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Social Psychology

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  1. Social Psychology Lecture 2: Persuasion and Attitude Change (Chapter 6; Hogg & Vaughan)

  2. At the end of the lecture … • General Question: ‘How Social Psychology explains persuasion and changes in attitude and behaviour?’ • Persuasive communications • Compliance: interpersonal influence • Attitude-behaviour discrepancy and cognitive dissonance • When attitude change fails: resistance to persuasion

  3. Figure 6.1 The Yale approach to communication and persuasion Source: Based on Janis & Hovland (1959)

  4. Research Highlight 6.1 Characteristics of a communication likely to lead to attitude change

  5. Research Highlight 6.1 Characteristics of a communication likely to lead to attitude change (Continued)

  6. Source Credibility (Bosch Insko, 1966) • Respondents asked how much sleep was required to maintain ones health • 8 hours • Exposed to two sources of opinion • Nobel Scientist (high credibility) and Medical Student (low credibility)

  7. Figure 6.2 The effect of communicator credibility and position discrepancy on opinion change Source: Based on data from Bochner & Insko (1966) So graph shows extent person deviated based on information given Moderate changes to the original figure (8 hours) had an effect, but extreme changes had less of an effect. General resistance Some indication for High Credibility having an effect for extreme for 1 hour?

  8. Does Fear work? • Experiments with low fear, medium fear and high fear conditions. • Leventhal, Watts and Pagano (1967) • Median Fear: respondents told about link between cigarettes and lung cancer • High Fear: Additional video about operation with someone with lung cancer. • Greater willingness to give up smoking among high fear group • Janis and Feschbach (1953) experiment when they encourage oral health • Low fear: told respondents about the importance of oral health • Median Fear: respondents told about gum disease • High Fear Gum disease • Low fear group taking better care of teeth • Just too much? Smoking?

  9. Figure 6.3 The inverted U-curve relationship between fear and attitude change

  10. Persuasive communications • According to the elaboration likelihood model and the heuristic-systematic model, there are two processes through which we respond to a persuasive message.

  11. Persuasive communications • We can attend carefully to a message and process it deliberatively, systematically, and with effort through a central cognitive route.

  12. Persuasive communications • Alternatively, we can attend less carefully and process the message heuristically and with less effort through a peripheral cognitive route.

  13. Figure 6.5 The elaboration–likelihood model of persuasion Source: Based on Petty & Cacioppo (1986b) Which route is taken is a matter of motivation and cognitive capacity. If we have followed the arguments then the central route will be used. If so then the arguments have to be put carefully as we will pay attention to them. If arguments are sound we will change based on our attitudes. If we haven’t then the peripheral route is used; then we can have used much more superficial arguments and base it around persuasion cues (attractiveness).

  14. Compliance: Interpersonal influence • Perhaps the most common form of persuasion is to ask someone to do something for you and then to try to get them to comply. Quite often, we comply with requests without even thinking (mindlessness). However, there are a number of factors and tactics that increase compliance. • One very effective way to increase compliance is first to get someone to like you (ingratiation) — people comply more with people they like.

  15. Compliance: Interpersonal influence • There is another group of interpersonal influence tactics that involve multiple requests.If you get someone to first comply with a small request, you are more likely to get him or her to comply with a subsequent, larger request (foot-in-the door). • The opposite tactic (door-in-the face) can also work: If you get someone to decline a large request, he or she is more likely to agree to a subsequent, scaled-down request. • Another effective technique takes advantage of the reciprocity principle: If you do someone a favour, they feel compelled to return the favour at a later date.

  16. Compliance: Interpersonal influence • A third tactic (low-balling) involves first getting someone to agree to do something, and then gradually withdrawing some of the incentives or attractive features of the choice. Having already committed themselves, people tend to stick with their original decision. • Persuasion can sometimes be easier if, rather than directing it at the target, you actively involve the target in the process through discussion and collaboration. This idea has been used to change attitudes while simultaneously doing research on such attitudes (action research).

  17. Attitude-behaviour discrepancy and cognitive dissonance • One way in which attitudes can be changed is by drawing people’s attention to an inconsistency between what they are doing (their behaviour) and what they think (their attitudes). • Attitude–behaviour discrepancy can create cognitive dissonance, which is averse and motivates attitude change. Dissonance may be raised vicariously by witnessing someone we feel connected with experience dissonance. • Because dissonance is averse, people generally avoid situations where their attitudes and behaviour may clash (selective exposure hypothesis)

  18. Attitude-behaviour discrepancy and cognitive dissonance • Attitude–behaviour inconsistency not only produces dissonance but also challenges the image of ourselves as consistent and moral human beings. According to self-affirmation theory, inconsistency causes us to affirm that we are positive human beings in other self domains, and this circumvents the need to resolve dissonance. • When attitude–behaviour inconsistency is small, dissonance may not lead to the process of attitude change. Under these circumstances we may simply observe our behaviour and decide that it reflects the kind of person we are (self-perception theory).

  19. When attitude change fails: Resistance to persuasion • Persuasion fails more often than it succeeds, particularly when people's original attitudes are strongly held, because their attitudes are features of their self-conception. A number of factors strengthen resistance to attitude change. • When we are aware that someone is trying to persuade us, we often dig our heels in to resist, and this reactance is strengthened when there is forewarning of a persuasive attempt. A particularly strong defence against persuasion is inoculation, a method where you are exposed in advance to a mild form of the persuasion and then rehearsed in counter-arguments.

  20. Advice on Revision • Attitudes and Attitude Change are big area, they overlap, so be sure you are clear in your revision which areas are pertinent to which. • In your reading of the chapter, take a critical approach. Show an understanding of the evidence, but also those areas of the reading that notes of caution can be applied.

  21. At the end of the lecture … • General Question: ‘How Social Psychology explains persuasion and changes in attitude and behaviour?’ • Persuasive communications • Compliance: interpersonal influence • Attitude-behaviour discrepancy and cognitive dissonance • When attitude change fails: resistance to persuasion