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Theories of persuasion

Critically compare any two theories of persuasion

Persuasion is a large factor in attitude change and follows several criteria of information processing (McGuire, 1969). Persuasion is a process of guiding people towards an idea, attitude of action. To allow this process to work and for attitudes to work a definition of an attitude needs to be defined, ‘attitudes are evaluations of something (called the attitude object) (Hewstone et al., 2008). The information processing criteria to be persuaded is the audience have to attend to the message; this works best when the message is of high quality and is of importance to the person. The person considers relevant evidence and logic. Depending on which route of persuasion they adhere to, these routes will be discussed. They have to comprehend to the message, is the meaning and the importance understood, acceptance of the message is next, they have to accept what the message is to be persuaded, if it has so significant importance to the person or they do not understand it, it will be difficult to persuade them if they then do not accept it. An important factor of persuasion is the impact it has on the memory, this could include source credibility, and who is the person delivering the message. Do we trust them? Are they competent? Are we attracted to them/ similar to them? Are they famous? These questions we ask ourselves when attending to the message, we are more likely to remember the message if these questions are answered with a “yes” response. If the source is not credible to delivery the message we may forget who told us but remember the message if it is important enough to us, this is called the sleeper effect, When attitude change occurs over time but the message has become dissociated from its source. Finally for the message to persuade the person is they have to behave in accordance with it. This is where their attitude and behaviour have changed to be associated with the message. E.g. A stop smoking adverts having an effect on the person and they stop smoking. This would be an effective persuasion advert.

Two theories of persuasion will be discussed in terms of which routes the theories follow in terms of people being persuaded. The theories discussed are part of the dual process models of persuasion. They are the elaboration likelihood model and the heuristics systematic model.

The elaboration model consists of two routes these are the ‘central route' and the ‘peripheral' route . The central route is were people think about arguments and elaborate on them, they use motivation and the ability to scrutinize issue relevant arguments. They are mostly persuaded by the content of the message and the key variable is involvement, this is the first two criteria attending to the message and comprehending it. People are likely to go down this route if they have knowledge in this domain and the message invokes a sense of personal responsibility. ( Nisbitt, R, E. Keltner, D. Gilovich, T. 2006) This route involves message elaboration.

The ‘peripheral' route, this occurs when motivation and/or ability are relatively low and attitudes are determined by positive or negative cues. This is a way of influencing attitudes by varying the quality of the arguments in a persuasive message. The cues affect attitude change without effect the argument process. This can occur if the person is unmotivated for example if a person is talking to you about something serious you may not be listening to the overall argument they are describing but find yourself agreeing with them as they are attractive or have an attractive voice. The person is persuaded by subtle cues instead of the content.

The elaboration model involves cognitive processes, evaluation, recall, critical judgement and in ferial judgement, this theory values attitude as important as they guide decisions and other behaviours. There are two types of elaboration, ‘objective' which is motivation that is elaborated in the minds of listeners. ‘Biased thinking' which predetermines conclusions that highlight hidden data.

The Heuristic systematic model (Craiken, 1980), also includes two modes of processing which is similar to the elabouration likelihood model. The two routes include ‘systematic processing' this is effortful and comprehensive information processing an scruitiny of the message. ‘Heuristic processing' this is the reliance on simple rules', Such as ‘safety in numbers'. (Craiken, 1980).

The systematic mode is affected by situational variables and individual differences, this is were people must be motivated to do this process. This mode can become biased/unbiased depending on the persons motivational factors.

The heuristic processing mode consists of learned knowledge structures, it has more limited processing demands and incolves much less cognitive effort and capacity then the systematic processing. Compared to the systematic processing mode it includes activation and application of judgemental rules, it also makes minimum cognitive demands when the mode is constrained, the mode used social cognitive principles of knowledge activation and uses namely availability, accessibility and applicability (Higgins, 1996).

When the person is motivated and accurate judgements are shown, cognitive effort is exerted and confidence is built within the person which will satisfy their goals. If a person is not confidence in their judgements they seek advice from others known as cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957). This is were you get other people to convince you that you have made the correct choice and judgement, yet the person will only choose to listen to the opinion that they agree with.

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