Five centuries before political consultants advised presidential candidates how to package themselves on television, the Italian diplomat Niccolo Machiavelli rocked the Renaissance world with his how-to manual for political persuaders, entitled The Prince. Machiavelli believed in politics and respected crafty political leaders. He offered a litany of suggestions for how politicians could maintain power through cunning and deception.
Contemporary persuasion differs from the past in these five ways:
The sheer number of persuasive communications has grown exponentially.
Persuasive messages travel faster than ever before.
Persuasion has become institutionalized.
Persuasive communication has become more subtle and devious.
Persuasive communication is more complex than ever before.
a communication process in which the communicator seeks to elicit a desired response from his receiver (Andersen, 1971, p. 6);
a conscious attempt by one individual to change the attitudes, beliefs, or behavior of another individual or group of individuals through the transmission of some message (Bettinghaus & Cody, 1987, p. 3);
a symbolic activity whose purpose is to effect the internalization or voluntary acceptance of new cognitive states or patterns of overt behavior through the exchange of messages (Smith, 1982, p. 7);
a successful intentional effort at influencing another's mental state through communication in a circumstance in which the persuadee has some measure of freedom (O'Keefe, 1990, p. 17).
a symbolic process in which communicators try to convince other people to change their attitudes or behavior regarding an issue through the transmission of a message, in an atmosphere of free choice (Perloff, 2001). There are five components of the definition :
Friend's attempt to influence another's opinion of movies
Loved one's antidrug appeal
Health public service messages
Sales and telemarketing
Communication in dangerously abusive relationships
Ban on smoking
Enforcement of seat belt laws
Entertainment TV shows
Understanding persuasion, coercion, and borderline cases of persuasion. Note that coercion can be negative or positive (as in smoking bans and enforcement of seat belt laws). Borderline cases focus on persuasion rather than coercion.They lie just outside the boundary of persuasion because the intent of the communicator is not to explicitly change an individual's attitude toward the issue, butis, instead, broader and more complex (see also Gass & Seiter, 1999).
Marketers shape attitudes by associating cigarettes with beautiful women and virile men.They appeal to teenage girls searching for a way to rebel against boyfriends or parents by suggesting that smoking can make them appear defiant and strong willed.
Attitudes have changed on other topics too—sex roles, the environment, fatty fast food, and exercise. Persuasive communications have had strong and desirable effects. They can influence attitudes and social behavior.
Help us appreciate the origins of ideas. They remind us that we are not the first to ponder persuasion, nor the first to wrestle with persuasion dilemmas.
Helps us see continuities from present to past to future. It helps us take note of what is unique about our era—and how today's scholarship builds on the shoulders of giants.
1. Ancient Greece: "It's All Sophos to Me"
Citizens frequently acted as prosecutor and defense attorney in lawsuits that were daily occurrences in the Athenian city-state (Golden et al., 2000). Before long, citizens expressed interest in obtaining training in rhetoric (the art of public persuasion).
To meet the demand, a group of teachers decided to offer courses in rhetoric, as well as other academic areas. The teachers were called Sophists, after the Greek word sophos for knowledge.
To Plato, truth was a supreme value. Yet the Sophists sacrificed truth at the altar of persuasion, in Plato's view.
“ He who would be an orator has nothing to do with true justice, but only that which is likely to be approved by the many who sit in judgment" (Golden et al., p. 19).
The Sophists, were not interested in discovering truth or advancing rational, "laborious, painstaking“ arguments, but in "the quick, neat, and stylish argument that wins immediate approval—even if this argument has some hidden flaw“ (Chappell, 1998, p. 516).
To Plato, rhetoric was like cosmetics or flattery— not philosophy and therefore not deserving of respect.
The Sophists, surely believed that they were rocking the foundations of the educational establishment by giving people practical knowledge. They also were democrats, willing to teach any citizen who could afford their tuition.
advertisers, politicians, salespeople—who have to make a living, need practical knowledge to promote their products, and are suspicious of "shadowy" abstract concepts like truth (Kennedy, 1963). is the friend of all those who hate advertisements because they "lie" or stretch the truth. He is on the side of everyone who turns off the television during elections to stop the flow of "political speak,“ or candidates making any argument they can to win election. The Sophists (practical persuaders) Platonic thinking VS
Plato's greatest contribution to persuasion may not have been the works he created, but the intellectual offspring he procreated, Aristotle (Aristoteles).
Aristotle's great insight was that both Plato and the Sophists had a point. Plato was right about truth being important, and the Sophists were correct that persuasive communication is a very useful tool. Aristotle, to some degree, took the best from both schools of thought, arguing that rhetoric is not designed to persuade people but to discover scientific principles of persuasion.
Social scientists are curious about : what makes a person persuasive, what types of persuasive messages are most effective, and why people go along with the recommendations put forth by powerful persuaders.
The scientist formulates theories about attitudes and persuasion, derives hypotheses from these theories, and puts the hypotheses to empirical test. Hypotheses are evaluated on the basis of evidence and data collected from the real world.
2 . THE CONTEMPORARY STUDY OF PERSUASION
Researchers study persuasion in primarily two ways.
Experiments , or controlled studies that take place in artificial settings. Experiments provide convincing evidence that one variable causes changes in another. Experiments typically are conducted in university settings and primarily involve college students, they don't tell us about persuasion that occurs in everyday life among diverse population groups.
Surveys . Surveys are questionnaire studies that examine the relationship between one factor (for example, exposure to a media antismoking campaign) and another (reduced smoking). Surveys do not provide unequivocal evidence of causation. In the example above, it is possible that people may reduce smoking shortly after a media campaign, but the effects may have nothing to do with the campaign. Smokers may have decided to quit because friends bugged them or they wanted to save money on cigarette costs.
Most studies of persuasive communication effects are experiments. Research on attitudes and applications of persuasion are more likely to be surveys. Both experiments and surveys are useful, although they make different contributions (Hovland, 1959).