.. rsuasion.Persuasion is the force exerted to influence behavior that includes a reflected change in attitude. Everyday we are bombarded with messagesfrom people who wish to influence our behavior and attitudes. Persuasion canbe used to accomplish good as well as bad, though, in my paper I willrefrain from making value judgements and only report the factual aspects. I will discuss the two basic routes to persuasion, the elements involved, andways to protect current attitudes and behaviors from change.
When trying to persuade someone, there are two different methods from which to choose-the central and peripheral routes. The central route persuades by usingdirect arguments and pertinent information. The peripheral route persuadespeople by association with incidental cues that are pleasing to the senses. The central route is used to reach people who are more motivated and analytical, while people who are less analytical and less involved aremore likely to be influenced by the peripheral route. In advertising a combination of the two is common and effective. Computer ads relyprimarily on the central route, because their target audiences are perceived as highly analytical.
Promotion for alcohol and tobacco products employ the peripheral route because they wish to draw attention away from thepossible negative effects that they are, in reality, associated with. To truly understand the effects of persuasion it is necessary to break the actdown to its smaller components. The for elements of persuasion are 1.) The communicator, 2.) The message content, 3.) How it is communicated, and4.) The receiver of the message. The content of the message is important but also whoever gives the message has an effect on peoples acceptance ofit. The major determinant of the communicators success are his/herperceived credibility and attractiveness.
Credibility, or believability isdetermined by the communicators appearance as an expert or as someone who can be trusted. Expertise is established when the communicator is introduced as someone who has a great deal of knowledge concerning the topic of conversation. When the communicator relays viewpoints that areidentical to the audience she/he will be perceived as smart. Also, to project animage of expertise it is necessary to speak confidently and withouthesitating. Trustworthiness of the communicator is assumed if direct eye contact is used and speech is rapid. If the speaker is seen as not trying toinfluence or is arguing a position that is against their personal interest theywill be considered trustworthy.
An attractive communicator has certain qualities, like physical appeal and similarity, that draw in theaudience. If the arguments of the attractive speaker are more readily accepted, central route persuasion has occurred or if we are persuaded by the unconnected positive association between the communicator and theproduct there has been peripheral route persuasion. When statements are made toa group by someone from the same ethnic background, the group is morewilling to listen. It appears true, the belief that we like people who aresimilar to us- and if we like someone we are more open to their suggestions. The second element of persuasion, the content of the message, deals with the specific type of messages that work best to convince. Emotional messages are most effective on less educated people, while rational appeals tendto score better with analytical or well educated people.
Discrepancybetween the message and receiver opinion often effects whether persuasionoccurs. A credible communicator is most effective when arguing an extreme position and someone who is not viewed as credible is best off giving a viewpoint where there is a moderate discrepancy. Communicators must decidewhether to put forth a one-sided or two-sided appeal. One-sided appeals work bestwith those who already agree. Two-sided appeals work best with people who are initially opposed to your idea. Also message acceptance is effected bywhen it is heard and when the argument against that message is heard. Primacy affect states Other things being equal, information presented first usually has the most influence.(1) The primacy effect works only whenboth messages are heard at once, with a period of time passing before responding.
In a situation where a message is given followed by alengthy period of time, and then the second message is given, the response is usually to accept the second message. This is recency effect.Information presented last sometimes has the most influence. Recency effects areless common than primacy effects.(2) How the message is communicated, thethird element to persuade, stresses the importance of message delivery. Communication is the most important and complex thing we do. It canshape our careers, our lives, and our world.. You can control the outcome of your important interactions if you control your communication style.(3) The studies have shown that interpersonal contact influences behaviorand attitudes much more than the media. Of course media still has great influence.
It has also been shown that the more realistic thecommunication method the more likely it is to persuade, though complex messages arebest understood and remembered if they are written. Simpler messages from the media that are live or videotaped are most likely to persuade. Less persuasive are audiotaped and written communication methods. The fourth element of persuasion is the audience, or receiver of the message. Ageof the audience matters greatly because many attitudes are directlyrelated to how old the person is.
There are two ways to explain the relationship between age and attitude. The life-cycle explanation states that when people get older their attitudes change. The generational explanation, which is supported by more evidence, states that each generation adoptsan attitude that is different from other generations, and does not changewith time. The state of mind of the message receiver plays an important on whether they are persuaded. When people feel they are about to bepersuaded to do something they will build arguments against it and be less likelyto be persuaded.
A distracted state of mind often doesnt have the abilityto argue against persuasive messages, and therefore is more likely toaccept them. Audiences that are image conscious and unconcerned with the truthare more apt to be persuaded by the communicators attractiveness and other peripheral cues. Analytical people who are more concerned with beingright, are more influenced by central route communication. Now Id like todiscuss some ways for people to safeguard their beliefs and resist outside influence. One of the best ways to prevent an unwanted attitudepersuasion is to make public your commitment to your conviction.
Once we havemade a choice or taken a stand we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitmant.(4) Because inconsistency is viewed as a bad personality trait and consistentattitudes and behavior equate to logic, stability, and honesty, people willrarely be persuaded once they have made a strong commitment. Keep in mind,however, that this persuasion resisting technique can be forced on you by othersas seen in the cases of brain washing of American POWs during the Korean war. The POWs were asked to repeat mildly anti-American orpro-communist statements. Once they willingly complied, prisoners were asked to make a list of problems in America, which they had to discuss in a group. Thenext step was to write an essay about the problems in America and have them broadcast on the radio. Many POWs stayed in China once granted freedom because they had committed to their ant-American attitudes.
Thisprevious example also illustrates the foot-in-the-door phenomenon. Small requests were made (the mildly anti-American statements) which opened the way for larger, more substantial suggestions. Attitude inoculation is believedto be the best way for people to avoid persuasion. It is defined asExposing people to weak attacks upon their attitudes so that when strongerattacks come they will have refutations available.(5) Attitude inoculation was found to increase commitment to an attitude in addition to developing counterarguemnts. One application of the positive effects of attitude inoculation was conducted by Alfred McAlister on a class of seventhgraders that had them commit to anti-smoking attitudes.
Role-Playing was used to strengthen commitment to non-smoking by public declaration and therepeated dialogue stimulated counterarguements. To truly understand the effectsof persuasion on people you need to be familiar with the structure behind a persuasive message. It is important to identify which route is beingused (central or peripheral) and understand the effect of the communicator,the content of the message, the method of communication, and the reaction by the audience. Counterarguements in making a public commitment strengthen out resistance to persuasion.