How Emotion Influences Attitudes and Persuasion

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Types of Persuasion Techniques: How to Influence People

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:06 Emotions & Persuading…
  • 0:46 Persuasion & Types of Attitude
  • 2:56 Emotions as Heuristics
  • 5:10 Fear Appeals
  • 7:57 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Erin Long-Crowell

Erin has an M.Ed in adult education and a BS in psychology and a BS in management systems.

Emotions can be used to induce attitude change in a number of ways. In this lesson, we discuss how they can be used within persuasive communication to illicit both short-term and long-term attitude change.

Emotions & Persuading Attitude Change

Emotion is sometimes the driving force behind our attitudes and behavior. As such, emotion plays a major role in how other people influence us and can be the determining factor in attempts to persuade us to change our attitudes and behavior. Advertisements, campaigns, speeches, and other persuasive communication frequently try to appeal to our emotions because of this. In this lesson, we will discuss when these emotional appeals are most likely to be successful, and also a couple of specific strategies that are used to try and change our attitudes.

Persuasion & Types of Attitude

First, the success of persuasion can depend on the type of attitude someone is trying to change. In another lesson, we discuss the fact that attitudes can be based on facts about the attitude object, cognitively-based attitudes, and others can be based on emotions and values, affectively-based attitudes.

Research has shown that it is best to try and change an attitude in a way that is complimentary to the type of attitude. In other words, a cognitively-based attitude would be most likely to be changed through the central route to persuasion, which uses logical arguments. An affectively-based attitude would be most likely to be changed through the peripheral route to persuasion, which uses surface characteristics to trigger mental shortcuts, such as emotions.

For example, imagine you are shopping for a scarf. You browse through a display with several options, and finally choose one with a checkered design. A saleswoman walks up and tries to convince you to buy the striped one, instead. What do you think she would have to say to convince you to switch? According to the research we just discussed, it would depend on your attitude towards the checkered scarf, your reason for choosing that one.

If you had a cognitively-based attitude, say, you like that scarf the best simply because you believe it to be the warmest, the saleswoman would be the most successful by presenting a compelling argument. If she was able to demonstrate that the striped scarf is even warmer than the checkered, for example, you may change your attitude and decision.

On the other hand, if you had an affectively-based attitude, say, you like that scarf the best because the pattern reminds you of your favorite aunt, the saleswoman would be the most successful by appealing to your emotions. If she showed you a picture of your favorite actress wearing the striped scarf, for example, you may change your attitude and decision.

Emotions as Heuristics

This leads us into our next point. As previously mentioned, the peripheral route to persuasion uses surface characteristics to trigger heuristics, or mental shortcuts. Emotions sometimes act as heuristics, helping us to quickly determine our attitude.

For example, imagine you are listening to a debate between two political candidates. It is long and boring, and you zone out for a bit. At the end, though, you are asked which candidate you like best. As you can't attest to any logical argument because you weren't listening, you would probably use the 'how do I feel?' heuristic. This is an emotional mental shortcut we frequently use to determine our attitude without having to spend a lot of time analyzing the situation. You think of each candidate and feel better about the second one, so decide you must like him better.

The tricky thing about using emotional heuristics is that sometimes we are wrong about why we feel good or bad. In the case of the two political candidates, it's possible that when you were thinking about the second one, you were unaware of being exposed to positive stimuli. It's possible that, unbeknownst to you, you smelled some chocolate at the same time that you were thinking about the second candidate, and you mistakenly attributed your happy feelings to him.

Those who frequently use persuasive communication, such as politicians and advertisers, know that if we feel good in the presence of an attitude object, we often determine that we like it, even if those good feelings were caused by something else. This is why advertisers and retailers want to create good feelings when we are looking at their products. They try to appeal to our senses, with popular music, good smells, etc., in the hope that we will attribute some of our good feelings to the product they are trying to sell. If that does the trick, they will have succeeded in their persuasive communication.

Fear Appeals

Public service ads commonly use fear appeals to encourage behavior change.
Fear Appeal Example

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account