TWO ROUTES TO PERSUASION

So much of human interaction consists of persuasive declarations and actions. This chapter discusses what factors affect persuasion and how we can most effectively have a positive effect on others.

THERE ARE TWO ROUTES TO PERSUASION:
You can persuade by building strong 'central arguments' or you can persuade by trying to appeal to your audience by associating that which you want it to accept with favorable 'peripheral cues.' Richard Petty and John Cacioppo have argued that persuasion usually takes one of these two forms.

If one's arguments are strong and compelling, they will have a better chance of being accepted because our audience will notice less weakness in our line of reasoning and will be more prone to consider our ideas as 'plausible' and 'acceptable.'

Yet, sometimes the strength of the argument matters less than that with which our idea is being associated. Let us say we want to sell a car in an advertisement; sometimes, arguing for its mechanical superiority may be less effective than associating the car with the fun that it can bring to the driver. Notice how many car ads show scenes outside the study in open countryside, giving the impression that the car is a route to freedom.

Central arguments require an analytically motivated audience. It also involves a higher degree of processing. If the arguments are 'cogent' they can attract long-term agreement.

Peripheral route persuasion is not analytically and requires less effort on the part of the audience. The persuaders uses a rule of thumb in associating his or her ideas or proposals to existing symbols. It is the 'cue' that triggers acceptance and liking. One would predict that this type of persuasion may be less long-lived, since someone else can come along and present a more attractive cue association and sway the audience in a different direction.

IN STUDYING PERSUASION, we study four elements:

1) The communicator, 2) The message, 3) How the message is communicated, 4) The audience.

Who says the message often matters as much as what is being said. The same message coming from two different sources can elicit different reactions (Why? P. 152). Imagine someone in poor physical shape delivering an address on the benefits of exercise. The same message from someone who is physically fit would have a different effect.

Credibility is dependent on the source of the message. The more strongly acceptance is connected to the source the more chance there is that the message will lost its power when the source fades from memory. This loss of effect is called the 'sleeper effect.'

Attractiveness of the source also has a bearing on whether the message will be readily accepted. That is why many advertisers hire known or attractive actors to deliver their message. Attractiveness involves physical attraction as well as 'similarity' or 'affinity' between the symbol being used and the audience's identity. Usually, people respond better to messages coming from people who are members of their own social and ethnic/racial group. This is not due to prejudice as much as it is due to the fact that 'similarity' decreases dissonance or fear of dissonance.

What is said, or the content of a message, is also important in persuasion. Both reason and emotion are important parts of the persuasive process. Although some persuasive acts involve both logic and emotion, we need to understand how logic and emotion are used individually in persuasion.

Whether logic or emotion will appeal most to an audience depends on the audience in great part. Analytical audiences tend to want reasoned arguments rather than emotional appeals or cues. In elections, both the position as well as emotional appeal of the candidate are of great importance. Sometimes, voters will go with their 'feelings' and vote for whomever they find the most emotionally appealing. This is the meaning of 'being touched' by someone's performance. We can be emotionally touched even when someone is presenting an argument that we might disagree with if we remained emotionally detached.

Whether an audience will react to emotional cues depends on the emotional state of the audience also. An unhappy person may be more oppositional and less vulnerable to being swayed by emotion (unless the emotional act makes him feel better for the moment). So, in addition to credibility, we must take into account whether the communicator and the message are making the audience feel good or not. Messages that increase the audience's self-liking or enjoyment of the moment have more power.

FEAR: Messages can also be effective by arousing 'negative emotions.' Witness how the government is trying to reduce smoking by showing smokers the bad effects of smoking by using pictures of illness on cigarette packs. Arousing fear in an audience can sometimes act as a powerful persuader. Fear-arousing messages are most effective when accompanied by advice on how the feared result can be avoided (i.e. when talking of AIDS we offer the solution of condoms).

AUDIENCE: Who receives the message is also very important. Age makes a large difference in the social and political attitudes held by an audience. Attitudes seem to become more conservative as people get older. There is also the 'generational explanation' to take into account. The attitudes that older people adopted when they were younger will remain with most of them even as they become longer. The baby Boomers were mistrustful of capitalism and they remain so even if many of them are reaping its rewards. Most people from the 6)'s have more liberal attitudes towards
sexual practices. The memorable turning points in history are also different for different generations. World War I had more meaning for people who grew up in its wake than those of the 60's generation, just as the Vietnam war has more emotional importance to that generation than the present one.

In planning persuasive communications, good communicators attempt to anticipate the reactions of their audience. It is important to have a sense of what the audience is thinking (i.e. its attitudes). It is important to ask oneself what circumstances will trigger a counterargument or resistance on the part of the audience.

If an audience is not forewarned of the message it is going to receive, there will be less opportunity for the development of counter-argument. Similarly, distracting the audience will tend to decrease counterargument. Consider how some ads present a message while presenting an imagery that distracts us away from forming objections to the message.

Audiences that favor cognitive feedback tend to prefer reasoned arguments. However, some audience do not want to exert mentally and will be more responsive to peripheral cues such as the speaker's attractiveness and ability to create sentimental responses. The saying, 'telling them what they want to hear' is based on a recognition of an audience's need for peripheral stimulation.

SO, WHAT WE THINK AND/OR FEEL IN RELATION TO A MESSAGE IS AS IMPORTANT AS THE MESSAGE ITSELF.

Reading the text, consider how a speaker may provoke thinking as well as feeling in his or her audience.
Those of you who are familiar with Anthony Robbins (the excellence seminar speaker) or other motivational speakers may want to consider how these people use persuasion techniques to motivate their audiences to see reality from a particular point of view.