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Chapter 5

PS270 Chapter 5 Notes.docx

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Christine Zaza

Chapter 5 – Persuasion - Persuasion – the process by which a message induces change in beliefs, attitudes, or behaviours - Persuasive forces also have been harnessed to promote healthier living - Efforts to persuade are sometimes diabolical, sometimes controversial, and sometimes beneficial - Persuasion is neither inherently good nor inherently bad o It is usually the content of the message that elicits judgments of good or bad o The bad we call ‘propaganda’; the good we call ‘education’ - Television, radio appearances, PSAs, books, and documentaries could be considered a program of mass persuasion - Persuasion – whether it be education or propaganda – is inevitable because it is everywhere - When people try to persuade others, they can try to use good arguments; they can convince people that if they really think through the issues, they will become persuaded to change their minds o At the opposite extreme, they can try to change people’s minds without having them think about the issue at all - The best way to convince people that something is good is just to associate it with something positive - People’s thoughts in response to persuasive messages also matter o If a message is clear but unconvincing, then you will easily counter-argue the message and won’t be persuaded o If the message offers convincing arguments, then your thoughts will be more favourable and you will most likely be persuaded o This ‘cognitive response’ approach helps us to understand why persuasion occurs more in some situations than others - Persuasion entails clearing several hurdles o Any factors that help people clear the hurdles in the persuasion process increase the likelihood of persuasion o For example – if an attractive source increases your attention to a message, then the message should have a better chance of persuading you - Central Route to Persuasion – occurs when interested people focus on the arguments and respond with favourable thoughts o If those arguments are strong and compelling, persuasion is likely o If the message only contains weak arguments, thoughtful people will notice that the arguments aren’t very compelling and will counter-argue - If we’re distracted or busy, we may take the time to reflect on the message’s content - Rather than noticing whether the arguments are particularly compelling, we might follow the peripheral route to persuasion - Peripheral Route to Persuasion – occurs when people are influenced by incidental cues, such as a speaker’s attractiveness o Focusing on cues that trigger acceptance without much thinking o In these situations, easily understood familiar statements are more persuasive than novel statements with the same meaning o Thus, for uninvolved or distracted people, ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ has more impact than ‘don’t disk everything on a single venture’ - Our opinions regarding products such as food, drink, and clothing are often based more on feelings than on logic - The ultimate goal of the advertiser, the preacher, and even the teacher is not just to have people pay attention to the message and move on o The goal is behaviour change - Central route processing can lead to more enduring change than does the peripheral route o When people are thinking carefully and mentally elaborating on issues, they rely not just on the strength of persuasive appeals but on their own thoughts in response as well o It’s not so much arguments that are persuasive as the way they get people thinking o And when people think deeply rather than superficially, any changed attitude will more likely persist, resist attack, and influence behaviour - Persuasion via the peripheral route often produces superficial and temporary attitude change - Changing attitudes is easier than changing behaviour - Changing behaviour as well as attitudes seems to require people to actively process and rehearse their own convictions - We all make snap judgments using other rule of thumb heuristics: we usually take the easy peripheral route and accept the message without much thought - Elements of persuasion o The communicator o The message o How the message is communicated o The audience - Social psychologists have found that who is saying something affects how an audience receives it - It’s not just the central message that matters, but also who says it - Credibility – believability. A credible communicator is perceived as both expert and trustworthy - If a credible person’s message is persuasive, it’s impact may face as its source is forgotten or dissociated from the message o The impact of a non-credible person may correspondingly increase over time if people remember the message better than the reason for discounting it - After people forget the source or its connection with the message, it’s called the sleeper effect - Sleeper Effect – a delayed impact of a message; occurs when we remember the message but forget a reason for discounting it - One can become an ‘expect’ by saying things the audience agrees with, which makes one seem smart o Another is to be introduced as someone who is knowledgeable on a topic - Another way to appear credible is to speak confidently o Skilled persuaders know how to convey a message effectively - Speech style also affects a speaker’s apparent trustworthiness o Trustworthiness is also higher if the audience believes the communicator is not trying to persuade them - We also perceive as sincere those who argue against their own self-interest - Being willing to suffer for one’s beliefs also helps convince people of one’s sincerity - Trustworthiness and credibility increase when people talk fast o They also found more rapid speakers more persuasive - Some TV ads are obviously constructed to make the communicator appear both expert and trustworthy (such as a speaker in a white lab coat) o People who don’t care enough to analyze the evidence may reflexively infer that the product is special o Other ads seem not to use the credibility principle: is so and so a trustworthy expert on making travel plans? - Communicators gain credibility if they appear to be expert and trustworthy - When we know in advance that a source is credible, we think more favourable thoughts in response to the message o If we learn the source after a message generates favourable thoughts, high credibility strengthens our confidence in our thinking, which strengthens the persuasive impact of the message - Most of us deny that endorsements by star athletes and entertainers affect us o We know that stars are seldom knowledgeable about the products they endorse o We know the intent is to persuade us o Such ads are based on another characteristic of an effective communicator: attractiveness - Attractiveness – having qualities that appeal to an audience o An appealing communicator (often someone similar to the audience) is most persuasive on matters of subjective preference - We’re more likely to respond to those we like, a phenomenon well known to those organizing charitable solicitations and candy sales - Our liking may open us up to the communicators arguments (central route persuasion) or it may trigger positive associations when we see the product later (peripheral route persuasion) o As with credibility, the liking-begets-persuasion principle suggests applications - Attractiveness exists in several forms: physical attractiveness o Arguments, especially emotional ones, are often more influential when they come from people we consider beautiful - Similarity is another o We tend to like people who are like us o We are also influenced by them, a fact that has been harnessed by a successful anti-smoking campaign that features youth appealing to other youth through ads that challenge the tobacco industry about its destructiveness and its marketing practices o People who act as we do, subtly mimicking our postures, are likewise more influential - Authority – people defer to credible experts - Liking – people respond more affirmatively to those they like - Social Proof – people allow the example of others to validate how to think, feel, and act - Reciprocity – people feel obligated to repay in kind what they’ve received - Consistency – people tend to honour their public commitments - Scarcity – people prize what’s scarce - People respond better to a message that comes from someone in their group - Similarity is more important given the presence of factor X, and credibility is more important given the absence of factor X o Factor X is whether the topic is one of subjective preference or objective reality o When the choice concerns matters of personal value, taste, or way of life, similar communicators have the most influence o But on judgments of fact, confirmation of belief by a dissimilar person does more to boost confidence o A dissimilar person provides a more independent judgment - It matters not only who says something but also what the person says - A central route to persuasion o Is a purely logical message more persuasive – or one that arouses emotion? o Will you get more opinion change by advocating a position only slightly different from the listeners’ existing opinions or by advocating an extreme point of view? o Should the message express your side only, or should it acknowledge and refute the opposing views? o If people are to present both sides is there an advantage to going first or last? - Which is more influential – reason or emotion? o It depends on the audience o Well educated or analytical people are more responsive to rational appeals than are less educated or less analytical people - Thoughtful, involved audiences travel the central route; they are most responsive to reasoned arguments o Disinterested audiences travel the peripheral route; they are more affected by how much they like the communicator - It also depends n how people’s attitudes were formed o When people’s initial attitudes are formed primarily through emotion, they are more persuaded by later emotional appeals; when their initial attitudes are formed primarily through reason, they are more persuaded by later intellectual arguments - New emotions may sway an emotion-based attitude o But to change an information-based attitude, more information may be needed - Messages also become more persuasive through association with good feelings o Students were more convinced by persuasive messages if they were allowed to enjoy peanuts and Pepsi while reading them - Good feelings often enhance persuasion, partly by enhancing positive thinking and partly by linking good feelings with the message o In a good mood, people view the world through rose-coloured glasses o But they also make faster, more impulsive decisions; they rely more on peripheral cues o Unhappy people ruminate more before reacting, so they are less easily swayed by weak arguments - Messages also can be effective by evoking negative emotions o A fear-arousing message can be potent o The more frightened people are, the more they respond - The effectiveness of fear-arousing communications is being applied in ads discouraging not only smoking but also drinking and driving and risky sexual behaviours - Attitudes toward alcohol and drink habits among French youth were effectively changed by fear- arousing pictures, the French government incorporated this kind of information in its TV spots - Fear-arousing communications are increasing people’s detection behaviours, such as getting mammograms, doing breast or testicular self-exams, and checking for signs of skin cancer - Fear-framed messages work better when trying to prevent a bad outcome (such as cancer) than when trying to promote a good outcome (such as fitness) - Playing on fear won’t always make a message more potent - When the fear pertains to a pleasurable activity, the result often is not behaviour change but denial o People may engage in denial because, when they aren’t told how to avoid the danger, frightening messages can be overwhelming - Fear-arousing messages are more effective if you lead people not only to fear the severity and likelihood of a threatened event but also to perceive a solution and feel capable of implementing it - Vivid propaganda often exploits fears o When feeling frightened or threatened, people tend to become more responsive to a controversial, charismatic leader - Disagreement produces discomfort, and discomfort prompts people to change their options o So perhaps greater disagreement will produce more change o But then again, a communicator who proclaims an uncomfortable message may be discredited o People who disagree with conclusions drawn by a newscaster rate the newscaster as more biased, inaccurate, and untrustworthy o People are more open to conclusions within their range of acceptability o Perhaps greater disagreement will produce less change - A credible source would elicit considerable opinion change when advocating a position greatly discrepant from the recipient’s o The effect of large vs. small discrepancy depends on whether the communicator is credible - Deeply involved people tend to accept only a narrow range of views o A moderately discrepant message may seem foolishly radical, especially if the message argues an opposing view rather than being a more extreme version of their own view - If you are a credible authority and your audience isn’t much concerned with your issue, go for it: advocate an extreme view - Persuaders face another practical issue: how to deal with opposing arguments o Common sense offers no clear answer o Acknowledging the opposing arguments might confuse the audience and weaken the case o A message might seem fairer and be more disarming if it recognizes the opposition’s arguments o If your audience will be exposed to opposite views, offer a two-sided appeal - For optimists, positive persuasion works best - For pessimists, negative persuasion is more effective - We might wish that persuasion variables had simple effects - Most variables have complex effects – increasing persuasion in some situations and decreasing it in others - If human reality is complex, our principles will need to have some complexity as well - People’s preconceptions control their interpretations - A belief is difficult to discredit - People may pay most attention to what comes first o People remember recent things best -
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