PSYC 2310 Lecture Notes - Richard Petty, The Peripheral, Attitude Change

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14 Nov 2012
Social Psyc Chapter 7
How do we process persuasive messages?
- In Smith & Shaffer’s study, participants were asked to listen to a speech supposedly made by another
- In one condition, the speech included strong arguments and in another, the speech included weak
- Half of the participants heard the speech at a moderate rate of speech, the other half heard the speech
at a very high rate
- Participants who heard weak arguments at a normal rate were least persuaded, those who heard weak
arguments at a fast rate were just as persuaded as those who heard strong arguments at either a normal
or fast rate
- Faster delivery is more amenable to peripheral than central processing as it gives you less time to think
about the content of the message
- Another study by researchers from HEC Montreal examined how voice and gender influence credibility
in a banking telemarketing context
- Found that voice characteristics significantly affected attitudes toward an advertisement
- Student participants found a voice more credible if it spoke with moderate intensity, no marked voice
intonation, and at a fast speech rate
- These studies provided support for the idea that how an argument is presented has an influence on
people, rather than just the argument itself
Routes to persuasion
- The elaboration likelihood method argues that people focus on different aspects of a persuasive
message based on their involvement in the message concept
- When people think carefully about a communication message and are influenced by the strength of
the arguments, they’re using the central or systematic route
- The peripheral route to persuasion is when people don’t think carefully about a communication
message and are influenced by superficial characteristics
Ability to focus
- If you are distracted it’s difficult to concentrate on central messages that require greater processing,
and you therefore rely on peripheral cues
- People tend to automatically accept information they receive, and only later process that information
and decide whether to reject it
- In one study students read either a strong or weak argument in favour of a 20% increase in school
- The strong messages emphasized the benefits for education, the weak emphasized the benefits for the
campus yards
- Some listened while distracted, others listened without distraction
- Those who had no distraction were persuaded by the strong messages but not the weak ones, and
those who were distracted were persuaded somewhat by both of them, probably because they didn’t
have a chance to generate counter-arguments
- People who consumed caffeine were more persuaded by counter-attitudinal messages
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Motivation to focus
- If you’re uninterested or uninvolved in the message and therefore have no motivation, you’re likely to
rely on peripheral cues, such as the length of the message, source of the message, and the speed at
which the message is delivered
- In one study, it was found that even the familiarity of the phrases used in a message can influence
- People whose involvement with a message was low were more persuaded by familiar phrases than by
the literal phrases. These participants relied on the peripheral cues, and therefore were more persuaded
by the familiar phrases
- High involvement participants were equally persuaded by both phrases
- Peripheral cues can also include the presumed expertise of the person delivering the message
- In a study by Richard Petty, students listened to a speaker promoting the benefits of mandatory exams
for all students before graduation. This study included three distinct independent variables:
- Expertise of the speaker
- Message strength
- Personal involvement
- For those who were not very involved and who were therefore less likely to employ central processing
and more likely to rely on peripheral processes, the primary factor that predicted attitude was the
expertise of the speaker
- They were more positive about the exams when the message was delivered by a professor than by a
high school student, regardless of the strength of the argument
- For those who were highly involved, the strength of the argument was the major predictor of attitudes
- If an argument is difficult to understand, this may also lead people to rely on peripheral processing
- When attitudes were difficult to comprehend, attitudes were more favorable when the source had
high status
- In other words, the complexity of the arguments made central processing less productive, so
peripheral factors were given more weight
- A combination of factors, including who is delivering the message, how strong and complex the
message is, and the extent to which the listener is involved and motivated to examine the message,
influences the persuasiveness of the message
Which route is more effective?
- Messages that are of high personal relevance motivate us to pay attention, and as long as we have the
ability, we process such messages centrally
- Messages that are of low personal relevance or that we need to process while distracted are processed
- Attitude change that is based in central route processing is longer lasting and more resistant to future
persuasion efforts, suggesting that, in the long term, this is the more effective route to persuasion
What factors influence persuasion?
- People who drink coffee found both the strong and weak reports much less convincing than those who
didn’t drink coffee
- Researchers believe that those who drank coffee and therefore found a personal link were
threatened by the information, and therefore processed the message in a highly defensive way
Source: Who delivers the message
- Source of persuasion refers to the person who delivers the message, such as a spokesperson, an actor
in an advertisement, or a person who gives a speech
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- The source’s attractiveness, similarity, and credibility can each influence how persuasive the message
appears to people
- Attractive and likeable sources are more persuasive than unattractive and less likeable ones
- We believe we’ll become more attractive by engaging in the same behaviours
- In one study researchers got attractive and unattractive people to ask students to sign a petition, in
which attractive people were more successful
- Partly because people assume that attractive people have positive qualities such as honesty,
generosity, intelligence, and agreeableness
- Likeable people are especially persuasive in videotaped and audiotaped messages, compared to
written ones
- Unlikeable people are more persuasive in writing
- Friends are more persuasive than strangers
- In one study, students read a strong speech about gun control or euthanasia
- Some were told the writer was a fellow UCSB student, others were told the writer attended a different
- Student’s attitudes changed in the direction of the message when they thought the student attended
the same school as them
- They were not influenced at all when it was written by someone from a different school
- Why similar sources are more persuasive:
- We remember messages presented by in-group members better than those presented by
outgroup members
- Another involves identification, we’re more persuaded by people who we identify with. We
can even be influence by identification with fictional characters
- Undergraduate men were assigned to view film clips in which the male protagonist either smoked or
didn’t smoke
- Found greater identification with the smoking protagonist predicted stronger associations
between the self and smoking (for both smokers and non smokers) and increased smokers’ intention to
- These results suggest that exposure to smoking in movies is causally related to changes in
smoking-related thoughts, and that identification with protagonists is an important feature of
- Messages delivered by similar sources can be persuasive even if the message feels somewhat coercive
- Tupperware kitchen and home products are sold at homes, schools, and other community locations
where the hose invites family, friends, colleagues, and neighbours
- The Tupperware representative is also present at these parties and everyone is aware that the host
receives a percentage of the sale
- The success of this method stems mainly from the act of buying from a friend rather than an unknown
- The Tupperware Brands Corporation has been so successful that it had abandoned its retail outlets
- Sources who appear credible, meaning competent and trustworthy, are more persuasive than those
who lack credibility
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