Com 270

I. Definition of Persuasion

A. The changing or modifying of person's attitude, belief, opinion, or behavioral action through communication.

B. Persuasion is different from other forms of influence (e.g., torture, force, coercion, implied threat) which do not rely on communication messages as the principal means of bringing about social influence and change.

II. Aristotle: The Earliest Persuasion Theorist?

A. The study of persuasion dates back to ancient Greece around the 4th century B.C.

B. The actual study of persuasion began with Aristotle. He defined "rhetoric" as the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion. As such, he saw the study of rhetoric as the study of the effective means of persuasion.

C. Aristotle noted that persuasion is brought about by providing proofs (reasons for change). He suggested that there are three general types of proofs:

1. Ethos (ethical proof) -- concerns the personal character of the speaker. We tend to be persuaded more by people who are perceived to be:


2. Pathos (emotional proof) -- consists of emotional appeals to change. If the audience is in the proper emotional state, persuasion is much easier.

The "angry" mob
The "sympathetic" jury
The "fired-up" football team

3. Logos (logical proof) -- consists of reasoning and evidence that supports a conclusion that logically follows from that reasoning and evidence.

If we can demonstrate to an audience that the called-for change logically follows from certain established facts, it is more likely for the audience to accept that change.

III. Martin Fishbein's Systemic Approach

A. Martin Fishbein argued that persuasion is best understood by understanding the relationship among three concepts-- attitude, value and belief.

1. Attitude -- predisposition to act toward, or evaluate, an object, event, or person in a positive or negative manner.

2. Value -- the degree of worth that we attach to an object, event, or person.

3. Belief -- an enduring conception of the characteristic of an object, event, or person.

B. Fishbein argues that our actions (behaviors) are determined by our attitudes. (Attitudes ---> Actions).

Ex: Like vegetables (positive attitude)-------> eat salads (positive behavior)

Dislike vegetables (negative attitude)--------> pick them off your pizza (negative behavior)

C. Our attitudes, in turn, are influenced by our values and beliefs (Values + Belief ------> Attitudes)

Ex: Good health important to you (value); people who eat vegetables are healthier (belief) --------> Like vegetables (attitude)

D. Therefore, to change action, we must first change attitude; and to change attitude, we must first change values and beliefs. Changing values, beliefs, and attitudes is necessary fior permanent change of action.

[(Values + Beliefs ----> Attitudes] -----> Actions






Visitors Since August 21, 2006
Website copyrighted © 2005
Randy Y. Hirokawa
University of Hawaii at Hilo
Images designed and copyrighted © 1998 by: