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Attitude Change and Persuasion
How is persuasion different from propaganda?
Propaganda is the spread of ideas, information or rumors for the purpose of helping or hurting an
institution, a cause, or a person (Brown, 1967)
The term propaganda first used in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV in an attempted to increase church
membership by strengthening or “propagating” beliefs
The Nazis had a department of propaganda
Propaganda Techniques
 Use of stereotypes
 Substitution of names
 Pinpointing an enemy
 Appeals to higher authority
 Selection of facts
 Downright lying
 Repetition
 Assertion
The Impact?
Powerful persuasive forces are at work on us everyday.
Some are positive and others very negative.
TV and the media bombard us with persuasive messages constantly
Prakansis and Aronson state “The age of propaganda: The everyday use and abuse of
persuasion” the average American sees 100’s of ads per day and millions in your lifetime
 When are attempts to persuade people effective?
 What determines whether they are effective?
 How can we resist negative persuasive attempts?
The Message-Learning approach or Communication Model of Attitude Change
Carl Hovland and colleagues worked for the army during WWII developing and testing
messages aimed at persuading Americans to save tin, etc.
The main researchers from “Why We Fight” studies return to Yale to study persuasion
Carl Hovland, Irving Janis, Harold Kelly (1953) “Communication and Persuasion”
Conducted more than 50 experiments from 1946 to 1961
The Yale Model suggested that 4 major factors in the communication process influence
Source variables (Who?)
Message variables (What?)
Channel variables (How?)
Audience variables (To Whom?)
Characteristics of Source
 Credibility (Expertise and Trustworthiness)
 Attractiveness or Liked source
 Similarity
 Charisma
 Appearance
 Status and Power
Message Variables -Some messages are more persuasive depending on the situation
Emotional or affective appeals vs. rational or cognitive appeals
Fear appeals
Primacy vs. recency
Message repetition
One vs. Two-sided messages
Drawing conclusions
Fear Appeals - Persuasive messages designed to change attitudes by producing apprehension
and anxiety if they are not followed
When are they most effective?
 Message must arouse enough fear
 Consequences are likely
 a specific, precise recommendation
 the recommended action is perceived as effective for reducing the threat
 the recipient or audience believes that they can perform the recommended action
Yale or Message Learning Approach
Provided a good deal of information into When and How persuasion occurs
Not a good model for understanding why people change their attitude
Passive view of the recipient of the message
Led to the Cognitive response models
Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) of Persuasion (Petty & Cacioppo, 1981)
Persuasion depends on the degree to which people elaborate or cognitively process the contents
of a persuasive message
A theory of persuasion that argues that both effortful and non-effortful processes can produce
attitude change
Two Routes to Persuasion (Central Route and Peripheral Route)
The Central Route to persuasion is taken when persuasion results from thinking about the issue
or arguments
Focus on:
 Quality of the Arguments
 Nature of the message
 More accessible attitudes
 Stronger attitudes
 More resistance to counter persuasion
 More enduring attitudes
 More predictive of behavior
The Peripheral Route to persuasion results when we rely on superficial cues or non-issues in
Focus on:
 Quantity or # of Arguments
 Non-issues: attractiveness, presence of an expert, heuristics
 Less accessible attitudes
 Weaker attitudes
 Less resistance to counter persuasion
 Less enduring attitudes
 Less predictive of behavior
How can we induce someone to follow the central route?
 Is the person MOTIVATED to process the information?
 Does the person possess the ABILITY to process the information?
Factors that may influence Motivation
 Personal Relevance
 Energy level
 Open vs. Close mindedness
 Time
 Need for Cognition
Factors that may influence Ability to process the information
Petty and Cacioppo (1984)
The Issue: Comprehensive Graduation Exam
Independent Variables:
 Quality of the Arguments (Strong vs. Weak)
 Personal Relevance or Involvement ( (Low vs. High)
 Number of Arguments (3 vs. 9)
Dependent Variable:Post-communication Attitude