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Chapter 8

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McGill University
PSYC 215
John Lydon

PSYC 200 Chapter 8 Notes - Persuasion Functions of Attitudes 1. The Utilitarian Function of Attitudes a. People become aware of their attitudes b. Aware of positive or negative info about attitude i. Attitude activated by goals ii. Trigger actions that help us pursue our goals Example:  Goal is to get good grades  Attitudes toward objects relevant to achieving said goals (library, books) become more positive (goal-relative behaviour ensues)  Change occurs automatically  Attitudes make us ready to achieve the goals that matter to us Utilitarian function: Alerts people to rewarding objects and situations they should approach; and costly or punishing objects or situations they should avoid.  Humans have positive attitudes toward landscapes with water, open space, distant views because of the evolutionary advantages these attitudes conferred  Neutral objects can be modified by pairing them with a stimulus to either generate a positive or negative attitude 2. The Ego-Defensive Function of Attitudes Ego-defensive function: Protects us from unpleasant facts/emotions (contradictory information). Maintain cherished beliefs of themselves.  Terror/fear management  Political conservatism is a form of ego-defensive cognition that helps people ward off certain anxieties  Two core values in political conservatism: o Resistance to change  Conservatives fuss about changes of any kind o Endorsement of inequality  Conservatives are willing to accept inequalities (in resources and opportunities)  These core values are attempts to manage fear and uncertainty 3. The Value-Expressive Function of Attitudes Value-expressive function: People express their most cherished values in groups where values are supported and reinforced. Reference groups: Groups whose opinions matter to a person and that affect the person’s opinions and beliefs. ***We join reference groups for the value-expressive function.***  Social dimension of attitudes  This function accounts for various phenomena: o Kids express early allegiance to a political party to express the values of their family o People with low prejudice surround themselves with people of the same attitude  Thinking that people in the group share the same attitudes as us can lead to bias: people overestimate the similarity b/w their own attitudes and their leaders’ attitudes 4. The Knowledge Function of Attitudes Knowledge function: attitudes help organize people’s understanding of the world  Attitudes make us more efficient, biased perceivers of social situations  We pay attention to and recall info that is consistent with or preexisting attitudes o Carter supporters thought Carter had won. Reagan supporters thought Reagan had won. o We like physically attractive people, and we interpret their actions more favourably  Attitudes sometimes cause us to sacrifice objectivity Persuasion and Attitude Change A Two-Process Approach to Persuasion How people change their attitudes in response to persuasive messages Heuristic-systematic model: two different routes of persuasion: the systematic route and the heuristic route Elaboration likelihood model (ELM): two different routes of persuasion: central and peripheral route Central (systematic) route: people think carefully and deliberately about the content of a message (how convincing an argument is, the evidence). Can lead person to change attitude or not Peripheral (heuristic) route: People attend to simple, superficial cues (length of message, expertise, attractiveness of communicator). Individual is swayed by these cues without giving thought to the message. An attractive or credible communicator can make the receiver feel more positively toward the attitude object. What determines which route we will take? 1. Motivation: when message has personal consequences for us, more likely to go through central route 2. Ability to process message in depth: central route when message is clear and we have time to process it 3. Little motivation and ability to process: peripheral Central route more likely in 3 conditions: 1. Personal relevance: whether the message bears on our goals, concerns, well being 2. Knowledge about the issue: more we know, more we are likely to scrutinize the message with care and thoughtfulness 3. Responsibility: whether the message makes us feel responsible for some action or outcome – when we have to explain the message to others Peripheral route more likely in 2 conditions: 1. Factors that reduce motivation 2. Factors that interfere without ability to attend to the message carefully  Central route: strong arguments persuade o Strong arguments lead to more attitude change for participants to whom the issue is personally relevant o Attitude change that is more enduring, more resistant to persuasion, more predictive of behaviour  Peripheral route: strength of arguments not as important. Number of arguments and fame of communicator will influence more o The expertise of the communicator matters more for participants to whom the issue is not personally relevant  Some circumstances prompt thoughtful integration of new arguments and evidence into people’s belief systems, prompting attitude change  At other times, we engage in less effortful thinking and are more persuaded by superficial cues Source Characteristics (“The Who”)  Characteristics of the person who delivers the message (attractiveness, credibility, expertise) Attractiveness  We like and trust physically attractive people  Beauty and celebrity have no logical connection to the trustworthiness of an opinion o But attractiveness can promote attitude change through the peripheral route of persuasion  Attractive communicators are more persuasive than less attractive communicators  However, attractive communicators are persuasive to people for whom the message is not important and who have little knowledge in the domain Credibility  Credibility = combination of expertise and trustworthiness of the communicator  peripheral route  More persuasion when the topic is of little personal relevance/distracted target Sleeper Effect  Occurs when messages from unreliable source initially exert little influence but later cause individuals’ attitudes to shift  People dissociate the source of the message from the message itself Message Characteristics (“The What”)  Aspects of the message itself (quality of evidence, explicitness of conclusion) Message Quality  High-quality messages are more persuasive, especially for those who find the message relevant o Convey the desirable yet novel consequences of taking action in response to the message  Appeal to core values of audience  Straightforward, clear, logical
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