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COURSE NOTES: Social

Based on the course PSY/SOC 301, taught at The Sage Colleges by Prof. Susan Cloninger. This class uses the following textbook, which provides the chapter organization that you see on the menu on the left side of this page: Myers, D. (2005). Social Psychology (8th ed.) New York: McGraw Hill.

Chapter 7: 

Persuasion

example of Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda

example of Iraq war

THE PATHS TO PERSUASION

Central route

  • thinking
  • systematic arguments
  • leads to more enduring change (Myers, 2005, p. 249)

Peripheral route

  • cues for acceptance
  • little thinking

Central Route effective when:

  • people find message personally relevant and involviing
  • people are high in the need for cognition
  • people are in a neutral or mildly negative mood
  • communicator speaks at normal speed

Peripheral Route effective when:

  • people find message irrelevant and noninvolving
  • people are low in need for cognition
  • people are in a positive mood
  • communicator speaks rapidly

central or peripheral? [graphic presented in lecture]

THE ELEMENTS OF PERSUASION

  • who says? the communicator
  • what is said? the message
  • how is it said? the channel of communication
  • to whom? the audience

WHO SAYS? THE COMMUNICATOR

Credibility (believability)

  • sleeper effect (forgotten source)
  • Expertise (an aspect of credibility)
    • knowledgeable
    • speaks confidently
  • Trustworthiness (an aspect of credibility)
    • eye contact
    • rapid speech
    • intent
    • speaking against own self-interest
  • Rapid speech makes people more persuasive.
    • They are perceived as more expert.
    • They are perceived as more trustworthy.
    • The audience has less chance to counter-argue.

Attractiveness and liking

  • physical appeal
  • similarity (especially for issues of subjective preference, not objective reality)

WHAT IS SAID? THE MESSAGE CONTENT

Reason versus emotion

  • Reason appeals to well-educated, analytical people.
  • especially if they are involved with the issue.

Emotion

    • appeals to many voters
    • can be aroused by food, music, etc.

Arousing fear sometimes persuades; sometimes not.

    • It is more likely to change behavior:
      • if we know what to do.
      • if we have a vivid image of danger.
    • Other times fear simply arouses denial.
    • implications for public health campaigns

Discrepancy

  • credible sources can advocate larger discrepancies more effectively
  • lower discrepancy tolerable to involved audience

One-sided versus two-sided appeals

  • effect of audience agreement (1-sided better if audience already agrees; 2-sided better if audience disagrees)
  • awareness of counter-arguments
  • (If the audience will hear the other side anyhow, you should use a 2-sided appeal.)
  • emphasize positive effects for optimists, negative effects for pessimists (Myers, 2005, p. 261)

Primacy versus recency

  • primacy effect: early information is most persuasive
  • recency effect: later information is most persuasive if it immediately precedes the decision, especially if the other side was presented much earlier

HOW IS IT SAID? THE CHANNEL OF COMMUNICATION

Active experience or passive reception?

Personal versus media influence

  • two-step flow of communication (media to opinion leaders to everyday people)
  • Media: more effective for simple messages; writing for complex ones.

TO WHOM IS IT SAID? THE AUDIENCE

Self esteem: moderate levels are more easily persuaded

How old are they?

  • life cycle explanation
  • generational explanation (better supported)
  • e.g., liberal impressions on Bennington College students lasted a lifetime

    What are they thinking?

    • Forewarned is forearmed--If you care enough to counterargue.
    • Distraction disarms counterarguing.
    • Uninvolved audiences use peripheral cues.

    Ways to stimulate thinking:

      • rhetorical questions
      • multiple speakers
      • make audience feel responsible
      • relaxed postures
      • repeat the message
      • get undistracted attention

    Effects of thinking:

      • Makes strong messages more effective
      • Makes weak messages less effective (due to counter-arguing)

    REAL-LIFE PERSUASION: CULT INDOCTRINATION

    Instances

    • Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church
    • Jim Jones's People's Temple
    • David Koresh's Branch Davidians
    • Marshall Applewhite's Heaven's Gate

    Attitudes follow behavior

    • Compliance breeds acceptance
    • The foot-in-the-door phenomenon

    Persuasive elements

    • The communicator: a charismatic leader, who seems knowledgeable and trustworthy
    • The message: vivid, emotional, warm
    • The audience: young, (under 25), educated, middle-class, needy

    Group effects

    cults

    persuasion in counseling and psychotherapy

    • self-discovery

    RESISTING PERSUASION

    STRENGTHENING PERSONAL COMMITMENT

    • Challenging beliefs
    • Developing counterarguments

    ATTITUDE INOCULATION

    • Inoculating children against peer pressure to smoke
    • Inoculating children against the influence of advertising

    IMPLICATIONS OF ATTITUDE INOCULATION

    • against merely "stronger indoctrination"
    • against a "germ-free ideological environment"
    • against ineffective appeals

    [Myers's] Personal postscript: Being open but not naive


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    SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY
    home page
    Ch. 1: Introduction
    Ch. 2: Self
    Ch. 3: Beliefs
    Ch. 4: Attitudes
    Ch. 5: Culture
    Ch. 6: Conformity
    Ch. 7: Persuasion
    Ch. 8: Groups
    Ch. 9: Prejudice
    Ch. 10: Aggression
    Ch. 11: Attraction
    Ch. 12: Helping
    Ch. 13: Conflict
    Ch. 14: Clinic
    Ch. 15: Court
    Ch. 16: Future