Persuasion – The use of social influence to cause people to change their attitudes or behaviour. Persuasion is a form of influence used when an audience has the freedom to make a choice, for example, in presidential election speeches or propaganda. Persuasion uses words (speeches), or images (posters promoting a candidate), as well as actions (boycotts or demonstrations) in an attempt to influence an audience. This can be used in a variety of contexts including controlled settings like television and uncontrolled setting such as a classroom or and informal conversation with a friend.
Persuasion, as its goal, tries to influence, alter, strengthen or destroy beliefs, attitudes and values.
Beliefs: Personal concepts of reality from a previous knowledge base. It is a piece of knowledge with a high degree of certainty.
EX: The sky is blue.
Attitudes: An established, predispositioned response to a situation. This is a learned phenomenon that can be from your own experiences or the experiences of another.
EX: I know not to touch the stove when it is on because I burned myself when I was younger.
Values: A specific kind of belief that represents a normal judgment of right and wrong. Values give us judgments on how we “ought” to act.
EX: I believe that killing someone is wrong.
Factors That Influence Persuasion
a. Source factors
b. Message factors
2) Drawing conclusions
Dependent on audience involvement (if audience is not actively involved in processing message, then drawing conclusions is a good idea.) i.e., ads.
3) Message acceptance
Message should not differ drastically from attitudes of the audience.
c. Channel factors
Refers to the means by which a message is presented to the audience, i.e., printed words, in person, on television, etc.
d. Audience factors
The brightest example is Fear: Fear appeals are basic to our form of advertising. Must do certain things for it to work: to make the fear real, to cause dissonance, to provide a solution or way out of the dissonance.
Many public health organizations use fear, or scare tactics, to change people’s attitudes and behaviours about smoking, cancer, STDs, etc. Evidence is somewhat mixed what is clear – fear based appeals are effective when the message provides a solution to the problem. For example, anti-smoking campaigns that use scare tactics are effective when they provide information on how to quit smoking. If this kind of information is not provided, people generally feel helpless, panic, and they tune out the message.
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