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Persuasive Writing

  • Persuasion
    • Definition
      • A process in which a communicator seeks to elicit a desired response from the receiver.
    • Andersen, K. 1971. Persuasion: Theory and practice.

    • People persuade themselves
    • 60 years of research

      Perloff, Richard M. 2017. The Dynamics of Persuasion:
      Communication and Attitudes in the 21st Century,
      6th ed.

      Persuasive communication

      • Clear, purposeful communication can
        • Influence attitudes, opinion, beliefs and behavior
        • Speed decision-making and action

      Persuasion Today

      • Persuasive communication
        • Has grown exponentially
          • Number
          • Reach
        • Is more complex and mediated
        • Has become institutionalized
        • Has become more subtle and devious
          • Organized effort to denigrate climate change science
        • Has gone digital — terse
        • Travels faster than ever

      • Attitudes
        • Learned tendencies that steer behavior in predictable ways
          • Not always rational
          • “Attitudes express passions and hates, attractions and repulsions, likes and dislikes.”
                                                                                           — Eagly and Chaiken (1998, p. 269)

        • Mental and emotional constructs that characterize people
        • Can only be inferred from people’s actions
        • Learned evaluations that influence thought and action
          • Categorize value and worth of persons, places, or issues
        • Acquired patterns of reacting to social stimuli
        • Related to values, beliefs, and opinions

        • Organize our social world
        • Shape perception
        • Influence judgments
        • Steer behavior
        • Some strong
        • Some weak
          • and susceptible to influence
        • Some with inconsistent elements

      • Theory: Expectancy-Value Approach
        • Attitudes have two components
          • sometimes conflicting:
            • cognition (head)
            • affect (heart)
        • Attitudes are a combination of what you believe or expect of something and how you feel about these expectations.

      Martin Fishbein and Icek Ajzen, 1975

      • Attitudes & Behavior
        • Inconsistent attitudes (ambivalence) make most of us uncomfortable, so we seek consistency
          • Cognitive dissonance
        • In our society, consistency between attitude and behavior is valued
          • Inconsistency can be deemed hypocrisy

      • Balance Theory
        • Attitudes have inconsistent elements
        • People are uncomfortable with inconsistency
          • Opposed to gay marriage v. having gay family & friends
        • Internal pressure to balance inconsistent parts

      • Factors Moderating Attitude-Behavior
        • Situational factors
          • Situation has powerful effect due to social norms, roles
        • Characteristics of the person
          • Self-monitoring: Think about attitudes
          • Direct experience
        • Qualities of the attitude
          • General or specific (attitude toward a behavior)

      Fazio & Roskos-Ewoldsen, 1994; Zanna & Fazio, 1982.

      • Behavior-Attitude and Persuasion
        • Target relevant beliefs about behavior
          • Offer evidence refuting opposing beliefs
          • Suggest alternative behaviors

        • Appeal to social norms
        • Target perceived behavioral control (you can do it!)
        • Use association techniques
        • Remind people of their attitudes

      • Effects of Persuasion on Attitudes
        • Shape
          • Includes socialization of pro-social values and attitudes
          • No. 1 is family, then education
          • Strongest is experience
        • Reinforce
          • Effect of most campaigns
        • Change
          • Rare

      • Steps to persuasion
        1. Presentation
        2. Attention
        3. Comprehension
        4. Yielding    A  —>  B
        5. Retention
        6. Overt behavior

          • Say specifically what you want listener to do.
          • Agree with your solution

      • Speaker Credibility
        • Source credibility most important for persuasion
          • Speaker characteristics:
            • Trustworthy, expert, dynamic, similar, powerful, idealistic, good will (Ted’s Pig).

        • Trustworthiness is most important aspect
          • Perceived honesty, character, and safety
        • Expertise is the knowledge or ability ascribed to the communicator,
          • The belief the speaker has relevant skills or know-how.
        • Good will
          • Caring, listeners’ interest at heart, empathetic
          • An element of charisma
        • If you have low credibility:
          • Hard, specific facts
          • First-hand experience

      • Barriers to persuasion
        1. Selective exposure
        2. Selective attention
        3. Selective perception
          • Information is filtered through our belief systems
        4. Selective retention
          • Key information must be clearly delivered and repeated
        5. Group norms
        6. Ego-involved attitudes

      • Many people
        • Fear uncertainty and doubt

      • Top
  • Social Judgment Theory
    • Emphasizes people’s subjective judgments about social issues
    • Messages are not evaluated purely on the arguments’ merits
    • Attitudes serve as anchors; causing selective perception
      • People compare the advocated position with their own attitudes and decide whether to accept a message
        • Latitudes of acceptance, rejection, and neutrality
        • Assimilation and contrast (natural human bias)
        • Ego-involvement
    • Speaker must determine which positions fall within audience’s latitudes of acceptance and rejection.
      • Tailor or frame the message to fit existing attitudes

    • Elaboration Likelihood Model
      • Elaboration is the extent to which people think about arguments contained in communication
      • Likelihood refers to probability people will elaborate
      • People process communication in two  ways:
        • Central: Considerable cognitive elaboration
        • Peripheral: Heuristic, quick consideration of message

      • Central: Considerable cognitive elaboration
        • Use strong arguments
      • Peripheral: Heuristic, quick consideration of message
        • Heuristics: Simple cues such as applause, “likes”
        • Susceptible to unscrupulous appeals

    • ELM & Persuasion
      • Increase the personal relevance of the message
        • More likely message will be centrally processed
          • More lasting persuasive effects
          • More likely to remain open to cogent arguments
    • Types of persuasion
      • Reasoning based
        • Logical statements
        • Examples and evidence
      • Values based
        • Common goals and ideals
        • Framed ideas

    • Key Persuasive Message Factors
      • Message Content 
      • Message Structure
      • Framing
      • Language
      • Emotional Appeals

    • Message Content: Evidence & Attitudes
      • Evidence changes attitudes when
        • attributed to highly credible source and
        • audience is highly involved
      • Unlikely to change
        • strong attitudes,
        • attitudes tied to self-concept
        • attitudes tied to core values
  • Message Content
      •  Evidence
        • Factual statements from a source other than the speaker
          • Quantitative information, opinions of credible sources, eyewitness statements, testimonials

    • Reasoning with logic
      • If-then
      • Cause-effect
      • Because
      • Cost-benefits

    • Reasoning with example, evidence
      • Use real or realistic statements
        • Examples
        • Prior experiences
        • Facts
        • Data
        • Observations
        • Quotes from experts
    • Top

  • Fact-based arguments can fail
    • Reading information that undermines identity can trigger “feelings of anger and dismay,” making it difficult to accept new facts
    • Network of information justifying current perspective
      • New information must overwhelm old information
        • Often by integrating some of the old information
        • If not, persuasion fails or backfires
          • Old information burns “even more fiercely”

    The British Psychological Society, Research Digest,
    “Why is it so hard to persuade people with facts?”
    from G. Trevors, et al. (2016). “Identity and Epistemic Emotions During
    Knowledge Revision: A Potential Account for the Backfire Effect,” Discourse Process

    Persuading with values
      • More subtle than reasoning-based persuasion
      • Trying to convince listeners to identify with you
      • Two forms:
        • Shared goals and ideals (research)
        • Frames
          • Frame from readers’ perspective
          • Emphasize facts that appeal to listeners’ sense of values

    Message Strategy

    • Communicating science to nonscientists
      • David Herring, science writer, director of communication, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration
      • Master’s degree in scientific and technical writing

    • Herring’s Observations (c. 2013)
      • Most communicators have tendency to tell publics all we know
      • Many publics not eager to be fed knowledge
      • Must be predisposed to accept the core assumptions

      • All publics
        • Overloaded
        • Distracted by immediate concerns
        • Trust what we already believe
        • Respond to emotions
        • Listen selectively and simplify
          • Filter and simplify

      • People
        • Filter and simplify based on
          • Values—important to connect with values
          • Emotions
          • Preconceptions
          • Past experiences
          • Trusted informants—actually sought out
          • World view
          • Others’ opinions
          • Culture

      • Public Opinion on Climate Change

    • Message
      • Start with what they value
      • Simple clear messages
      • Repeated often
      • From sources they trust

      • NOAA message
        • It’s real.
        • It’s us.
        • It’s bad.
        • And scientists agree we can solve it.

    • Frames
      • Make some aspects of a perceived reality more salient
        • Promoting a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, solution
      • Varying the way a message is framed can influence attitudes
        • Subtle but psychologically important variations
      • Call on the frames of the target audience
        • Use cognitive consistency to change attitudes
        • Messages should reaffirm their values
          • Conservatives: Gay marriage & patriotism
          • Liberals: Military spending & equality

    • Emotional Appeals
      •  1. Fear-Arousing Messages
        • Two elements: threat and efficacy information
          • Severity; susceptibility or likelihood; costs
          • Recommendation effectiveness; self-efficacy
        • Loss frame; gain frame
      • Do not always result in attitude change
        • Not scary enough: Really scare the audience
        • If too scary, can backfire
          • Fear avoidance

      • Guilt Appeals
        • Depends on empathy and efficacy

    • Rational or emotional appeals
      • Depends on personality, education of audience
      • Emotional appeals can work well, but source often forgotten
      • Combination best

    • Persuasion tactics used
      • Rational
      • Emotional
      • Fact-based reasoning
      • Values
      • Cause-effect
        • experiement
      • Cost-benefit
      • Example/evidence
      • Prior Experience
      • Facts
        • Reliable sources
      • Data
      • Observations
      • Quotes from experts
      • Call to action!
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