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Theories of Persuasion and Attitude Change. First, A Definition: What is a Theory?. The term “Theory” encompasses 5 Elements It provides an understanding concerning why receivers are influenced in a certain set of contexts

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first a definition what is a theory
First, A Definition: What is a Theory?
  • The term “Theory” encompasses 5 Elements
    • It provides an understanding concerning why receivers are influenced in a certain set of contexts
    • It identifies a set of relevant variables critical in persuasion and labels those that are irrelevant
    • It explains many empirical findings in a parsimonious set of propositions
    • It allows us to make predictions concerning how one set of variables will influence a set of outcomes (belief, attitude, behavior changes)
    • It offers guidelines to tell us the contexts in which it will most likely be used
cognitive consistency theories balance theories
Cognitive Consistency Theories:“Balance Theories”
  • Balance Theory
  • Cognitive Dissonance
  • Psychological Reactance Theory
premises of balance theories
Premises of Balance Theories
  • People seek consistency in their views; in their attitudes and beliefs
  • The common link:
    • Inconsistency causes stress
    • Inconsistency can be fixed through attitude/belief change
balance theory heider 1946
Balance Theory (Heider, 1946)
  • Three cognitive elements can be balanced or imbalanced
  • The least important element is usually changed
  • We prefer balance
balance theory balance
Balance Theory: Balance

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You

Jerry Springer

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Everything is balanced, so there’s no stress.

Your Friend

balance theory imbalance
Balance Theory: Imbalance

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Jerry Springer

Now there’s a problem, since you want to know how your friend can’t like Springer.

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Your Friend

balanced and imbalanced cognitive structures

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Balanced and Imbalanced Cognitive Structures

P = Person; O = Other; X = Topic, Issue, Attitude Object

Trick for recall: Odd # of minus signs = Imbalance

balance theory sources of imbalance
Balance Theory: Sources of Imbalance
  • Source-Proposition
  • Attitude Component
  • Behavior-Attitude
source proposition
Source - Proposition
  • Source: A person or group
  • Proposition: Message from the person or group
  • Discrepancy: Message differs from what we believe the source would say
  • Ex: If George W. says “This country sucks”
attitude component
Attitude Component
  • Inconsistencies between any two attitudes
  • Ex: Love your pet cow, but love hamburgers too

Behavior - Attitude

  • Your actions are inconsistent with your attitudes
  • Ex: You support animal rights but wear fur coats
cognitive dissonance festinger 1957
Cognitive Dissonance (Festinger, 1957)
  • Cognition: perception of an object or idea
  • Two sets of cognitions can be mutually:
    • Consonant: Pancakes are low in fat, therefore healthy to eat; I love to eat pancakes
    • Dissonant: Waffles are high in fat, therefore unhealthy to eat; I love to eat waffles
    • Irrelevant: Waffles and Pancakes are healthier to eat than chocolate; I love to take naps
festinger initially suggests 3 ways to reduce dissonance
Festinger initially suggests 3 ways to reduce dissonance:
  • Change one element
    • Stop eating waffles.
  • Add consonant opinions
    • Since behavior change is most difficult, we might read other articles that suggest salt, not fat should be the prominent health concern; therefore we change the belief that fat-filled waffles are bad for us
  • Change the importance of cognitions
    • Yes, waffles may have a lot of fat in them, but honestly, it is just a waffle; it tastes great, it makes me happy, and it is the only food I like eating in the morning, that doesn’t give me difficulty breathing while cooking it – benefits of continuing outweigh (invalidate) costs
dealing with dissonance without behavior change today
Dealing with Dissonance without behavior change (Today)
  • Derogate the source
  • Rationalize
  • Seek social support
  • “Misperceive” the sources position
  • Compartmentalize: ignore or forget discrepancies
  • Convince the source of his/her error
  • Modify Attitudes
cognitive dissonance cont d
Cognitive Dissonance (cont’d)
  • Which solution will be chosen? That which offers the least resistance; the easiest one
    • Meaning? Behavior change is least likely to occur compared to all other options
  • Dissonance is always occurring, however, it varies greatly in magnitude
    • Some dissonance is therefore more likely to cause a change
  • Dissonance and Decision Making
    • The greater the post-decisional dissonance, the greater the need to justify that we made the correct choice (ask me about my wedding budget)
      • This can result in selective exposure to only supportive information – though this is not always empirically supported
cognitive dissonance cont d1
Cognitive Dissonance (cont’d)
  • Disconfirming an Important Belief
    • Heaven’s Gate predicted that they would be taken onboard a UFO that trailed the Hale-Bopp comet… most of them died (pudding, vodka and drugs).
    • Suppose you were a cult member, but you missed the bus. The next day, NASA said that there was no UFO in the tail of the comet.
    • According to cognitive dissonance, you would do what?
      • http://www.rickross.com/reference/heavensgate/gate38.html
      • Story of group and flood Festinger infiltrated
psychological reactance theory brehm brehm 1981
Psychological Reactance Theory (Brehm & Brehm, 1981)
  • Deals with situations in which people “react” to rules, laws or other restrictions place upon them
    • Smokers fighting for their right to smoke in public places/buildings; this behavior increases as restrictions expand
  • Similar to “reverse psychology” but generally this connection is overused and loose
psychological reactance 6 contextual propositions
Psychological Reactance 6 Contextual Propositions
  • Censorship – recordings censored or banned are more desirable, making the bands more popular, increasing sales
    • Song of the South on VHS
  • Limited Editions – consumers are willing to pay more for the privilege of owning one of the few items in the series; limited edition means freedom to purchase is decreased
psychological reactance contextual propositions cont d
Psychological Reactance Contextual Propositions (cont’d)
  • The Scarcity Rule – more in chapter 10, but same idea. If you don’t buy it today, you may not get to (book says Cabbage Patch dolls - I would say tickle-me Elmo too)
  • Reactions to “orders” – orders threaten individuals freedom, may result in directly, intentionally disobeying the order (Honking in NYC)
psychological reactance contextual propositions cont d1
Psychological Reactance Contextual Propositions (cont’d)
  • Political Reactions – any restrictions over previously unrestricted behavior can result in protests and rallies to deregulate the behavior again
  • Romantic Involvements – “Romeo and Juliet Effect”; the more parents interfere with a high-school-aged couple, the more “in love” the couple becomes over time
psychological reactance use in persuasion
Psychological Reactance: Use in Persuasion?
  • Especially limited editions/scarcity principle in marketing/advertising
    • LOTR, XMEN
    • Infomercials: Billy Mays
message learning approach
Message Learning Approach
  • WWII - Hovland realized that no significant research examined how people are influenced by (or resist) messages
    • Again, concern over the Nazi propaganda machine
    • Recall: What is propaganda? Why would they fear it?
4 stages of message learning
4 Stages of Message Learning
  • Attention
    • People must first notice the message
    • Commercial techniques for breaking through the clutter (orienting response [super bowl car], violating reality, breaking frame, etc.)
  • Comprehension
    • People have to understand the message in order to be persuaded
    • Language and organization of messages is therefore important
4 stage of message learning cont d
4 Stage of Message Learning (cont’d)
  • Yielding
    • Message must raise questions in the receiver’s mind
    • Message should provide incentives to change mind—or imply punishments for a failure to change
    • Use of evidence (beliefs) with statistics, testimonials, etc. will change attitudes
  • Retention
    • Receiver must remember the message
    • Receiver should elaborate on arguments
    • Easy to remember information (such as slogans) are most effective
independent variables affecting persuasion
Independent Variables Affecting Persuasion
  • Message
  • Source
  • Recipient
  • Channel

*We will cover each one in detail

message characteristics
Message Characteristics
  • Language Used –arousing? Easy to follow? Or is it Ben Stein?
  • Sidedness (1 vs. 2-sided messages)
    • Found in “comparison advertisements”
    • Pick a product
message characteristics cont d
Message Characteristics (cont’d)
  • Number of Repetitions (and arguments)
    • Repetition increases consumer learning
    • Helps establish new brands in the market
    • A group of commercials will not wear out as quickly as a single one
    • Commercials wear out faster among those who are heavy TV viewers
    • Commercials with a single gag/punchline wear out more than those relying on narration
    • Commercials for infrequently purchased items have a longer shelf life…. Why?
    • Greater the time span between airings, the longer the single commercial can run… unlike Mambo #5
message characteristics cont d1
Message Characteristics (cont’d)
  • Temporal Ordering
    • Primacy vs. Recency
    • Primacy effect when:
      • Topic is interesting to the receiver
      • Materials are familiar
      • Issues are relatively unimportant
      • Decision regards a person’s character
    • Recency effect when:
      • Topic is of low interest to recevier
      • Materials are unfamiliar
      • Issues are relatively important
      • Decision regards a general issue, not a person’s character
message characteristics cont d2
Message Characteristics (cont’d)
  • Temporal Ordering (cont’d)
    • Contrast Effect when:
      • The comparison with the previous message favors the latter
    • Fatigue Effect when:
      • Receiver gets tired of similar sequential messages
    • How does this play into news casts? Interviews?
what you want to understand about temporal order effects
What you want to understand about Temporal Order Effects
  • When two messages are presented in a sequence without a break separating the two, there is more learning from the first one
    • Info learned first lasts longest
    • Fatigue
    • Interference from the first message inhibits learning from the second
  • Recency is only the best option when the vote/decision is made immediately following the message presentation
  • Look to page 70 in Bettinghaus & Cody (1994)
source characteristics
Source Characteristics
  • Source Characteristics can impact:
    • Incentives for receiver’s attendance
    • Yielding of the receiver to the message
  • Incentives: Those source characteristics that give receiver’s the motivation to attend
    • Expertise
    • Trustworthiness
  • Together these two concepts form Credibility
    • How can this be demonstrated by the source?
source characteristics cont d
Source Characteristics (cont’d)
  • Yielding: Those source characteristics that encourage the receiver to accept the message
    • Similarity
    • Power (authority)/Opinion Leader
    • Attractiveness or Celebrity
      • These are popular strategies because they impact attention phase of message learning too
receiver effects
Receiver Effects
  • Goal: to make the persuasive appeal appropriate for the audience
  • 2 types:
    • Demographics – Age, Gender, etc.
    • “Psychographics” – Self-esteem, IQ, authoritarianism, need for cognition
      • Often called “Individual Differences”
      • Most interesting to study
channel effects
Channel Effects
  • Interpersonal Influence vs. Mass Media
    • Mass media can reach large audiences
    • But for behavior change, we largely need interpersonal reinforcement
  • Major emphasis is on Attention (will receivers see it?)
  • Media Richness Theory (Daft & Lengel, 1994)
    • Different channels have varied levels of sensory information (FTF, TV, Books, email)
    • Based on these differences in channels, receivers react differently to messages; Accordingly:
      • Complex material is best presented in print – gets the receiver to focus on the message
      • Audio/Audio-Visual material draws the attention to the source of the message – receivers do not focus on the details of the message
time for a synopsis
Time for a synopsis…
  • Message Learning Process has 4 Stages:
    • Attention
    • Comprehension
    • Yielding
    • Retention
  • Persuasive messages can be impacted by other variables within:
    • Source, Message, Receiver, and Channel
recall implications of media richness theory as it relates to persuasion
Recall implications of Media Richness Theory as it relates to persuasion…
  • MRT suggests that channels can have different levels of richness
  • Certain channels convey more sensory information than others
  • The more senses impacted, the greater the amount of information that can be presented
  • However, the more “rich” channels will provide alternatives for the receiver to attend
    • This will impair detailed learning of the message content
    • How do persuasion researchers explain this phenomenon?
the elaboration likelihood model elm petty cacioppo 1986
The Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM; Petty & Cacioppo, 1986)
  • This model attempts to explain how receivers engage in “issue-relevant” thinking, specifically through delineation between central and peripheral routes (dual-processing strategies)
  • The ELM has many problems—but it is important to know; since some still cherish it (especially Petty & Cacioppo)
the elm cont d
The ELM (cont’d)
  • According to this approach, there are 2 routes for information processing:
    • Central (Analytic) Route
    • Peripheral (Everything Else) Route
  • Basically, the Central Route will be used if the person is sufficiently motivated to attend to the message
  • There are 7 primary propositions of the ELM
7 propositions of the elm
7 Propositions of the ELM
  • People are motivated to hold correct attitudes
  • Individual and Situational factors affect people’s motivation to elaborate (expend cognitive energy to ensure the correct attitude is held)
  • Attitude Change can come from: a) the arguments, b) the peripheral cues, or c) the amount and type of elaboration
7 propositions of the elm cont d
7 Propositions of the ELM (cont’d)
  • A number of factors affect either:
    • Motivation (involvement, need for cognition, multiple speakers/multiple messages)
    • Ability to scrutinize message arguments (distraction and prior knowledge)
  • Biased processing attempts to support existing attitudes (like selective attention)
7 propositions of the elm cont d1
7 Propositions of the ELM (cont’d)
  • Peripheral cues become more important as the motivation or ability to process arguments is decreased
  • Attitude change from central route will last longer, will resist more counterpersuasion and will be a greater predictor of behavior
heuristic systematic model hsm chaiken et al 1989
Heuristic-Systematic Model (HSM; Chaiken et al., 1989)
  • A second dual-processing model relates largely to the ELM, but rather divides message learning into:
    • Heuristics – mental shortcuts or stereotypes
    • Systematic reasoning – similar to central route processing
slide43
HSM
  • The HSM has two main principles:
    • Least Effort Principle
    • Sufficiency Principle
  • These principles indicate how people are likely to process new information, and how resulting attitudes may affect perceptions regarding the information
next time
NEXT TIME…

Attribution Theory and Theories of Belief Change