Persuasion and Attitude Change


Persuasion and attitude change

Behavioural change cannot occur without attitude change also having taken place.

This has led psychologists to look at the science of persuasion to discover how to change attitudes with the ultimate goal of changing behaviour.



Source Credibility theory states that people more likely to be persuaded when a source presents itself as credible e.g. Students were more swayed by the views of a sleep ‘expert’ than a non-expert, even when discrepancy with their own views was extreme (Bochner and Insko, 1966).


Meta-analysis of research on one-sided and two-sided messages (O’Keefe, 1999) concluded that two-sided messages influence attitudes more than one-sided messages provided the message refutes opposing arguments. If it mentions but does not demolish an opponent’s viewpoint, a two-sided message is less compelling that a one-sided.


Enhances the credibility of speaker (honest enough to mention both sides)

Provides reasons why opposing arguments are wrong


More intelligent audiences are more receptive to persuasive messages because of their longer attention span and better comprehension of the arguments (McGuire, 1968).

Cultural differences – Americans showed more favourable attitudes toward products that offered ‘separateness’ whereas Chinese more favourable toward products that offered ‘togetherness’ (Wang et al., 2000).

Hovland admits some methodological issues with his original studies – the use of students and army personnel created a sample that was not typical of the general population, and the experimenters were in a position to demand full attention and cut off other competing stimuli, something that real-life communication sources rarely have.

Support for source factors – Children’s attitude to unfamiliar child with autism more favourable when information provided from ‘expert’ from outside


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