Mass Communication, Propaganda, & Persuasion Chapter Three
Mass Communication, Propaganda, & Persuasion We live in an age of mass communication. –Did not begin with the Internet Examples: Roots (1977); The Day After (1983) – Both had a major impact on most Americans. Examples: OJ Simpson trial, September 11th
Mass Communication, Propaganda, & Persuasion We live in an age of mass persuasion. –Aim is most obvious in advertising but influence through the mass media need not be so blatant. May be subtle or even unintentional. –Example: Rodney King coverage
Mass Communication, Propaganda, & Persuasion Given the power of TV newscasts, it is reasonable to ask what factors determine which news items are selected for coverage. –One factor: Need to attract viewers TV news is a form of entertainment. News telecasts tend to focus on the violent behavior of individuals because action is more exciting than peaceful, orderly behavior. This is not a balanced picture of the world.
Mass Communication, Propaganda, & Persuasion While media exposure keeps us informed, there is a downside to such exposure. –Repeated visual imagery shapes attitudes and opinions.
Media Contagion The power of the media is best illustrated by a phenomenon known as emotional contagion. –Example: Tylenol/cyanide scare (1982) False alarms outnumbered actual cases of product tampering by seven to one. –Example: Suicide contagion (Phillips) The more coverage devoted by major television networks to suicide, the greater the subsequent increase.
Media Contagion This influence is probably unintentional but the pervasiveness of the electronic media cannot be overstated. –Sometimes, the role of the media in reporting an event becomes more newsworthy than the event itself. Example: Beirut Hostage Crisis of 1985
Politicians as Entertainers There is also a conscious, direct attempt to persuade people by the judicious selection of material to be presented in the media. –Example: Political candidates Contemporary candidates must look good on television if they are to stand a chance of winning the election.
Effectiveness of Media Appeals How credible and effective are obvious attempts to package and sell products through the mass media? –Prima facie evidence = extremely effective Example: Over 90% of preschool children asked for toys or food they saw advertised on television.
Effectiveness of Media Appeals Most children do catch on after a time. The resulting skepticism continues and is seen in the overwhelming majority of adults. –The more educated the person, the greater the skepticism. BUT…we tend to believe (falsely) that our skepticism makes us immune to influence from the message.
Effectiveness of Media Appeals Zajoncs work shows that, all things being equal, more familiarity with a product (from aspirin to political candidates) may make a huge difference. –The more familiar, the more attractive! –Example: Grush, et al. found that, by and large, the congressional candidates who spent the most money typically received the most votes.
Education or Propaganda? What is the difference between propaganda and education? –Propaganda = Systematic propagation of a given doctrine –Education = Act of imparting knowledge or skill Distinguishing between the two can be subtle and difficult! –Example: Zimbardo, Ebbesen, & Maslach examples of arithmetic problems in textbooks
Education or Propaganda? In practice, whether a person regards a particular course of instruction as education or progandistic depends, to a large extent, on his or her values. –Either way, persuasion is a reality that we should try to understand.
Persuasion Petty & Cacioppo argue that there are two major routes to persuasion: –Central route Involves weighing arguments and considering relevant facts and figures, thinking about issues in a systematic fashion and coming to a decision –Peripheral route Decision based on simple, often irrelevant cues that suggest the rightness, wrongness, or attractiveness of an argument without giving it much thought
Persuasion Few persuasive appeals are purely central or peripheral. –Most contain elements aimed at both routes Example: Mac vs. PC commercials Example: If it doesnt fit, you must acquit. –Anecdote supported by McGlones research on rhyming Example: Political campaigns (e.g., estate vs. death tax)
Persuasion What key factors can increase the effectiveness of a communication? –Its source –Its nature –Audience characteristics
The Source of the Communication: Credibility Speculations about the effect of prestige on persuasion are ancient. –Example: Aristotle, We believe good men fully and more readily than others… Rigorous scientific tests of such effects are more recent. –Example: Hovland & Weiss research on varying levels of credibility Being credible is characterized as being expert and trustworthy.
The Source of the Communication: Credibility Determinations of credibility vary across individuals. –Example: Aronson & Golden research on credibility and race –To the effect that extraneous factors (such as skin color) decrease or increase your susceptibility to persuasion, your behavior is maladaptive.
The Source of the Communication: Increasing Trustworthiness Trust is an important factor in determining whether or not a communicator will be effective. How might communicators make themselves seem more trustworthy? –Argue against their own self-interest Example: Aronson, Walster, & Abrahams research with Joe The Shoulder Napolitano Example: Eagly & colleagues on message vs. expectation
The Source of the Communication: Increasing Trustworthiness How else might communicators make themselves seem more trustworthy? –Convince the audience that they are not trying to influence them. Example: When E.F. Hutton talks… Example: Walster & Festinger research on overheard conversations
The Source of the Communication: Attractiveness A crucial factor in determining the effectiveness of communicators is how attractive or likable they are. –This is true regardless of their overall expertise or trustworthiness. Example: Mills & Aronson laboratory experiment with beautiful woman –It appears we associate the attractiveness of the communicator with the desirability of the message. –Accordingly, the more the communicator wants to change our opinions, the more we change them – but only about trivial issues.
The Nature of the Communication There are several ways in which communications can differ from one another: –Logical vs. Emotional Appeals –Consensual Statistical Evidence vs. a Single Personal Example –One-Sided vs. Two-Sided Arguments –The Order of Presentation –The Size of the Discrepancy
The Nature of the Communication: Logical vs. Emotional Appeals There is some evidence favoring an appeal that is primarily emotional. –Example: Hartmann study of political candidates One issue with research in this area is that there are no foolproof, mutually exclusive definitions of emotional and rational.
The Nature of the Communication: Logical vs. Emotional Appeals Additional research also examines the effect of various levels of a specific emotion on opinion change. –Overwhelming experimental data suggests that the more frightened a person is by a communication, the more likely he or she is to take positive preventative action. Example: Work by Leventhal, et al. –Further research (also by Leventhal, et al.) shows that taking action also is related to self-esteem. One needs to tailor the communication to the audience.
The Nature of the Communication: Logical vs. Emotional Appeals Fear-arousing appeals accompanied by specific instructions for appropriate action can and do produce recommended behaviors. –The impact of fear appeals is context-specific. Example: AIDS fear and condom use
The Nature of the Communication: Logical vs. Emotional Appeals Fear and the Threat of Terrorism –Any warning becomes ineffective if it is vague about what the danger is or where it is coming from or what people can do to avert the danger. –In the case of US government officials, the behavior has been not only inept, it has been detrimental.
The Nature of the Communication: Statistical Evidence vs. Personal Example Research by Nisbett and his associates indicates that single, personal examples – because of their vividness – assume far more importance than their logical statistical status would imply. –Example: Consumer Reports vs. Friend with lemon The more vivid the example, the greater the persuasive power. –Example: Aronson & students & energy conservation
The Nature of the Communication: One-Sided vs. Two-Sided Arguments There is no simple relationship between one-sided arguments and the effectiveness of the communication. –It depends, to some extent, upon how well informed the audience is. –Another factor is the initial position of the audience. Example: Political speeches
The Nature of the Communication: The Order of Presentation The issue of order of presentation is a complex one involving both learning and retention. –Primacy effect: All things being equal, the first argument will be more effective. –Recency effect: All other things being equal, the last argument will be more effective.
The Nature of the Communication: The Order of Presentation The crucial variable is TIME: –The amount between the first and second communication –The amount between the end of the second communication and the moment the audience must make a decision
The Nature of the Communication: The Order of Presentation The crucial variable is TIME: –Inhibition (interference) is greatest if very little time elapses between the two communications. First communication interferes with learning of the second = primacy effect –Retention is greatest when the audience must make up its mind immediately after hearing the second communication. Recency effects will prevail –Example: Miller & Campbell simulated jury study Our court system gives the prosecution the advantage of BOTH primacy and recency effects!
The Nature of the Communication: The Size of the Discrepancy What is the most effective level of discrepancy between the opinion of the audience and the recommendation of the communicator? –One line of reasoning suggests that the communicator should argue his or her most extreme position, relying on cognitive dissonance factors to induce opinion change. Example: Zimbardo research on discrepancies between friends
The Nature of the Communication: The Size of the Discrepancy Another line of research disconfirms evidence suggesting the extreme position is more effective. –Example: Whittakers curvilinear relationship –Example: Hovland, Harvey, & Sherifs research on latitude of acceptance
The Nature of the Communication: The Size of the Discrepancy The conflicting findings on this question suggest that there is a significant factor that hasnt been accounted for – a great scientific opportunity to play detective! –Example: Aronson, Turner, & Carlsmith speculation about (and later research on) the impact of communicator credibility
The Nature of the Communication: The Size of the Discrepancy To summarize: –When a communicator has high credibility, the greater the discrepancy between the view he or she advocates and the view of the audience, the more the audience will be persuaded. –On the other hand, when a communicators credibility is doubtful or slim, he or she will produce maximum opinion change with moderate discrepancy.
Characteristics of the Audience: Self-Esteem The one personality variable most consistently related to persuasibility is self-esteem. –Individuals who feel inadequate are more easily influenced by a persuasive communication than individuals who think highly of themselves.
Characteristics of the Audience: Prior Experience Another factor, of considerable importance, is the frame of mind of the audience. –Positive impact: Example: Janis and associates research on desirable food and persuasive communication Example: Petty & colleagues and good mood –Negative impact: Example: Freedman & Sears research on forewarning Example: Brehms theory of reactance –Bensley & Wu findings on freedom of choice –Heilmans study of petition-signers
Characteristics of the Audience: Prior Experience How can we help people to resist attempts to influence them? –Example: Work by McGuire, et al. on the inoculation effect –The person easiest to brainwash is the person whose beliefs are based on slogans that have never been seriously challenged.
How Well Do the Principles Work? Changing opinions is not as easy as it may appear. –Canon found that, as ones confidence is weakening, a person becomes less prone to listen to arguments against his or her beliefs. The very people you most want to convince, and those whose opinions might be the most susceptible to change, are the ones least likely to continue to expose themselves to a communication designed for that purpose.
How Well Do the Principles Work? On the other hand, when used properly, these principles are quite effective. –So effective, in fact, that one may question if their use is ethical. As such, it is essential to understand persuasion tactics, recognize when they are being used, and question their abuse. –Especially at issue? Television!
How Well Do the Principles Work? Issue of television: –From 8 to 11 oclock each night, television is one long lie and people believe the lie. –Example: Depictions of race, sex/gender, violence –Example: Depictions of crime and punishment
How Well Do the Principles Work? Most of our beliefs develop gradually, through repeated contacts with people and information over an extended period of time. In general, it is difficult to change important beliefs through direct communication. –One issue: Opinion of triviality of the issue
How Well Do the Principles Work? Distinction between opinion and attitude –Opinion = What a person believes to be factually true Primarily cognitive and transient –Attitude = An opinion that includes an evaluative and an emotional component Extremely difficult to change
By March 6th You should have read chapter three by this time. Now that you have completed these power points, please go to the Social Animal website. http://bcs.worthpublishers.com/aronson10e/ default.asp Log in and take the quiz for chapter three, submit answers to my email.