Persuasion is the force exerted to influence behavior that includes a reflected change in attitude. Everyday we are bombarded with messages from people who wish to influence our behavior and attitudes. Persuasion can be used to accomplish good as well as bad, though, in my paper I will refrain from making value judgements and only report the factual aspects. I will discuss the two basic routes to persuasion, the elements involved, and ways 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 using direct arguments and pertinent information. The peripheral route persuades people 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 are more likely to be influenced by the peripheral route. In advertising a combination of the two is common and effective. Computer ads rely primarily 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 the possible negative effects that they are, in reality, associated with. To truly understand the effects of persuasion it is necessary to break the act down to its smaller components. The for elements of persuasion are 1.) The communicator, 2.) The message content, 3.) How it is communicated, and 4.) The receiver of the message. The content of the message is important but also whoever gives the message has an effect on people+s acceptance of it. The major determinant of the communicator+s success are his/her perceived credibility and attractiveness. Credibility, or believability isdetermined by the communicator+s appearance as an expert or as someone who can betrusted. 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 are identical to the audience she/he will be perceivedas smart. Also, to project an image of expertise it is necessary to speak confidently andwithout hesitating. Trustworthiness of the communicator is assumed if direct eye contact isused and speech is rapid. If the speaker is seen as not trying to influence or is arguing a position that is against their personal interest they will be considered trustworthy. An attractive communicator has certain qualities, like physical appeal and similarity, that draw in the audience. 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 the product there has been peripheral route persuasion. When statements are made to a group by someone from the same ethnic background, the group is more willing to listen. It appears true, the belief that we like people who are similar 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 tend to score better with analytical or well educated people. Discrepancy between the message and receiver opinion often effects whether persuasion occurs. 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 decide whether to put forth a one-sided or two-sided appeal. One-sided appeals work best with those who already agree. Two-sided appeals work be Also message acceptance is effected by when 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.X(1) The primacy effect works only when both messages are heard at once, with a period of time passing before responding. In a situation where a message is given followed by a lengthy period of time, and then the second message is given, the r recency effect. |Information presented last sometimes has the most influence. Recency effects are less common than primacy effects.X(2) How the message is communicated, the third element to persuade, stresses the importance of message delivery. |Communication is the most important and complex thing we do. It can shape our careers, our lives, and our world… You can control the outcome of your important interactions if you control your communication style.X(3) The studies have shown that interpersonal contact influences behavior and attitudes much more than the media. Of course media still has great influence. It has also been shown that the more realistic the communication method the more likely it is to persuade, though complex messages are best understood and rem 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. Age of the audience matters greatly because many attitudes are directly related 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 adopts an attitude that is different from other generations, and does not change with time. The state of mind of the message receiver plays an important on whether they are persuaded. When people feel they are about to be persuaded to do something they will build arguments against it and be less likely to be persuaded. A distracted state of mind often doesn+t have the ability to argue against persuasive messages, and therefore is more likely to accept them. Audiences that are image conscious and unconcerned with the truth are more apt to be persuaded by the communicator+s attractiveness and other peripheral cues. Analytical people who are more concerned with being right, are more influenced by central route communication. Now I+d like to discuss some ways for people to safeguard their beliefs and resist outside influence. One of the best ways to prevent an unwanted attitude persuasion is to make public your commitment to your conviction. |Once we have made a choice or taken a stand we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitmant.X(4) Because inconsistency is viewed as a bad personality trait and consistent attitudes and behavior equate to logic, stability, and honesty, people will rarely be persuaded once they have made a strong commitment. Keep in mind, however, that this persuasion resisting technique can be forced on you by others as seen in the cases of |brain washingX of American POW+s during the Korean war. The POW+s were asked to repeat mildly anti-American or pro-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. The next step was to write an essay about the problems in America and have them broadcast on the radio. Many POW+s stayed in China once granted freedom because they had committed to their ant-American attitudes. This previous 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 believed to be the best way for people to avoid persuasion. It is defined as |Exposing people to weak attacks upon their attitudes so that when stronger attacks come they will have refutations available.X(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 seventh graders that had them commit to anti-smoking attitudes.
Role-Playing was used to strengthen commitment to non-smoking by public declaration and the repeated dialogue stimulated counterarguements. To truly understand the effects of persuasion on people you need to be familiar with the
structure behind a persuasive message. It is important to identify which route is being used (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.