Persuasion is an art, much stronger than what we think it to be, it is seen being used almost everywhere; media, news, advertising, politics, the list goes on and on. But what exactly is persuasion? By definition, it is the conscious attempt to change ones belief, feelings, behaviors or general attitude towards something. Although, in many cases, the first thing popping into mind when it comes to persuasion is negative like manipulation, but persuasion can also be used for positive things like spreading or creating awareness to social issues etc.
How Persuasion Works
The success of persuasion matters not only on the message being sent or on the person sending it. It also highly matters who’s the person receiving it; their mentality.
The elaboration likelihood model shows exactly how persuasion works considering all the factors. After the message is sent, it reaches two different type of audience (Audience factor), either they are highly motivated and analytical or low motivation and less analytical skills. Then comes their respective though process towards the message (Processing factor); either they will put effort into thinking about the message-the highly motivated ones or they will put zero to null effort into thinking about the message-the less motivated ones. Lastly comes the final result of persuasion; either there is a lasting change in attitude or a temporary change which will be forgotten before long.
So, this shows exactly that along with the message, the audience, their thought process is just as important in order for the persuasion to be successful.
Attribution theory explains how humans interpret events according to their beliefs and thoughts. It assumes that individuals tend to make an effort to explain why they do something. We all attribute behavior in either of the two ways; attribute towards the person, or towards the situation. Attribution can be divided into two types:
Internal Attribution: attributing the cause of behavior to an internal factor like the person’s personality etc. For example, if someone shows up late to class we attribute them as to being lazy and non-punctual.
External Attribution: attributing the cause of behavior to an external factor, we usually do this when it comes to ourselves. For example, when Ali came late to class, he blamed it on the traffic, whether, but not himself.
Another major point to be made is that we as human tend to make Fundamental Attribution Error, which is when we wrongly attribute behaviors of others to their internal factors like personality but attributing our own behaviors towards external factors or situation.
Cognitive Dissonance Theory
Cognitive dissonance theory refers when there is a confliction of believe and attitudes in any given situation. The theory suggests that we tend to keep hold of all our beliefs and attitudes in harmony to avoid any discomfort feelings. A person smoking knowing it is bad for health is a state of cognitive dissonance. This is also used in persuasion since people are in a state where their thinking process can be changed; they are in a sense of discomfort which motivates them to restore balance and harmony in their beliefs.
Cognitive dissonance can also be eliminated by either reducing the significance of the dissonant beliefs (smoking bad for health) or by adding more consonant beliefs to outweigh the dissonant ones (don’t know when we will die etc.).
Techniques Of Persuasion
Foot in the door
The foot in the door principle refers to asking for small favors before asking a big one; place a foot in first. Asking small favors first makes the person feel committed to helping you.
Door in the face
This technique is directly asking for a huge favor from someone that they won’t be agreeing to, then at their decline, asking for something comparatively easier or smaller.
If you do something people tend to feel obliged to return that favor. Even if a gift was given to them and it wasn’t that great they still tend to given something in return. This idea is also used in persuasion; having someone in debt to you will increase chances that they will listen to you and help you when needed.
This is one of the most used persuasion techniques used especially be marketing departments. People buy something that is in low supply. So things like limited offers attract a lot of eyes. People buy things in these situations even when they don’t have the need for it, the ‘just in case triggers in them.
So now it is clear how strong persuasion is and if done right it can impact many people and shift them into the right direction. Of course that being said, this can also be used for negative means as well so it is important to know what you’re beliefs are and if you are in the right, there should never be sense of doubt in your choices.