Midterm Review – Weeks 1 - 3
Chapter 1: Why Study Persuasion?
Persuasion is a central feature of every sphere of human communication. You can‟t avoid it.
Persuasion is a powerful and often positive social force
Persuasion is as much as an „art‟ as it is a „science‟
You can‟t avoid persuasion itself
Human nature is too complicated and our understanding of persuasion is limited, to predict in advance
which influence attempts will succeed and which will fail
Persuasion is not entirely a matter of luck
It happens in a linear form, delayed feedback form, and synchronous form
It happens outside and indoors, every ad is a message of influence/persuasion
Aims and Goals
Aims are academic and practical
(Academic) To learn about how and why persuasion functions the way it does by:
◦ learning about current theories and research on persuasion
◦ (Practical) examining numerous illustrations of “real-life” persuasion
These together help us to become a more effective practitioner of persuasion
Nature of Persuasion
We are surrounded by persuasion.
◦ Obvious or intentional persuasion: billboards, TV commercials
◦ Non-obvious or accidental influence: social modeling of risk behaviors in movies
Persuasion is an “art” and a science.
◦ People can be stubborn, unpredictable.
◦ Even the most well-funded, well-designed persuasive campaigns may fail.
Persuasion is not a dirty word
Although usually seen in a bad light persuasion has several positive sides to it
The positive side of persuasion
◦ Persuasion is a powerful, positive social force.
◦ Persuasion is a necessary feature of human interaction.
Persuasion is our friend.
◦ Essential to public health awareness campaigns
◦ Crucial for charities, philanthropic organizations
◦ Useful for motivating and inspiring people
Very little of the good that we see in the world could be accomplished without persuasion
The Pervasiveness of Persuasion: You Can Run but You Can’t Hide
Advertising spending is expected to increase in 2010 to $162 billion per year.
The average person is exposed to 300-400 persuasive messages per day from the media alone.
The average person is exposed to 300-1500 advertising messages per day
The average person watches 1,000 commercials per week
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An average of $800 per person is spent on advertising in the U.S. each year
Buzz marketing circumvents traditional media by generating free publicity.
In addition to traditional media, buzz marketing relies on:
◦ The blogosphere, Facebook, face-to-face interaction, email, texting, Twitter, YouTube
Word of Mouth (WOM) is the main form of buzz marketing. Buzz is more effective than mainstream
media at reaching younger audiences
Buzz marketing relies on friendships to spread positive word of mouth
Like a virus, word about a product or service spreads from one consumer to another. Spreading the word
through social networks until the world is “infected” and the publicity is free
◦ the threshold or critical point at which an idea, product, or message takes off
Viral theory of marketing:
◦ ideas and messages can be contagious, just like diseases
The law of the few
◦ Large numbers of people are not required to generate a trend.
◦ A select few enjoy a disproportionate amount of influence over others.
The right type of people are needed to get the message to launch
All three types are needed for a phenomenon to take-off
Mavens: possess information, expertise, and seek to share it. They needn‟t been rich or famous but are
ahead of the curve. Also referred to as “influential‟s”
◦ “Mavens are data banks. They provide the message.”
◦ Mavens want to educate more than persuade or sell.
Connectors: know everybody, are networkers, have many contacts they are the carriers. When they
learn what the next big thing is from the Mavens they spread the word.
◦ “Connectors are social glue: they spread it.”
◦ They have large social circles. They are social gadflies; they blog, chat, text, twitter.
Salespeople: they receive the message from the connectors and sell it to their own small circle of friends
◦ They are persuasive, charismatic
◦ They are good at building rapport.
◦ They often rely on “soft” influence (not the hard sell).
Context and Stickiness
Power of context
◦ The idea, message, or product must happen at the right time and place.
The stickiness factor
◦ The idea, message, or product has to be “sticky” or inherently attractive.
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Scalability and Effortless Transfer
Scalability: message must be able to go from very small to very large without “gearing up.”
Effortless transfer: the message must be easy to disseminate.
◦ “word of mouse”
◦ leveraging free media
The more money, time or effort it takes to spread the word the less likely the idea will go viral
Cautions and caveats
Momentum may not reach the tipping point.
◦ No guarantee the initial “buzz” will become contagious
◦ Difficult to orchestrate word of mouth
◦ Good ideas don‟t always gain traction.
Trends come and go quickly.
◦ Like a contagion, a trend can die out quickly or be replaced by a new one.
The very concept of viral marketing is an oxymoron, a viral campaign is planned to go unplanned.
Pervasiveness of Persuasion
Persuasion in the Sciences: Scientists are actively involved in persuasion.
◦ Over theories and paradigms
◦ Over methodologies and research findings
◦ Over grants and funding
Persuasion in the Arts: Artists seek to shape public opinion in and through their work.
◦ Picasso‟s Guernica (1937) offers a moral indictment of war
◦ Movies can change attitudes, alter beliefs, increase awareness.
Non-obvious Contexts for Persuasion
◦ Bumper stickers
◦ 12 step programs rd
◦ Intercessory prayer (3 party)
◦ Plays and musicals
◦ Panhandling: homeless person using humor/satire as a panhandling strategy (NEED CASH FOR
◦ Persuasion can be downright weird.
◦ A town changed its name to Dish, Texas as a buzz marketing ploy. Residents agreed to change
the name in exchange for free dish satellite for 10 years. The strangeness of the name change
mediated free publicity – buzz.
◦ William Shatner‟s kidney stone was auctioned off on eBay.
◦ Acne lights were installed to discourage teen loitering.
Persuasion in interpersonal contexts
◦ Most influence attempts occur in the interpersonal arena.
◦ Persuasion is most effective in face-to-face contexts.
◦ Less obvious or overt, Harder to say “No” in person
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◦ Easier to analyze, adapt to one‟s audience
Four Benefits of Studying Persuasion
There are four primary benefits of learning about persuasion:
1. The instrumental function
2. The knowledge and awareness function
3. The defensive function
4. The debunking function
The Instrumental Function of Persuasion
Improving one‟s own persuasive abilities. Persuasion is an instrument or a means to an end.
Persuasion skill is a form of communication competence.
◦ Communication competence requires effectiveness and appropriateness.
◦ Like any skill-set, persuasive skills can be improved through training and practice.
The Knowledge Function
Gaining a better understanding of how persuasion works
Overcoming habitual persuasion:
◦ Individuals are often unaware of their own habitual, reflexive patterns of persuasion.
◦ Persuasion isn‟t a “one-size-fits-all” form of communication
The Defensive Function: Duck and Cover
Some people tend to underestimate the influence of advertising on themselves and overestimate its
effects on others a phenomenon known as the third-person effect
◦ Becoming a more savvy, discerning consumer of persuasive messages
◦ Being less likely to succumb to high pressure sales tactics
◦ Exposing unethical strategies and tactics
The Debunking Function: Puh-Shaw
Dispelling folk-wisdom, false stereotypes, and “common-sense” misconceptions about persuasion
◦ Gaze avoidance is not a reliable sign of deception.
◦ Subliminal influence is ineffective.
Learning about non-obvious, counter-intuitive research findings
◦ The “logic” versus “emotion” distinction represents a false dichotomy.
Two Criticisms of Persuasion
Does Learning about Persuasion Foster Manipulation?
Is teaching/learning about persuasion manipulative?
The study of persuasion is fraught with ethical concerns.
Little of the good in the world could be accomplished without persuasion.
Not studying persuasion won‟t make persuasion go away.
People who claim that persuasion is manipulative are themselves taking a persuasive stance.
Are persuasion findings inconsistent or confusing?
Persuasion deserves study because it is complicated.
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A number of reliable generalizations have been uncovered.
Ethical Concerns about the Use of Persuasion
Persuasion is not without ethical concerns
To be a more effective persuader, you should strive to be an ethical persuader as well
Chapter 2: What Constitutes Persuasion?
What is persuasion?
How does it differ from coercion, social influence, and other related terms?
Different authors view persuasion in different ways, therefore, adopting different definitions of the term
Aliases of persuasion include: advising, brainwashing, coercion, compliance gaining, convincing,
education, influence, manipulation, and propaganda.
Pure versus Borderline Persuasion
First determine whether one is interested in pure persuasion or borderline cases of persuasion
o Obvious, clear-cut cases of persuasion
a TV commercial
an attorney‟s closing remarks to a jury
a pop-up ad on the Internet
o The above are all clear cut cases of persuasion, the attorney is trying to persuade the jury, the pop
up ad wants you to buy their product
o These examples are “paradigm cases” of persuasion because they of the core of what we think of
when we think of persuasion at work
o Less clear-cut cases of influence, more “iffy”
a derelict‟s appearance
social modeling of behavior
persuasive attempts that backfire
Pure persuasion is:
o measured by its effectiveness
o may or may not be intentional
o may or may not produce the intended effect
The Circle: Preliminary Model of Persuasion
The outer circle represents Borderline Cases of Persuasion and the inner circle represents Pure Cases of
As the shading in the model suggests, the dividing line between the two is fuzzy, rather than distinct
Limiting Criteria for Defining Persuasion
Litmus tests for defining persuasion
o intentional vs. unintentional
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o effective vs. ineffective (or even counterproductive)
o free will and conscious awareness vs. coercion and/or lack of awareness
o symbolic action vs. pure behavior
o interpersonal versus intrapersonal
Are there cases of “accidental” persuasion?
Persuaders‟ goals aren‟t always clear.
o Parental modeling of behavior: they instill beliefs, impart values and model behaviour for their
o The unintended receiver effect: A third person who is not directly involved in the conversation
but overhears and is influenced
o Difficulties in interpreting another‟s intent: between stated intent versus actual intent
o Interpersonal influence is mutual, two-way.
Has persuasion occurred if nothing changes?
o Persuasion as a product or outcome vs. persuasion as a process or activity
o The activity of persuading occurs even if there is no observable change.
o Persuasion is often two-way, not one-way or linear.
o Measuring persuasive outcomes can be difficult.
o Persuasion may boomerang, producing the opposite of the intended effect.
Free Will and Conscious Awareness
Is a free, voluntary choice required?
o Persuasion often operates at a low level of awareness
o Persuasive may occur without another‟s conscious awareness.
Few decisions ever involve completely free choice
o rewards, punishments, incentives, drawbacks
o social consequences for saying no
Does persuasion exist in the “world of words” and symbolic actions?
o Much of persuasion is visual.
Images carry meaning outside of words.
o Much of persuasion is nonverbal.
Not all nonverbal cues are clearly codified.
o A person who watched an infomercial with the sound off might still be persuaded.
Interpersonal vs. Intrapersonal
Does persuasion require two or more persons?
o Self-persuasion does occur.
A person might talk him/her self into doing (or not doing) something.
New Year‟s resolutions are designed to increase commitment.
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o Persuasion involves numerous intrapersonal processes
attitude formation and change
desire for cognitive consistency
Gass & Seiter Model of Persuasion
The Role of Context for Persuasion
The communication context shapes how persuasion occurs
o Mass media is linear, with delayed feedback.
o Face to face persuasion is synchronous or simultaneous.
o Email, Texting, IM and Twitter lack nonverbal cues.
o Socio-cultural factors affect message processing.
o Participants‟ goals affect how persuasion functions.
A Working Definition of Persuasion
“Persuasion involves one or more persons who are en