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13. What is propaganda?
Darrow™s oration, the judge was in tears, as were many spectators.
14. How are the tactics of
Darrow™s arguments hit the mark. Judge Caverly sentenced Leopold and
propaganda used on a
Loeb to life imprisonment for murder and 99 years for kidnapping. Darrow™s
mass scale?
impassioned, eloquent arguments persuaded the judge to spare his clients™ lives
(Weinberg, 1957). Clarence Darrow™s task was to convince the judge that his
clients™ lives should be spared. He knew that the judge favored the death penalty,
as did almost all the American public. If Darrow couldn™t change the judge™s
attitude, he had to convince him that his attitude should not be applied in this
case”that is, that he should behave contrary to his beliefs.

The Persuasion Process
Darrow used all his powers of persuasion to in¬‚uence the judge. Persuasion is the
persuasion A form of
social in¬‚uence that involves application of rational and/or emotional arguments to convince others to change their
changing others™ thoughts, attitudes or behavior. It is a form of social in¬‚uence used not only in the courtroom but
attitudes, or behaviors
also in every part of daily social life. The persuasion process goes on in the classroom,
by applying rational and
church, political arena, and the media. Persuasive messages are so much a part of our
emotional arguments to
lives that we often are oblivious to the bombardment from billboards, TV, radio, news-
convince them to adopt your
papers, parents, peers, and public ¬gures.
Persuasion, then, is a pervasive form of social in¬‚uence. We are all agents of social
in¬‚uence when we try to convince others to change their attitudes or behavior. We are
also targets of social in¬‚uence when others try to persuade or coerce us to do what they
want us to do.
In this chapter, we explore the process of persuasion, looking at the strategies com-
municators use to change peopleʼs attitudes or behavior. We consider the techniques of
persuasion used by a brilliant trial lawyer such as Clarence Darrow. How was Darrow
able to be so effective? He was a famous trial lawyer, highly regarded and highly cred-
ible. Was his persuasiveness a function of something about him? Or was it something
about the argument he made? What role did his audience”Judge Caverly”play in the
persuasiveness of the argument? In what ways might the judge have taken an active
role in persuading himself of the validity of Darrowʼs case? And how does persuasion,
both interpersonal and mass persuasion, affect us all every day as we go about our lives?
These are some of the questions addressed in this chapter.

The Yale Communication Model
What is the best way to communicate your ideas to others and persuade them to
accept your point of view? An early view suggested that the most effective approach
to persuasion was to present logical arguments that showed people how they would
bene¬t from changing their attitudes. This view was formulated by Carl Hovland, who
Chapter 6 Persuasion and Attitude Change 187

worked for the U.S. government in its propaganda efforts during World War II. After
the war, he returned to Yale University, where he gathered a team of 30 coworkers and
began to systematically study the process of persuasion. Out of their efforts came the
Yale communication
Yale communication model (Hovland, Janis, & Kelley, 1953).
model A model of the
According to the Yale communication model, the most important factors comprising
persuasion process that
the communication process are expressed by the question, Who says what to whom by
stresses the role of the
what means? This question suggests that there are four factors involved in persuasion. communicator (source of a
The “who” refers to the communicator, the person making the persuasive argument. The message), the nature of the
“what” refers to the organization and content of the persuasive message. The “whom” message, the audience, and
the channel of communication.
is the target of the persuasive message, the audience. Finally, the “means” points to the
importance of the channel or medium through which the message is conveyed, such as
television, radio, or interpersonal face-to-face communication. For each factor, there
are several variables that can potentially in¬‚uence the persuasion process.
A key assumption of the Yale model is that these four factors (which can be manipu-
lated in an experiment) provide input into three internal mediators: the attention, com-
prehension, and acceptance mediators. Persuasion, according to the Yale model, will
occur if the target of a persuasive message ¬rst attends to the message, then compre-
hends (understands) the content of the message, and ¬nally accepts the content of the
message. What this means is that the Yale model proposes that persuasion is a function
of controlled processing of the message. That is, a person who is persuaded actively
attends to the message, makes an effort to understand the content of the message, and
¬nally decides to accept the message.
Finally, the four factors contributing to persuasion are not independent of one
another; they interact to create a persuasive effect. In practice, the content and pre-
sentation of the message depend on the communicator, the audience, and the channel.
Darrow carefully chose his messages according to what arguments best suited the judge,
the public, the trial setting, and his own preferences. We turn now to a discussion of
the four factors, considering selected variables within each component. We also look
at how the factors interact with one another.

The Communicator
Have you ever seen a late-night infomercial on TV? These half-hour commercials usually
push a “miracle” product, such as the car wax that supposedly can withstand a direct hit
from a hydrogen bomb. The car is vaporized but the wax survives. There is an “expert”
(usually the inventor) who touts the productʼs virtues. Do you believe what this person
tells you? Many people must, given the large amounts of money made from infomercials.
However, many people clearly are not convinced. If you are not persuaded, one thing
you may focus on is the communicator. You may ¬nd yourself questioning this fellowʼs
integrity (because he will pro¬t by persuading you to buy the atomic car wax) and, con-
sequently, disbelieving his claims. In other words, you question his credibility.

Credibility: Expertise and Trustworthiness
credibility The believability
Clarence Darrow knew the importance of credibility, the power to inspire belief. During
(expertise and trustworthiness)
his ¬nal arguments in the Leopold and Loeb case, Darrow continually tried to under-
of the communicator of a
mine the prosecutionʼs credibility and increase his own in the eyes of the judge. For
persuasive message.
example, Darrow said of his opponent:
I have heard in the last six weeks nothing but the cry for blood. I have heard from the
of¬ce of the stateʼs attorney only ugly hate. I have seen a court urged . . . to hang two
boys, in the face of science, in the face of philosophy, in the face of the better and more
humane thought. (Weinberg, 1957, p. 134)
Social Psychology

Although other variables are important, including a communicatorʼs perceived
expertise A component of
communicator credibility that attractiveness and power, credibility is the most critical variable affecting the ability
refers to the communicator™s to persuade. Credibility has two components: expertise and trustworthiness. Expertise
credentials and stems from
refers to a communicatorʼs credentials and stems from the personʼs training and knowl-
the individual™s training and
edge. For example, your doctor has the ability to persuade you on health matters because
she has the education and experience that give her words power. Trustworthiness
trustworthiness refers to the audienceʼs assessment of the communicatorʼs character as well as his or
A component of communicator her motives for delivering the message. We ask, “Why is this person trying to convince
credibility that involves
us?” Trustworthiness may be diminished when we perceive that the communicator
our assessment of the
has something to gain from persuading us. For example, you might trust a review of a
communicator™s motives for
product published in Consumer Reports (which accepts no advertising and runs inde-
delivering the message.
pendent tests) more than a similar review based on research conducted by the manu-
facturer of the product.
Expertise and trustworthiness do not always go together. A communicator may be
high in one but low in the other. A research physician speaking about a new drug to
treat AIDS may have expertise and derive credibility from that expert knowledge. But
if we discover that the physician stands to gain something from the sale of this drug, we
probably will question her trustworthiness. We wonder about her character and motives
and may no longer consider her a credible source.
A political ¬gure with the unfortunate mix of high expertise and low trustwor-
thiness was former President Bill Clinton. He was highly knowledgeable on matters
of state but was not perceived as very trustworthy. During the “Monica Lewinsky”
scandal, there is the enduring image of President Clinton waving his ¬nger at the TV
cameras, saying he never had sexual relations with “that woman.” In contrast, a source
can be highly trustworthy but low in expertise. This was the case with late President
Ronald Reagan. During speeches he often used unsubstantiated statistics, sending his
aides scrambling for sources. However, the public generally saw him as trustworthy.
People wanted to believe him. Public opinion surveys showed again and again that a
majority of the public viewed President Reagan as personally attractive and likable,
and these qualities prime us to accept a persuaderʼs message (Roskos-Ewoldsen &
Fazio, 1992).
Trustworthiness is, in part, a judgment about the motives of the communicator. If
someone is trying very hard to persuade us, we are likely to question his or her motives
(Eagly, Wood, & Chaiken, 1978). We may be more convinced by the communicatorʼs
arguments if we donʼt think he or she is trying to persuade us (Walster [Hat¬eld] &
Festinger, 1962). This is the theory behind the hidden-camera technique used by televi-
sion advertisers. Presumably, a person touting the virtues of a fabric softener on hidden
camera must be telling the truth. The communicator is not trying to convince us; he or
she is giving an unbiased testimonial.
Interestingly, messages coming from a trustworthy or untrustworthy source are
processed differently (Preister & Petty, 2003). A target of a persuasive appeal from a
trustworthy source is less likely to process the content of the message carefully and
elaborate in memory, compared to the same message coming from an untrustworthy
source. That is, the arguments made by a trustworthy source are more likely to be
accepted on face value than those presented by an untrustworthy source. Further,
the difference between an untrustworthy and trustworthy source is greatest when
the arguments being presented are weak. When strong arguments are presented, the
trustworthy and untrustworthy sources are equally likely to produce attitude change
(Priester & Petty, 2003).
Chapter 6 Persuasion and Attitude Change 189

A communicator who appears to argue against his or her own best interest is more
persuasive than a communicator who takes an expected stance (Eagly et al., 1978).
This was the case when then newly appointed U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno took
responsibility for the 1993 attack by federal agents on David Koreshʼs Branch Davidian
headquarters in Waco, Texas. The attack, subsequently acknowledged by the govern-
ment as ill planned, led to a ¬ery holocaust in which most of the cult members, including
many children, died. At a time when everyone connected with the attack was denying
responsibility for it, Reno publicly assumed the responsibility for ordering the assault.
Although her statement was not in her own best interest, it enhanced the publicʼs sense
of her character and credibility. Clarence Darrow also seemed to be arguing against his
own best interest when he suggested to the judge that he did not care about the fate of
his clients. Instead, he maintained, he was strongly interested in what the verdict meant
for the future of humanity: “I am pleading for the future; I am pleading for a time when
hatred and cruelty will not control the hearts of men, when . . . all life is worth saving,
and that mercy is the highest attribute of man” (Weinberg, 1957, p. 134).
Darrow tried to increase his credibility by saying he was not acting out of self-interest
or concern for the fate of Leopold and Loeb; he was ¬ghting for a moral cause. Of course,
Darrow did not mention that his fee was one of the highest ever paid to an attorney.

Limits on Credibility: The Sleeper Effect Does a credible communicator have an
advantage over a noncredible one in the long run? Apparently not. Research has shown
that there are limits to a credible communicatorʼs in¬‚uence. The Yale group found that
although the credibility of the communicator has a strong effect on attitude change, over
time people forget who said what, so the effects of credibility wear off. Initially, people
believe the credible source. But 6 weeks later, they are about as likely to show attitude
change from a noncredible source as from a credible source. So, if you read an article
in the National Enquirer, it probably would have little effect on you right away. But
after a few weeks, you might show some change despite the sourceʼs low credibility.
The phenomenon of a message having more impact on attitude change after a long delay
sleeper effect
than when it is ¬rst heard is known as the sleeper effect.
A phenomenon of persuasion
The sleeper effect has been shown in a wide variety of persuasion situations, includ-
that occurs when a
ing political attack advertisements (Lariscy & Tinkham, 1999). In their experiment
communication has more
Lariscy and Tinkham exposed participants to a televised political attack advertisement. impact on attitude change
Some participants also saw a second political advertisement that called the credibility of after a long delay than when
the attack ad into question. This defensive advertisement was presented either before or it is ¬rst heard.
after the attack advertisement. Lariscy and Tinkham measured perceived credibility of
the source of the attack advertisement and how certain participants were that they would
vote for the candidate who sponsored the attack advertisement. The results showed that
the negative advertisement was effective, even though participants indicated they dis-
liked the negativity. Evidence was also found for a sleeper effect. When the defensive
advertisement was presented after the attack advertisement, perceptions of the candi-
date who sponsored the attack ad were negative. However, after a delay, the defensive
advertisement lost its power to attenuate the effect of the attack advertisement.
Why does the sleeper effect occur? One possible cause of the sleeper effect may
be that the communicatorʼs credibility does not increase the listenerʼs understanding of
the message (Kelman & Hovland, 1953). In other words, people understand messages
from credible and noncredible communicators equally well. As the effects of credibility
wear off over time, listeners are left with two equally understood (or misunderstood)
messages (Gruder et al., 1979).
Social Psychology

Three factors make it more likely that the sleeper effect will occur (Rajecki,

1. There is a strong persuasive argument.
2. There is a discounting cue, something that makes the receiver doubt the accuracy
of the message, such as lack of communicator credibility or new information that
contradicts the original message.
3. Enough time passes that the discounting cue and the message become
disassociated, and people forget which source said what.
A meta-analysis of the sleeper effect literature (Kumkale & Albarracin, 2004)
found that two other factors were also relevant to the occurrence of the sleeper effect.
First, the sleeper effect is most likely to occur if both the message and the credibility
information are strong. Second, the sleeper effect is stronger for individuals who are
motivated to carefully process and think about the message and credibility information.
This latter ¬nding suggests that the sleeper effect requires active, controlled processing
of the message content and credibility information.
Studies also show that the sleeper effect occurs most reliably when the receivers
get the discounting cue after they hear the message rather than before (Kumkale &
Albarracin, 2004; Pratkanis, Greenwald, Leippe, & Baumgardner, 1988). If the discount-
ing cue comes before the message, the receiver doubts the message before it is even
conveyed. But if the discounting cue comes after the message, and if the argument is
strong, the receiver probably has already been persuaded. Over time, the memory of the
discounting cue “decays” faster than the memory of the persuasive message (Pratkanis
et al., 1988). Because the message is stored before the discounting cue is received, the
message is less likely to be weakened. After a long period has elapsed, all the receiver
remembers is the original persuasive message (Figure 6.1).

Message Only Low Credibility
No Message


Figure 6.1 The sleeper 15
Attitude Index


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