family history of heart diseases”, or “hey, my smoking grandma lived to become 90”. You’ve heard them all before.
The campaign shown would probably be more effective if an efficacy boosting call-to-action had been added, such as:
“Smoking can cause a slow and painful death: Join 230.000 successful stoppers, and go to www.stop-simply.de right now!”
Cognitive Processes in Persuasion
We can process persuasive messages in two distinct ways:
Systematic processing is the processing of information in a persuasive message that involves careful consideration of message content and ideas.
Central route (to persuasion) is an attitude change resulting from systematic processing of information presented in persuasive messages.
Systematic processing requires effort, and it absorbs much of our information processing capacity.
2. Heuristic processing is the processing of information in a persuasive message that involves the use of simple rules of thumb or mental shortcuts.
Peripheral route (to persuasion) is an attitude change that occurs in response to peripheral persuasion cues—often based on information concerning the expertise or status of would-be persuaders.
Heuristic processing allows us to react to persuasive messages in an automatic manner. It occurs in response to cues in the message or situation that evoke various mental shortcuts.
Two Routes to Persuasion
Central Route: Person thinks carefully about a message.
Influenced by the strength and quality of the message
Peripheral Route: Person does not think critically about the contents of a message.
Influenced by superficial cues
The Central Route
Assumption that the recipients are attentive, active, critical, and thoughtful.
Assumption is correct only some of the time.
When it is correct, the persuasiveness of the message depends on the strength of the message’s content.
The Peripheral Route
People are persuaded on the basis of superficial, peripheral cues.
Message is evaluated through the use of simple-minded heuristics.
People are also influenced by attitude-irrelevant factors.
Who Do You Trust?
Is the Source More Important Than the Message?
People who were high or low in their personal involvement heard a strong or weak message from an expert or non-expert.
For high-involvement participants (left), persuasion was based on the strength of arguments, not on source expertise. For
low-involvement participants (right), persuasion was based more on the source than on the arguments.
Source characteristics have more impact on those who don’t care enough to take the central route.
Source vs. Message: The Role of Audience Involvement
Dr Fox – the art of persuasion…. The importance of source.
Based on aspects of the source, message, and audience, recipients of a communication take either a central or peripheral route to
persuasion. On the central route, people are influenced by strong arguments and evidence. On the peripheral route, persuasion is
based more on heuristics and other superficial cues. This two-process model helps explain how persuasion can seem logical on some
occasions and illogical on others.
Reprinted by permission from Richard E. Petty.threat
People who were high