Working Through Communication
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Chapter 2 : Persuasion, structure and language
Mary R. Power
Bond University, Mary_Power@bond.edu.au
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Power, Mary R., "Chapter 2 : Persuasion, structure and language devices" (1998). Working Through Communication. Paper 3. http://epublications.bond.edu.au/working_through_communication/3
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CHAPTER 2: PERSUASION, STRUCTURE AND LANGUAGE DEVICES
CHAPTER 2: PERSUASION, STRUCTURE AND LANGUAGE
“The only person really keen about change is a baby with a wet nappy”, (Anon.)
“Persuading people is a matter of paying attention to four things–who says what to whom and how they say it.” (Lasswell, 1948.)
Lasswell tells us that communicator variables (who), message content variables (what), audience variables (to whom) and speaking techniques, together with use of media account (how), for differences between good and bad speeches.
We like to think that we are always rational, that we are persuaded by ideas carefully considered. Yet our knowledge of persuasive techniques in advertising shows us that others (at least; if not ourselves!) are persuaded by things peripheral to rational arguments.
Many people approach lawyers to sort out their bad decisions. They say–“He appeared a credible, genuine person–I’m afraid I didn’t go into it too thoroughly.” “I thought because other people like government ministers and university professors had money invested in it–it would be all right.” Petty & Cacioppo (1981) and Chaiken (1980) have developed theories to explain why people don’t always take a rational route to persuasion. In Petty & Cacioppo’s (1981) Elaboration Likelihood Theory we take a “central route” to persuasion, examining the rationality of the arguments for a course of action if we are very intelligent, or think a lot about decisions, or know a lot about the topic and have plenty of time and are interested. If, on the other hand, we are rushed and the issue isn’t terribly important to us we use Heuristics (Chaiken, 1980) or “quick decision rules”. We take the “peripheral route” to being persuaded, by relying on our own emotions, on how we feel, on what experts say, on what other people are doing, if the issue isn’t very important to us, or we are tired or distracted. So, how we are persuaded depends on the kind of people we are, how much interest we have in the matter, and how much time we have to consider it.
Consequently, when we are attempting to persuade others in order to have our arguments appeal to everyone we will need to develop a central route to persuasion based on rationality and carefully considered ideas together with a heuristics-based peripheral route to persuasion based on “expert” opinion, statistics about numbers of other people who have taken up the idea and “feel good” images, such as pleasant staff, comfortable surroundings and attractive packaging...
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