Humor and Persuasion

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Humor and Persuasion

By | July 2011
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Humor and Persuasion
Jake Swenson

5/30/2011

The actor John Cleese once said, "If I can get you to laugh with me, you like me better, which makes you more open to my ideas. And if I can persuade you to laugh at the particular point I make, by laughing at it you acknowledge its truth.” (Mortensen, 2004) Humor disarms an audience, making them more likely to open up to you. In a book by Kurt Mortensen, called “Maximum influence: the 12 universal laws of power persuasion”, he stated: ”…once your prospects feel comfortable with you, they will be more in tune to your message and more likely to remain attentive. Perhaps most powerful of all, in our fast-paced culture where most things are fleeting, they remember you and continue to hold you in a positive light long after the initial exchange. When you leverage the element of humor, any message coming from you receives more weight than one that comes from someone who has not created the audience rapport you have achieved.” (W., 2004)

The use of humor in persuasion is a technique that has been the source of many studies. A parallel between the humor and an audience’s influenced nature, however, has still yet to be quantifiably substantiated as a legitimate source of persuasive prowess. As stated in a publication written for the Journal of General Psychology by Jim Little, called “The effectiveness of humor in persuasion: The case of business ethics training,” he recognizes that, “Humor is presumed to aid in persuasion in both advertising (Heinecke, 1997) and education (Wallinger, 1997), but empirical research has rarely been able to demonstrate these effects (Bryant, Comisky, Crane, & Zillmann, 1980; Gruner & Freshley, 1979). It is not yet clear whether the investment of time and effort in the use of humor in persuasion is justified” (Lyttle, 2001). Modern day examples of persuasion are in advertisements. The main point of an advertisement is to supply varying details to the listener to convince them...

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