Attitudes and Persuasion

This paper outlines recent advances in the study of attitudes and persuasion within the field of contemporary social psychology with emphasis on today’s work for deep seated issues.

Critical Analysis
The paper outlines many factors that affect attitude formation, attitude change and persuasion. While I feel that the paper is comprehensive in its breadth by listing possibly all the major factors that recent research has shown to affect attitudes and persuasion, there is very little depth in terms of elaboration of the various factors. In my opinion it serves as an introduction to these factors and in this regard it does very well by being thoroughly referenced should the reader wish to read further and/or consult the original research/findings.

Application to Communication Studies
The prevailing models of attitude change in their most basic form follow the single process model and the dual process model. In the classical single process model, ‘messages are presented, processed, and if successful, move recipients’ attitudes toward the advocated position.’ (Crano & Prislin, 2006) Perhaps the part of the paper most salient and interesting to our purposes would be the authors’ description of dual process models.

Dual Process Models
Dual process models hold that if receivers are able and properly motivated, they will scrutinise the message received to determine the merits of the argument and decide if they agree with it. Depending on the receiver’s unique cognitive response, the message is either accepted or rejected.

On the other hand, if receivers are unmotivated or unable(perhaps in the case of distraction) to process a message, they will use auxiliary features or peripheral cues in the message as well as heuristics as a shortcut instead of the more effortful scrutiny of the message in forming an attitudinal response to the persuasion.

Take a moment to think about this. While we are constantly bombarded with messages meant to persuade us towards attitude change, we are not able to scrutinize each and every one of them. Some messages we receive we may not accept based on the weight of their arguments, but when we are distracted we may accept them because they came from a trustworthy source, a likeable or good looking person(which may be the source of the distraction in the first place), a celebrity we know or if the message was delivered in a humorous manner or with a reward associated with it.

There is a caveat though. Persuasion delivered via the peripheral route tend to be weak and even temporary while persuasion delivered via a central route tend to have longer lasting effects (Elaboration likelihood model, 2012). An example of this can perhaps be encountered when we experience buyer’s remorse.

Questions for the Reader
1)Can you think of examples of the dual process model at work?
2)How can the knowledge of the dual process model help shape the way you deliver persuasive communication?

Crano, W., & Prislin, R. (2006). Attitudes and Persuasion. Annual Review of Psychology, 57, 345-­‐374. Available at:

Elaboration likelihood model, 2012. Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia. [online] Available at:




3 comments so far

  1. janesxm on

    The dual process models is indeed more interesting than the single process model.

    As a communication student, I’ve learnt to be open-minded to information, to question, and not to accept the information readily. As such, when i receive information, I will find out more about the topic if I’m interested and curious, and decide if I agree and accept the information received. I might even go to the extent of discussing the topic with friends so that I hear the opinions of others before accepting the information.

    However, if I am too busy or not interested in the topic/information, I will either ignore, or accept the information based on what I think as “trustworthy” sources. For example, close friends, people who seem to have knowledge on the information/topic, etc.

    Such is a dual process model at work.

    This knowledge will be useful in the world of advertising. Within the target audience, there will be people who rely on themselves and do research before buying the product; and people who rely on others to tell them how good the product is. Thus, apart from the accuracy of the product information, it will help if the people who endorse the products are well-liked or are professionals. For example, a dentist endorsing for toothpaste, Angelina Jolie for humanitarian work, etc.

  2. ischmimi on

    This is a very interesting piece, Mark.

    Indeed, the dual process transcends into every facet of our lives. From the recruitment of an attractive candidate as an insurance agent to the fast-paced music in fashion stores, organisations consciously select what seems to have the potential to be a distraction to prompt customers to purchase. Take for example, the branding strategy of Abercrombie and Fitch and Victoria’s Secret. Donned on the bodies of models, these expensive garments seem to be worth the amount spent.

    Such knowledge about how the mind perceives certain things under distracting circumstances and stores information is beneficial for the reader. I suppose these models can be applied to many situations. Studies have shown that when studying for a test, students should study in an environment similar to that of the examination hall to encode information. The conclusion of this study neglects the possibility that it is the quiet environment that is free from distraction that enables learners to learn more and retain knowledge for a longer period of time.

    Attractiveness is certainly distracting at times and may lead us to make decisions on a whim. That is also possibly why product packaging is so important. That is also perhaps why many women wear makeup to accentuate their features. An interesting video I once watched was on a social experiment on the kind of treatment a woman gets with and without makeup and grooming. In the experiment, the same subject was used. She was made to wear makeup on one day and go without makeup for the next. The crew went on to record down the responses of the people she approached for help. As predicted, on days she wore makeup, she was rewarded with free rides and treats. People spoke to her with well manners and smiled at her. On the other days she went without makeup, people were less friendly and welcoming, Some refused to help her. The difference in treatment she experienced was very observable.

    In delivering persuasive communication, I suppose other external stimulants count as much as the message. The stimulants could refer to the settings, personal grooming, rewards, humor and music. To further persuade the other party, it may be advantageous to approach them when they are tired and are not in the best state to think.

  3. paykram on

    Hi Jane and Isa,

    Thank you for your comments. Indeed, we are bombarded by messages everyday and we cannot always keep our guard up in critically analyzing every message that comes our way. Some are bound to get past our defenses.

    Armed with this knowledge, perhaps on a personal level we can learn to be selective and make sure that we critically analyze messages that persuade us towards choices that have serious consequences (such as purchasing a big ticket item).

    On a scholarly level, I believe knowledge of the dual process model can help in crafting messages that appeal to some on a peripheral route while appealing to others on a central route. Peripheral route messages can persuade others to decisions that require a low commitment(attractive, brightly lit retail space convincing shoppers to come into the store). Central route messages can persuade shoppers to decisions requiring a higher commitment (product features convincing shopper to make the purchase).

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