MODULE 5
Persuasion

This module will consider the effects of persuasion in changing attitudes. Investigations have pointed to a number of factors which serve to increase or decrease the effectiveness of persuasive communications. As you read the text, keep the following questions in mind.

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Persuasion is the process of changing one's attitudes or predispositions

Some investigators have been interested in the persuasive effectiveness of group participation and discussion. As a result of the meat shortage during World War II, Lewin (1943) conducted research designed to find the most effective way to persuade people to eat beef hearts, kidneys, and sweetbreads. One group listened to a lecture. The second group participated in a discussion. It was later determined that only three percent of the first group ever served one of the three meats after having heard the lecture. However, 32 percent of the second group served one or more of them.

A few years later, Coch and French (1948) investigated resistance to change in a pajama factory. Payment was based on piecework. Management wished to change over to a new style of pajamas and new piece rates. A control group was informed of the change in the normal way. The experimental groups discussed the change, and workers were encouraged to make suggestions. in the control group, productivity remained the same, but during the first 40 days,17 percent quit and there was considerable distrust of management. In the experimental groups, productivity increased. No one quit during the first 40 days and they appeared to trust management.

More recently, investigations in college settings have demonstrated positive correlations between member satisfaction and participation in group discussions (Porter, 1965).

Thus, it appears that individuals are much more likely to change their attitudes when persuasive material is presented in the context of group discussion and participation than in a lecture.

Persuasion is more effective if the subject participates in the process

Perceptions concerning the communicator also have an impact on the influence of the communication. Communicators regarded by the audience as credible or trustworthy are more effective in inducing immediate changes in attitude than those regarded as untrustworthy. Communicators regarded as having attitudes similar to the subjects' altitudes are more effective than communicators who are regarded as having dissimilar attitudes. This effect is often well known to communicators who emphasize that they are "one of the people." Allyn and Festinger (1961) experimented with teenage audiences. One group was told that the speaker had given a strong opinion "that teenagers are a menace on the roads and should be strictly controlled by effective new laws." The second group was told that the purpose was to study the personality of the speaker. The first group saw the speaker as more biased than the second group did and changed their attitudes less than the second group.

The more acceptable parts of a persuasive message should foe presented first

Variations in the message itself often affect the impact on attitudes. It appears that the acceptance of attitudes will be enhanced if the message is presented in such a way as to minimize opposition in the audience. The acceptance of attitudes opposed by the audience will be enhanced if favorable arguments, with which the audience can agree, are presented prior to unfavorable arguments (McGuire, 1957). When the individual hears the favorable material, he seems to be willing to pay attention because he feels this person is worth listening to.

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When the audience is opposed, persuasion is more effective if both sides of the issue are presented rather than just one side (Hovland et a/., 1949). The resulting change in attitude is also more stable. That is, the individual is more resistant to subsequent arguments if he has already heard both sides. McGuire (1964) theorized that the two-sided presentation of views already held by the audience can provide "immunization" against later opposition. Exposure to a counterargument, followed by refutation, makes the subject resistant to subsequent attempts to change his attitudes. Apparently, the subject learns how to refute arguments raised against his beliefs.

The utility of a fear-arousing essage depends on how much fear was already present

Investigations on the use of fear-arousing techniques have yielded contradictory results. Janis and Feshback (1953) arranged for three presentations on dental hygiene. The first presentation was a strong fear- appeal stressing the possibilities of cancer, paralysis, and possible tooth extraction. The moderate appeal presented the same arguments in a somewhat milder form. The third presentation stressed decay and cavities in a minimal fear-arousing manner.

The subsequent change in dental practices was highest for the group presented with the minimal fear-arousing communication. In a later study on the dangers of smoking, Janis and Terwilliger (1962) obtained similar results.

There are a number of studies, however, that report just the opposite effect. Berkowitz and Cottingham (1960) experimented with communications on the use of safety belts. They found that the high-fear- level communication was the most effective in changing attitudes. Leventhal and Niles (1964) found in communications on smoking that those subjects who did obtain X-rays were those who reported the highest degree of fear.

McGuire (1966) suggests that the results of these studies are not necessarily contradictory when one considers the initial fear level of the subject. He suggests that when the initial level of concern is high, as with dental hygiene, the effectiveness of a fear appeal is reduced. When the initial level of concern is low, as with safety belts, a high fear appeal will be more effective than a low fear appeal.

Many attitudes are modified as circumstances change. Deutsch and Collins (1951) investigated attitudes toward segregation among whites in housing projects. Those whites living in integrated housing projects had a greater tendency to change their attitudes in favor of integration than those living in segregated housing projects.

There is normally some resistance to attitude change. Many reject new information and attitudes because they cherish membership in a group. They seek the approval of the persons within the group by retaining favored attitudes. An attitude will be resistant to change in direct proportion to the number of personality functions it serves. Attitudes that serve self-protective functions are parUcularly resistant to persuasion.

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MODULE 5
PROGRESS CHECK 1

Now test yourself without looking back.

1. The influence of a persuasive message is increased when it:
a. minimizes counterarguments.
b. presents favorable arguments before unfavorable arguments.
c. presents two sides of the issue.
d. (none of these)

2. It appears that when the initial fear level of the individual is high, the effectiveness of a fear-arousing communication is________________________

3. Attitudes are resistant to change when:
a. the individual prides himself on being an independent thinker, free of group influence.
b. the attitudes serve personality functions.
c. the attitude was formed after a presentation of both sides of the issue.
4. Attitudes are particularly resistant to change when they serve a ________________________ function.

5. The effectiveness of a communication is increased when the communicator is perceived as:
a. untrustworthy.
b. having attitudes similar to those of the audience.
c. (neither)

ANSWER KEY PAGE 119

106

4 OR MORE CORRECT PAGE 110
FEWER THAN 4 CORRECT PAGE 107




MODULE 5
EXERCISES

Perceptions of the communicator can have a marked effect on the influence of a persuasive communication. For each of the perceptions below, indicate whether you would expect an increase or decrease in the effect on attitudes.

The communicator is perceived as believable, trustworthy. a. ______________ ,

The communicator is perceived as having similar attitudes to those of the listener. b.________________

The communicator is perceived as having different attitudes from those of the listener. c. _______________

The communicator is perceived as being untrustworthy. d. .________________

The way in which a message is presented also affects the amount of influence it has on attitudes. For each of the following conditions. indicate whether an increase or decrease in the change in attitudes might be expected.

ALIGN=Center
MessageAudience ResponseIncreased or Decreased Change in Attitudes
The message is presented in such a a way as to maximize counterargument in the audienceThe audience spends time thinking up opposing arguments prior to or during the presentationa.
Favorable arguments are given before unfavorable arguments.Members of the audience may tell themselves to pay attention because this person is worth listening to.b.
Two sides of the issue are presented rather than one side.The audience may tend to think that the presentation is more fair.c.

__________________________________________ 2

The influence of a persuasive message increases when it:
a. minimizes counterargument in the audience.
b. presents favorable arguments before unfavorable arguments.
c. presents both sides of an issue
.

_____________________________________4

The use of fear-arousing messages has yielded contradictory results. McGuire has suggested that the effect of fear depends upon the initial fear level of the subject. If his fear level is very high, he may simply tune out the message or become immobilized. You would suspect that when the initial fear level is:
a. high, the effect of a fear-arousing message is reduced.
b. low, the effect of a fear-arousing message is increased.
c. (neither)

____________________________________1

ANSWERS

1 a, b
2 a. decreased
b. increased
c. increased 3 a. increased
b. increased
c. decreased
d. decreased

4 a, b, c
5 c

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An individual may resist a change in attitudes because of his group membership. Thus, the individual:
a. retains attitudes that are disapproved by the group.
b. cherishes his membership and consequently retains attitudes that are approved by the group.
c. (neither)

___________________________________ 2

There is resistance to an attitude change in direct proportion to the number of personality functions that the attitude serves. You would expect an attitude to be resistant to change when it serves:
a. an instrumental function.
b. a self-expressive function.
c. a social-adjustment function.

______________________________________ 1

An attitude is least likely to change when the individual is externaiizing impulses unacceptable to the self. Thus, an attitude is particularly resistant to change when it serves:
a. an instrumental function.
b. a self-expressive
function.
c. a self-defensive function.

______________________________5

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It appears that when the initial fear level of the individual is high, the effectiveness of a fear-arousing message is_________________________3

Attitudes are resistant to change when they serve personality functions. They are particularly resistant when they serve a___________________________________4

NOW TAKE PROGRESS CHECK 2

ANSWERS

1 a,b,c

2 b
3 reduced
4 self-defensive function
5 c


MODULE 5
PROGRESS CHECK 2

1. The success of a message in changing attitudes will be enhanced when:
a. it is presented in a way that maximizes counterargumentin the audience.
b. unfavorable arguments are presented before favorable arguments.
c. two sides of the issue are presented.

2. Which of the following perceptions will increase the immediate effect on attitudes?
a. The communicator is perceived as being untrustworthy.
b. The communicator is perceived as having dissimilar attitudes to those of the audience.
c. (neither)

3. Attitudes are likely to be resistant to change when: a. they serve several personality functions.
b. the individual cherishes membership in a group which supports the attitudes.
c. (neither)

4. It appears that when the initial fear level of the individual is high, the effectiveness of a fear-arousing communication is ______________________________________

5. Attitudes are particularly resistant to change when they serve a ____________________________function.

ANSWER KEY PAGE 119

4 OR MORE CORRECT PAGE 110
FEWER THAN 4 CORRECT INSTRUCTOR CONFERENCE

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