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Issues of attitudes and attitude change are the foundation of many social processes. Psychologists have long sought to understand people’s opinions and evaluations and many studies have sought to understand how, why, and when those attitudes change in the face of persuasive communication. Early persuasion research identified many variables that influence the effectiveness of persuasive messages. These variables include characteristics of the communicator, the recipient, and the message itself. Over the years, however, the evidence for these influences became rather mixed, prompting a new generation of persuasion psychologists to ask whether there was a sensible pattern underlying it. This question ushered in several new approaches to thinking about persuasion. These “dual process” models proposed key moderators, identifying the conditions under which certain variables would and would not produce attitude change. A particularly influential model has been the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM), which proposed that the audience’s motivation and ability to think deeply about a persuasive message determines how much a given characteristic of that message will change the audience’s attitude. Other models, such as the Heuristic-Systematic Model (HSM), have contributed additional insights about the “when” and “why” of attitude change. In sum, these nuanced accounts of attitude change have been demonstrated time and again across cultures and topics of persuasion.


Chad R. Mortensen and Robert B. Cialdini

It is through the influence process that people generate and manage change. As such, it is important to understand fully the workings of the influence processes that produce compliance with requests for change. Fortunately, a vast body of scientific evidence exists on how, when, and why people comply with influence attempts. From this formidable body of work, one can extract six universal principles of influence that generate compliance in the widest range of circumstances. Reciprocation states that people are more willing to comply with requests (for favors, services, information, concessions, etc.) from those who have provided such things first. Commitment/Consistency states that people are more willing to be moved in a particular direction if they see it as consistent with an existing commitment. Authority states that people are more willing to follow the directions or recommendations of a communicator to whom they attribute relevant expertise. Social Proof states that people are more willing to take a recommended action if they see evidence that many others, especially similar others, are taking it. Scarcity states that people find objects and opportunities more attractive to the degree that they are scarce, rare, or dwindling in availability. Finally, Liking states that people prefer to say yes to those they like, such as those who are similar to them and who have complimented them.


Pablo Briñol, Richard E. Petty, and Joshua J Guyer

The history of attitudes research can be organized into three main sections covering attitude definition and measurement, attitude-behavior relationships, and attitude change. First, an evaluation of the history of attitude measurement reveals three relatively distinct phases: an early phase in which the classic direct self-report procedures were developed, a middle phase focused on “indirect” assessment devices, and a modern phase in which various measures designed to capture people’s automatic or “implicit” attitudes have flourished. Second, the history of attitude-behavior correspondence can be organized also around three broad themes: an early period in which the presumed close association between attitudes and behaviors was largely an article of faith; a middle period in which some researchers concluded that little, if any, relationship existed between measures of attitudes and overt behaviors; and a more recent period in which the resolution of prior issues stimulated an explosion of research focused on identifying the moderators and psychological mechanisms responsible for attitude-behavior correspondence. Finally, the history of research and ideas regarding attitude change and persuasion can be organized around several prominent theories focused on distinct single processes, dual processes, or multiple processes, each of which are still used by contemporary attitudes researchers.