What is Persuasion?
How are we Persuaded?.
- The following are examples of how we are subject to advertising:
- 1st Case: At home, after a day's work, watching a film, we
face "passively" the advertising that appears in the TV's programming
breaks (low subjective involvement).
- 2nd Case: At home, after a conversation with some friends in
which we have pondered buying a car. We "devour" the ads, paying
close attention, but only to those referring to cars (high objective and
- 3rd Case: At home, the housewife watches a soap opera just
before going shopping, gets "drenched" in washing powder commercials
(low objective involvement, and subjective?-the social role and position
determine the necessity of the product with more or less involvement).
- The previous cases are useful to exemplify how we face persuasion,
usually in a very different manner depending on our degree of involvement
in the subject discussed in persuasive communication (Petty, Cacioppo, and
Schumann, 1983). Now, we can separate two different types of involvement
in relation to advertising. Objective involvement depends on two criteria:
the product's prize and the frequency of purchasing of this product. Expensive
products and low purchasing frequency are of high involvement (a car). Low
prized products and high purchasing frequency are of low involvement (washing
Subjective involvement refers to the degree of interest or motivation the
person might have towards the products and/or matters treated by advertising.
- There is an interest in persuasion science (Social Psychology of Persuasion)
to study how we are influenced by persuasive communications, through which
psychological processes. It is about studying what goes through people's
"head" when exposed to advertising. People:
a) Think, reason, and reach conclusions concerning the products, guided
by the information and the arguments transmitted.
b) Feel, are moved, shocked affectively by what's been told or narrated
in the ads, and this affects not only the attitude or appraisement of the
commercial, but also the appraisement of the product (e.g. classic conditioning).
c) Emotions and cognitions influence each other. The state of mind influences
how they think.
- The theory of the "two routes of persuasion" has been proposed:
a central route and a peripherical route (Petty and
Caccioppo, 1984; Petty, Cacioppo, Stratmann and Priester, 1994).
People tend to think about what is shown in persuasive messages when their
interest for the subject, their involvement with the issue, is high. Somebody
who wants to buy a car, operation in which there is a great economic risk
on top of everything, will not only try to compare prizes, but will also
be skeptical towards the ads that do not convince him and will form a positive
attitude or pondering of those advertised products which make them "think
positively". "Demonstrative", "comparative" ads
show the good in our product and offer specific reasons for its purchase.
- However, people do not always look for reasons to justify their judgement
of the products, even less so in relation to such trivial products as bread,
for instance. The image transmitted in the commercials, which is associated
to the consumption of a definite product, the pounding repetition of the
message will make the latter able to influence, although in a different
manner: it does not go for the "bottom" but for the "periphery".
The commercials with "bits of life" and "bits of films"
(dramatizations) offer life styles definitions which arouse positive reactions
in target audiences (e.g. Levi's jeans commercials). People find support
in simple peripherical keywords to emit what have been called "heuristic
judgements". Affective answers can be caused in a simpler way, as well,
associating positive (or negative) values to the advertised product or issue.
But things are not that simple, thre are not two incompatible routes, but
rather in some contexts they can both happen at the same time: there might
be "parallel processing". Any ad can not only persuade through
the arguments it holds but may, for instance, through the presence of popular
people (who appear in many spots), cause sympathetic feelings or reactions
and give credit to what they say (since, as it is commonly known, "one
can trust an expert").
Affective States and Persuasion.
- Emotion is a central component of advertising's creation. Many communications
of this sort try to provoke positive, pleasant feelings (associate the product
to desirable objects as an independent way of living; if you smoke, specially
Camels or Marlboros), others recur to fear or try to scare people. The latter
are remarkably common in campaigns of health information: if you smoke,
you will die of cancer; if you drink, you will have an accident; if you
do not use a condom, you will catch AIDS, and so forth.
There is also an important tradition in the study of how people's state
of mind (what a person's affective feelings are) when exposed to advertising
communications (watch the news and then commercials; important brands avoid
this mediatic espace) influences how we think and appraise social objects
(for example, those products, services or ideas that appear in commercials).
It is known, in Social Psychology, that a positive state of mind causes
a more creative, innovative way of thinking, but faster, more superficial
as well. Common sense tells us one does not stop and think when one feels
well, so he emits positive judgements with great haste. On the other hand,
a negative state of mind leads to a heavier, more conservative and depressive
way of thinking, but more analytic, careful and thoughtful (Kuykendall and
Keating, 1990; Mathur and Chattoparhyay, 1991; Petty, Cacioppo, Stratmann
and Priester, 1983).
- Taking the previous into account, it has been proposed that inducing
a positive state of mind (or watching a commercial in an already positive
state of mind, for instance, after watching a TV comedy) can be beneficial
when what has been said is not very important, relevant, when the reasoning
given is weak and easily refutable (why is Burger King better than McDonald's?).
On the other hand, when faced with flawless reasoning, maybe it is better
to make people think about the arguments presented, because we are "sure
to win", since our product is "the best". In this last case,
inducing a positive state of mind, or show an ad when the spectator is in
good mood, might be against what we are trying to achieve, since maybe the
person might overlook the arguments presented and make a quick decision
to send forth a judgement: the good product ends up losing more than the
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Latest update: October 28, 1996