PART II: CHANGING ATTITUDES AND BEHAVIOR
CHAPTER 5: PROCESSING PERSUASIVE COMMUNICATIONS
This chapter introduces
students to a core concept in the book: cognitive processing of persuasive
messages. It explains the role that process plays in persuasive communication
effects. Taking a theoretical thrust, the chapter introduces the Cognitive
Response Approach, the Heuristic-Systematic Model, and the mainstay of the
chapter, the Elaboration Likelihood Model of Persuasion. The chapter is
designed to explain how people mentally process persuasive messages, the
role that central and peripheral processes play in persuasion, complexities
in studying cognitive processes, and practical applications.
AND ISSUES TO KNOW
Yale Attitude Change Approach
Cognitive Response Approach to Persuasion
Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM)
Central route to persuasion
Peripheral route to persuasion
Multiple functions of variables in ELM
Criticisms of ELM
OF MAJOR TERMS
Attitude Change Approach: the first social scientific program
of research on the psychology of persuasion. Launched by Carl I. Hovland,
the Yale research program systematically examined the impact of source,
message, channel, and receiver variables on persuasion.
Cognitive Response Approach to Persuasion: a cognitively-oriented
perspective on persuasion that emphasizes the role individuals' own mental
reactions to a message play in the persuasion process. It stimulated much
research in the 1970s and 1980s, especially at Ohio State University.
Forewarning: a complex cognitive effect that occurs when
a persuader warns people that they will soon be exposed to a persuasive
Distraction Hypothesis: the assertion that distraction from
a message facilitates persuasion by blocking the dominant cognitive responses
to a message. Distraction can facilitate persuasion by interfering with
the production of counterarguments to a message.
Inoculation Theory: a theory of resistance to persuasion
that emphasizes that exposure to a small dose of arguments on a topic,
coupled with criticism of these arguments, can strengthen resistance to
Elaboration Likelihood Model: a major cognitive theory of
persuasion that emphasizes that individuals process messages through one
of two routes (central or peripheral); processing strategy has important
implications for message effects and persistence of persuasion over time.
Heuristic-Systematic Model: an influential model of persuasion
that, like the ELM, stipulates that there are dual routes to persuasion
(heuristic or systematic), which in turn influence the persuasion process.
Heuristic: simple decision-making rule that is typically
invoked under low involvement.
Involvement: personal relevance; perceived personal relevance
of a message.
- What are the main
aspects of the Yale Attitude Change Approach, Cognitive Response Approach
to Persuasion, and Elaboration Likelihood Model? How do they differ?
- The ELM has become
increasingly complex; at the same time, it has stimulated criticisms.
Focus on complications and criticisms, giving examples of the multiple
functions corollary or notion that a particular variable can perform
different functions. Does the corollary illuminate complexities in persuasion
or lead to muddy, untestable hypotheses, as critics argue?
- Do you think there
really are two distinct routes to persuasion, or perhaps just one route
that varies in the degree to which it encourages elaboration?
- When do persuaders'
use of peripheral cues become unethical? If a message recipient is unable
to process a message in only the most peripheral or superficial way,
because of lack of motivation or cognitive ability, does this make emphasis
on peripheral cues unethical?
- Let's say you are
distracted from paying attention to a political message with which you
disagree. According to the cognitive response approach, distraction
should lead to more persuasion for which of these reasons:
a. the distraction gets associated with the message
b. the distraction is sexually arousing
c. the distraction blocks mental counterarguments
d. the distracting stimuli serves as a positive reinforcer
- Let's say a persuader
wants to use inoculation theory to increase teens' resistance to peer
drug appeals. What does the theory suggest you do?
a. expose teens to pro-drug appeals and offer counterarguments to these
b. expose teenagers only to persuasive anti-drug ads
c. build teens' self-confidence through social learning
d. let teenagers buy as many drugs as they want until they discover
that getting high is deadly
- Which of these
best describes the Elaboration Likelihood Model?
a. the model says that people process information deeply and cognitively
b. the model argues that people process differently, depending on motivation
c. the model argues people peripherally process communications
d. the ELM suggests that persuasive communications influence attitudes
the more they reduce basic drives
- In a low involving
campaign for political office, candidates would be best advised to do
which of these:
a. develop a thoughtful set of issue arguments
b. hype endorsements by highly credible sources
c. feature messages that have many arguments
d. a and b
e. b and c
- Systematic processing
is most similar to which of these:
a. central route
b. peripheral route
- Let's say you are
interested in physical attractiveness effects in the ELM. What does
the model say about attractiveness?
a. attractiveness serves as a peripheral cue, which means it is effective
only under low involvement
b. attractiveness is of little consequence since it does not stimulate
deep, central thinking
c. attractiveness works through bio-cognitive processes, traceable to
d. attractiveness can serve as a cue, argument, or catalyst to thought,
depending on the individual's motivation or ability
Answers: 1: c; 2:
a, 3: b, 4: e, 5: a, 6: d
- P.T. Barnum once
said a sucker is born every minute. The ELM's emphasis on peripheral
processes similarly suggests that canny persuaders can influence individuals
in subtle, sometimes-devious, ways. Explore the use of peripheral cues
in mass or interpersonal persuasion. Cast a large net over peripheral
cues, considering source credibility appeals (endorsements), number
of arguments, association of a product with a pleasant message, music,
smells, attractiveness, nonverbal behavior, and clothing. Analyze commercials
and infomercials, or observe persuasion as it occurs in stores, sales
encounters, and low involvement interpersonal settings. Catalogue the
wide use of peripheral cues in advertising or everyday interpersonal
- Explore how politicians
vary their messages, depending on the nature of voter involvement and
ability. Explore whether advertising and media appeals differ, depending
on whether the election is high-involving (typically a presidential
race, controversial issue race, or property tax referendum) or low-involving
(typically races involving local or state representatives). Or focus
on a campus election. Explain the basic ideas of the ELM to candidates
running for election, and ask them if they use different appeals to
target students who differ in involvement or ability. (Careful: They
might solicit your help in their campaign!)
This chapter has focused
on the powerful role that thinking plays in persuasion. Some health experts
have gone so far as to suggest that thinking - and cognitive responses
- can actually cure disease. The next article presents evidence that this
is the case.
so powerful even experts are surprised," by Sandra Blakeslee, The
New York Times, October 13, 1998, pp. D1, D4.
This article cited
below questions the power of placebos:
"Placebo effects is more myth than science, a study says,"
by Gina Kolata, The New York Times, May 24, 2001, pp. A1, A19.
Outline the argument
that placebos can cure pain because "thinking makes it so,"
to quote Shakespeare. Draw on examples from the first article. Criticize
this viewpoint based on the second newspaper article. Which view do you
think comes closest to the truth?