Back To CourseSocial Psychology: Tutoring Solution
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Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.
What do advertisements and debate club have in common?
They're both examples of persuasive techniques at work.
Persuasion basically means trying to influence the way someone thinks or behaves. There are all kinds of different ways to persuade someone to do something. The ad is using an appeal to emotion. It's associating the soda with being happy, so it's trying to persuade you to buy the soda so you'll be happy like the people in the ad. The students at the debate club are doing something different. Instead of appealing to emotion, they're trying to persuade each other with logical arguments that use facts and evidence.
Being persuasive isn't the same thing as being right. The implied claim in the soda ad is that drinking the soda will give you a lot of friends and make you happy. That's objectively not true. But that kind of advertising can be very persuasive, and a lot of people are influenced by it. In this lesson, you'll look at theories of persuasion and how they work.
The rational model of persuasion is based on the idea that people behave in predictable ways based on their beliefs and values. Beliefs and values are based on what the person knows about the world. So for example, if someone knows that wearing a seatbelt saves lives and if he or she values their own life, they probably believe that they should wear a seatbelt. Based on their beliefs and values, they will probably behave in a rational way and wear their seatbelt in the car.
The rational model can get pretty complicated. For example, most of us believe that a salad is healthier than pizza, but lots and lots of people every day go into restaurants and order pizza instead of salads. What gives? One possible answer is that those people have conflicting values and beliefs. They might believe that salad is healthier, but they might also believe that pizza is more delicious. They might value health, but they might also value pleasure.
A person with complicated beliefs and values might sometimes order a salad and sometimes order a pizza. When it comes to the important things in life, a lot of us have complicated and conflicting beliefs and values, and we don't necessarily act in simple ways. So the rational model of persuasion can be complicated. But it's still a useful tool for understanding why people think and act the way they do and what you can do to change their mind or change their behavior - or both.
In the rational model, people's behavior is based on their beliefs and values. Their beliefs and values are based on what they know (or think they know!) about the world. So if you want to change their behavior, you'd have to change their beliefs and/or values.
If the person's beliefs are based on an incorrect fact, you can persuade them to change their beliefs by showing them the truth. For example, say a person thinks that Highway X is under construction. Because she believes that construction will cause her serious delays and because she values her time, she won't take Highway X. But if you can prove to her that the construction on Highway X got finished last week, you can change her behavior.
Simple, right? Just give the person the correct facts. Voila, persuasion accomplished!
The rational persuasion model can get complicated. You might give someone the facts, but they might not believe you because they think there's a conspiracy to hide the truth and only they can see reality. Or sometimes, there are conflicting facts about a particular situation. For example, some studies show that fish oil supplements help prevent heart disease, and other studies show that they don't help.
Or here's another scenario when just providing the facts doesn't help: what happens when two reasonable people have two different beliefs or values about the same set of facts?
Telling the person in green that pandas are endangered won't change his mind at all. He already knows! If you want him to change his behavior and support the WWF, you'd have to address his beliefs and values.
First, respectfully acknowledge the belief and find something in common. Calling someone stupid isn't very persuasive. Most people will just get defensive and stop listening to you. Try to find common ground. Acknowledging the belief and trying to find common ground this way is called stimulation.
Second, make your case in a way that speaks to the other person's existing beliefs and values.
Finally, encourage the other person to change his or her behavior. This is called a call to action.
Another tool you can use to change someone's beliefs is cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is a tension between two conflicting beliefs or between belief and action. For example, if I drive a car but also believe in environmental conservation, every time I turn on my car, I'm experiencing cognitive dissonance because my belief in environmentalism conflicts with my action of burning fossil fuels.
Cognitive dissonance is incredibly uncomfortable. Many people will rationalize, bargain, simply refuse to think about one or more of the dissonant thoughts, or minimize - what they can to make the cognitive dissonance stop. When you're persuading someone, you can be very persuasive if you offer them a way to resolve a cognitive dissonance that they live with.
You can also persuade someone to abandon a belief by showing that the belief keeps them stuck in a cognitive dissonance. Then you can offer them a new position that resolves the cognitive dissonance.
On the other hand, if you're trying to persuade someone to do something, make sure the action won't result in a cognitive dissonance. If it will, you'll have to change the person's underlying beliefs and values first.
It's not always reasonable to expect that you'll convince someone very strongly opposed to something to completely change their mind. But maybe you'll persuade them to consider your point of view.
Persuasion is trying to change someone else's beliefs or behaviors. The rational model of persuasion holds that a person's behaviors are based on their beliefs and values, so to change behavior you have to change beliefs and values. Sometimes you can change a person's beliefs and values by simply giving them evidence in support of your beliefs. Other times, you have to directly challenge their beliefs and values. Stimulation, or acknowledging the other person's beliefs, makes your own argument more persuasive. You can sometimes use cognitive dissonance to help build a strong case. Make sure to end with a call to action specifying what you want the person to do.
Once you are done, you should be able to:
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Back To CourseSocial Psychology: Tutoring Solution
9 chapters | 172 lessons