Tag Archives: Persuasion

The Tories and persuasion

The recent Conservative pre-election poster campaign ‘I’ve never voted Tory before…’ provides an interesting example of the three variables that interact in the persuasion process. That is, the communicator (source), the communication (message) and the audience (receiver) (Duck, Hogg & Terry, 2000).

Showing Ian the mechanic from Congleton in the poster immediately tells us that the target audience is men who are manual workers. The slogan is ‘I’ve never voted Tory before…’ also tells us that this cohort does not typically vote Tory. So how are the Tories attempting to persuade this group of non-traditional Tory voters?

Social psychologists have found that people are more likely to be influenced by communicators who are attractive (Kiesler & Kiesler, 1969) good communicators (Miller et al., 1976) and by peers and others who are similar (Triandis, 1971). Arguably Ian is attractive, similar to the target audience and by the written words, he communicates well. These variables on their own however, are unlikely to be persuasive enough to change the attitude of the target audience without a strong message.

Allyn & Festinger, (1961) suggest that simple messages are more effective than complex ones. The message being communicated by the poster can be read as – The Tories are the party to sort out the economy and therefore provide work. What is also interesting is how fear can be used to as a tool to persuade (Leventhal et al., 1965). Implied also in the message here is that not voting Tory risks leaving the economy in a mess and threatening jobs. The effectiveness of such subtle forms of persuasion however, will be measured in the ballot box.

Ian from Congleton’s story

Conservative Party billboards hit again by online spoofers

Persuasion

Persuasive arguments theory

Persuasion, Ambiguity, and the Health Care Debate

We have a long way to go before the healthcare debate is over. In a tight vote last week the Democrats in the Senate managed to avoid a Republican filibuster. Both Democrats and Republicans seem to be waging two wars: one on the floor of the Senate and the other over the airwaves. The battle to win the health care debate will all be for naught if public opinion isn’t also won in the process. Whether it be via television, radio, or the internet politicians are going all out to reach as many voters as possible. Are these attempts to persuade the public successful? Recent work by Ziegler & Diehl (2003) has shown that people are more persuaded by unambiguous strong positions relative to unambiguous weak messages. More interestingly, when messages were ambiguous participants relied on their source preferences to determine their endorsement of the message. Ultimately it appears that those who already like and support you don’t need to hear much of substance to be persuaded by you. Those against you or your position aren’t likely to be persuaded at all, but the only chance you’ve got is to state your message in unequivocal terms and hope that it gets through. In the current political climate this seems to indicate only a greater and more extreme level of polarization without much real or significant debate.

Ziegler & Diehl (2003)

After the Health Vote, Republicans Plot Attack Strategy

add to del.icio.us add to blinkslist add to furl digg this add to ma.gnolia stumble it! add to simpy seed the vine add to reddit add to fark tailrank this post to facebook

Texting and Scare Tactics

TextingA recent Welsh video that addresses the dangers of texting while driving has become an internet phenomenon with over 7 million views to date. The video, which will be shown in schools in this fall, features a teenager texting while driving, resulting in a graphic car crash that kills her passengers.

The creators of the ad argue that in order to capture the attention of teenagers, it is necessary for the video to be shocking and violent. However, some critics are skeptical about whether the ad will actually reduce the behavior, especially in the long-term. Health and social psychological research has looked extensively at the efficacy of fear arousing messages when it comes to changing behaviors.

In a recent article, Cameron and Chan (2008) discuss what persuasive elements may help in promoting health behaviors. It is commonly assumed that messages that evoke fear will prompt action; however, many studies have shown that highly evocative messages may actually lead to avoidance and fail to change behavior. In the health communication field, they find that fear arousing messages can be effective but only when coupled with other factors. For instance, when joined with an implementation plan, these messages have a better chance of changing behavior. Moreover, imagery may be effective in persuasive messages but only to the extent that it can directly relate the threat to the recommended plan of action.

While the commercial may be successful in garnering attention, ongoing research brings into question how effective it will be in terms of permanently changing behavior.

square-eye New York Times: Driven to Distraction

square-eye Cameron, L. D., & Chan, C. K. (2008). Designing Health Communications: Harnessing the Power of Affect, Imagery, and Self-Regulation.

Scared Stiff: Does Fear Motivate or Paralyze Us?

480px-Scared_Child_at_NighttimeIf you’ve seen the recent viral video discouraging us from texting while driving, or the quit-smoking commercials that feature surgeries showing organs damaged by smoking, then you may find yourself wondering if these gruesome images actually cause us to change our behavior?

Social psychologists have asked the same question and have found a variety of results. When considering the persuasiveness of a message we have to consider the message itself, the audience watching it, and the context in which it is delivered. Messages that have graphic images have been shown to be effective in producing behavior change, but only if there is a message attached to the images about what a person can do. For example, quit-smoking messages are more likely to produce a change in behavior if they are accompanied with information about smoking cessation programs or a phone number to call to get help.

In addition, characteristics of the audience have to be considered. Self-esteem has shown to be influential in determining whether a person will actually follow through on change, but it can depend on a variety of other factors as well.

Finally, we have to consider the context in which the message is received. Major catastrophic events, such as 9/11, can enact a variety of policies and changes that influence how we perceive messages. There are even more recent theories, such as Terror Management Theory, that suggest that making our own mortality salient can powerfully influence our behavior and attitudes.

Can you think of examples where threat, fear, and mortality are used as persuasive devices in order to motivate people to engage in a particular behavior? In what ways could politicians or healthcare providers, for example, make use of these findings?

square-eye £1.99 - small Tales from Existential Oceans: Terror Management Theory and How the Awareness of Our Mortality Affects Us All

Share