Chapter summary image

WHAT ARE PERSUASIVE MESSAGES?

  • Persuasion is the strategy of communicating with other people in order to get them to behave in a certain way or change particular attitudes. A number of factors determine how the message recipient will process this information, and the recipient will do so via either the central route or the peripheral route.

  • Not all persuasive messages are successful. If they were, recipients would have a harder time making decisions. The person trying to persuade the recipient must consider three factors: the source, or the entity delivering the message; the audience, or the demographics of who is to receive the message; and the message itself, and what tactics might be most suitable to delivering it.

WHAT PRINCIPLES CAN WE USE TO INFLUENCE OTHERS' BEHAVIOUR?

  • Psychologist Robert Cialdini has identified "Six Weapons of Influence" that people can use when developing persuasive messages. These are reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity. No one way is better than the other; the effectiveness of each depends on the context of the situation.

WHAT DOES RESEARCH TELL US ABOUT RESISTING PERSUASION TACTICS?

  • People are not always susceptible to even the best persuasive messages. This is due to three strategies for resisting persuasion: forewarning, reactance, and inoculation.

  • When people are informed ahead of time—or forewarned—that they will be the recipient of a persuasive message, they are afforded the opportunity to think critically about the message they are to receive and to build up a defence against it. Sometimes, a persuasive message can have the boomerang effect, making us believe the exact opposite of what is intended. This is termed reactance. And finally, to inoculate yourself against persuasion, you can expose yourself to weaker attacks relating to the message and responses to them supporting your opinion. In doing so, you will be better prepared for possible stronger attacks in the future.

WHEN SHOULDN'T WE RESIST PERSUASION?

  • Sometimes it is not beneficial to resist persuasion. For example, sometimes persuasion can convince us to engage in actions that benefit to ourselves, such as getting tested for HIV, doing breast self examinations, or getting vaccinated for tetanus or the H1N1 virus.