Practice exercise: If you wanted to convince students to support a raise in tuition for the next year, what would be more effective—having a well-known and liked spokesperson or having sound arguments in favor of the plan? Why? The answer is shown at the end of this section.
Take this short quiz to see which route to persuasion you are most likely to use.
____2. I like to have the responsibility of handling a situation that requires a lot of thinking.
____3. Thinking is not my idea of fun.
____4. I would rather do something that requires little thought than something that is sure to challenge my thinking abilities.
____5. I try to anticipate and avoid situations where there is a likely chance I will have to think in depth about something.
____6. I find satisfaction in deliberating hard and for long hours.
____7. I only think as hard as I have to.
____8. I prefer to think about small, daily projects to long-term ones.
____9. I like tasks that require little thought once I’ve learned them.
____10. The idea of relying on thought to make my way to the top appeals to me.
____11. I really enjoy a task that involves coming up with new solutions to problems.
____12. Learning new ways to think doesn’t excite me very much.
____13. I prefer my life to be filled with puzzles that I must solve.
____14. The notion of thinking abstractly is appealing to me.
____15. I would prefer a task that is intellectual, difficult, and important to one that is somewhat important but does not require much thought.
____16. I feel relief rather than satisfaction after completing a task that required a lot of mental effort.
____17. It’s enough for me that something gets the job done; I don’t care how or why it works.
____18. I usually end up deliberating about issues even when they do not affect me personally.
You’ve just completed the short-form of the Need for Cognition scale (Cacioppo, Petty, & Kao, 1984; Cacioppo & Petty, 1982). Need for cognition refers to a person’s tendency to enjoy thinking. People with high need for cognition are more likely to be persuaded by the central route, whereas people with low need for cognition are more persuaded by peripheral cues. To calculate your score, add your responses to items 1, 2, 6, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, and 18. Then subtract your responses to items 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12, 16, and 17. Your score should fall somewhere between –36 and +36. The higher your score, the higher your need for cognition.
We also talked about when fear-arousing communications can be effective. They need to induce a moderate amount of fear and to include information on ways we can reduce the fear (that is, ways we can change the behavior). There are also many subtle ways that advertisers try to persuade us. Subliminal persuasion seems to only work in lab situations where people are paying a lot of attention, but product placements in shows and video games promoting an idea or product can be effective. There are cultural effects on persuasion too, with people in collectivist cultures possibly being more affected by ads that relate to concerns about others vs. the self.
If a behavior is one that we don’t think about much (e.g., what type of snack to eat), the best predictor of what we’ll do is attitude accessibility—how much “in our mind” the attitude or product is at the moment we make the decision. If it’s a more thoughtful behavior, the theory of planned behavior (adding to the theory of reasoned action) predicts that our attitudes and subjective norms (beliefs about what those important to us think) along with how much control we think we have over the behavior will predict our behavioral intentions, which will predict our behavior.
Answer. Sound (good) arguments—because it’s a topic that is likely to be important to students, so persuasion should go through the central route.
1. Explain the theory of cognitive dissonance, including the causes of dissonance and the ways in which dissonance can be reduced.
2. Explain how people rationalize actions and arguments to maintain their self-concept.
3. Discuss how making a decision can cause us to feel dissonance and the way that dissonance is often reduced. Explain research used to test postdecision dissonance. Identify one factor that increases postdecision dissonance.
4. Explain how salespeople can use dissonance tactics to try to get you to commit to their product.
5. Explain how the need to justify effort can lead to cognitive dissonance and how this is likely to affect our attitudes.
6. Describe the effects of having someone present arguments that are opposite to what he or she actually believes and how this relates to cognitive dissonance theory. Explain the Festinger and Carlsmith (1959) study where people lied about how fun a study was for either a small or large amount of money.
7. Explain how inducing hypocrisy and insufficient punishment can lead to changed attitudes.
8. Define attitude and explain the components of attitudes and how to measure them. Differentiate between cognitively and affectively based attitudes.
9. Identify sources of attitudes (where we get our attitudes from).
10. Describe the components of the Yale Attitude Change Model. Provide examples of research in each of the three areas.
11. Explain the Elaboration Likelihood Model. Differentiate between the peripheral and the central route to persuasion and predict which would be more effective in different situations.
12. Explain the effects of fear-arousing communications on persuasion.
13. Explain the effects of attitudes on behavior. Identify a factor that helps predict whether attitudes will predict spontaneous behaviors.
14. Describe the theory of planned behavior. Discuss the importance of keeping attitudes specific and of measuring subjective norms in predicting behavior.
15. Discuss cultural effects and subtle effects on persuasion and advertising.
16. Evaluate the effectiveness of subliminal persuasion.