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Persuasive Theories Assignment

Persuasive Theory Application


 1. Describe each theory identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each theory

     Inoculation Theory and Cognitive Dissonance

2.   Compare and contrast these theories

3.  Gives an example of how you have seen someone use these theories to persuade others.

4.  How will you use the theories in the future to persuade others?  Be specific.


This assignment should be at least 7-8 pages. This paper should demonstrate that you understand the theories and that you can critically apply them. If you quote the textbook, use quotation marks and proper documentation. Only use the text to explain the theories. Even if you paraphrase the textbook, please document it and give the page number. For further instructions on APA documentation and plagiarism, please consult the course material.  Be sure to include references. Remember the point of the assignment is to demonstrate that you have read and can apply the text material. Write the questions out completely and then answer them. Be sure you document the text material and only use the text.


Comprehension and Application Rubric


Excellent (3)

Acceptable (2)

Unacceptable (1)

Connections to Discipline

Sees (makes) connections across disciplines, perspectives



Thoroughly describes each theory in detail giving attention to the strengths and weaknesses of each theory.

Describes each theory.

Has little discussion of the theories.


Adapts and applies skills, abilities, theories, or methodologies gained in one situation to new situations.

Thoroughly compares and contrasts the theories giving attention to their specific differences and their similarities.


Compares and contrast the theories.



Has little or no comparison/contrast.



Connections to Experience


Gives excellent examples of how he has seen someone else use each of these theories.

Gives examples of how he has used or has seen someone else use these theories.

Makes an inaccurate or incomplete application of one or more theories.

Reflection and Self-Assessment

Demonstrates a developing sense of self as a learner, building on prior experiences to respond to new and challenging contexts (may be evident in self-assessment, reflective, or creative work)

Gives specific examples of how he will use the theories in their personal and business lives. Must apply all theories

Gives some examples of how they will use these theories in his life.

Paper includes little application.

Integrated Communication


Writing and Documentation—See the writing guidelines

Demonstrates excellent writing and documentation skill using the APA method of documentation without errors in the body of the paper and in the references.

Demonstrates average writing skills making few mistakes in grammar or spelling.  Uses the APA method of documentation with only one or two mistakes in the body of the paper or references.

Has multiple problems using the APA method of documentation. Paper may also include grammar problems, writing, or spelling problems.





Persuasion and Influence
in American Life

Seventh Edition

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Persuasion and Influence
in American Life

Seventh Edition

Gary C. Woodward
College of New Jersey

Robert E. Denton, Jr.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Long Grove, Illinois

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For information about this book, contact:
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All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted
in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher.

Printed in the United States of America

7 6 5 4 3 2 1

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Preface xiii

1 Persuasion and Influence 1
The Necessity and Challenge of Persuasion 4
Persuasion Defined 4
Five Introductory Settings 8

The Unanticipated Effects of Selling Inclusion 8
Doubt and Influence in the Jury Room 9
Advocating Dangerous Forms of Religion 11
A Campus Food Fight 13

Persuasion in Everyday Life 14
What These and Other Persuasion Settings Suggest 16

Persuasion is as much about sources as messages. 16
Persuasion is measured by its effects on others. 16
Persuasion is enormously difficult. 16
Even minimal effects can be important. 18
Persuasion can easily stray toward the arts of deception. 19
Persuasion outcomes are not very predictable. 19

Three Types of Communication 20
Pure Information 20
Pure Expression 21
Pure Persuasion 21

Summary 22


vi ? Contents

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2 The Advocate in an Open Society 27
Freedom of Expression and Its Limits 28
Subduing Advocacy in a One-Party State 30
Weighing the Value of Public Opinion 32

“Man Is the Measure of All Things.” 34
Individual Freedom and the American Experience 35
The Technological Push toward Openness 38

How “Open” Is American Society? 39
Governmental Controls 39
Corporate Controls 41

Summary 44

3 The Advocate and the Management of Symbols 49
The Nature of Language 51

Signs 51
Symbols 52
Meaning 52
Functions of Language 55

Language, Interaction, and Reality 59
The Creation of Reality through Interaction 59
Self as a Product of Interaction with Others 60
Society as a Product of Interaction with Others 60

Political Uses of Language 61
Functions of Political Language 62
Strategic Uses of Political Language 64
Common Political Language Devices 68

The Changing Nature of Public and Political Discourse 73
Summary 76

Origins of Persuasive Practice 25

Contents ? vii

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4 Persuasion and Reasoning 81
Understanding Practical Arguments: Key Distinctions 83

Analytic Arguments and Practical Enthymemes 84
Demonstration and Argumentation 87
Factual and Judgmental Claims 88
Implied and Stated Components of Arguments 90
Reasoning to Discover and to Defend 91
Finding Good Reasons for Claims 91
The Most Common Error of Reasoning Analysis:

The Alleged Logic–Emotion Distinction 92

Common Forms of Defective Reasoning 93
Ad Hominem 94
False Cause 94
Non Sequitur 95
Circular Argument 96
Fallacy of Oversimplification 97
Excessive Dependence on Authority 98

How Persuasion and Logical Argumentation Differ 98
Denial Often Defeats Reasoning 98
Persuasion’s “Self-Interest” and Argumentation’s “Public Interest” 100

Summary 102

5 Theories and Models of Source Credibility 105
The Three Meanings of “Credibility” 107

Ethos as Good Character 108
The Rational/Legal Ideal of Credibility 109
Source Credibility as Believability 112

Credibility as Authority: Strategic Dimensions 116
Legitimation 116
Mystification 118
Anonymity and Identity Concealment 119
Two-Step Flow 120
Source/Placebo Suggestion 121
Authoritarianism and Acquiescence 122

Summary 125

Four Perspectives on the Nature of Persuasion 79

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6 The Mind in Persuasion 129
Cognitive Elements Affecting Persuasion 130

Beliefs 131
Attitudes 131
Values 134
How These Elements Work Together 134

Essential Theories and Models of Persuasion 135
Stimulus-Response Theory 135
Inoculation Theory 136
Attribution Theory 138
Consistency Theory I: Theory of Cognitive Dissonance 140
Consistency Theory II: Theory of Induced Discrepant Behavior 143
The Boomerang Effect 144
Social Judgment Theory 146
Elaboration Likelihood Theory 148
The Motivated Sequence 152
Theory of Motivated Reasoning 153

Summary 153

7 Persuasion, Audiences, and Social Learning 157
A Conceptual Baseline: Social Learning 159
Audiences: The Generative Forces of Persuasion 160

The Challenge of Finding Homogenous Audiences 161
Is There a Common Center? 162

The Audience Analysis Process 163
The Principle of Identification 164
Universal Commonplaces 165
Audience-Specific Norms 167

Advocates, Messages, and Audiences 170
Believing in Our Words 170
High Credibility/High Agreement Persuasion 172
High Credibility/Low Agreement Persuasion 172
Low Credibility/High Agreement Persuasion 173
Low Credibility/Low Agreement Persuasion 174

Summary: The Ethics of Adaptation 175

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8 Interpersonal Persuasion 181
Dimensions of Interpersonal Communication 183
Variables of Interpersonal Persuasion 184

Verbal Characteristics 184
Nonverbal Characteristics 185
Power and Control 189
Compliance-Seeking Messages 190
Conflict 194
Gender Differences 199
Culture and Diversity 202
Leadership 204

Contexts of Interpersonal Persuasion 207
Organizations 207
Sales 213
Interviews 217

Summary 219

9 Public and Mass Persuasion 223
Public Communication and Persuasion 224

Characteristics of Public Communication 225
Public Opinion and Persuasion 226

Persuasive Campaigns 229
Product or Commercial Campaigns 230
Public Relations Campaigns 230
Political Campaigns 232
Issue Campaigns 234

Social Movements 244
Characteristics 244
Persuasive Functions 246
Life Cycle 247
Leadership 248
Resistance to Social Movements 249

Campaign Implementation 250
Summary 251

The Contexts of Persuasion 179

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10 Advertising as Persuasion 255
Advertising Today 256

Expenditures 256
Celebrity Endorsements 257
Cross Selling 258

What Is Advertising? 259
The Evolution of Advertising from a

Communication Perspective 262
Cultural Frames 262
Identification with a Product 264
Using Music to Structure the Message 264

The Role of Psychology in Advertising 266
Neuromarketing 266
Psychographics 268
Branding 269

How Advertising Works 270
Consumer Decision Making 271
Involvement 272
Creating Demand 272
Reach, Frequency, and Integrated Marketing 274
Subliminal Advertising 276

Advertising as Myth 277
Common Advertising Appeals 280

Emotional Appeals 280
Transformative Appeals 282
Rational-Functional Appeals 285

How to Critique Ads 285
Criticisms of Advertising 287

Deception 287
Language 289
Children 290
Consumerism 292
Social Effects 292
Freedom of Speech 293
Privacy 293
Private versus Public Interests 294

What Can I Do? 295
Summary 295

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11 Political Persuasion 299
Language, Communication, Politics, and Persuasion 302
Characteristics of Political Communication and Persuasion 304

Short-Term Orientation 304
Specific Objectives 305
Mediated 305
Audience Centered 305

Ideology 306
The Political Socialization Process 307

Political Socialization Outcomes 307
Agents of Political Socialization 308
Levels of Interaction 310

Forms of Political Persuasion 311
Administrative Persuasion 311
Legislative Persuasion 313
Campaign Persuasion 316
Political Persuasion through Symbolic and Status Issues 323
Political Persuasion in the Context of Entertainment 324

What We Can Learn from Political Persuasion 327
Limited Effects Model 327
Significant Effects Model 328

Politics and Trust 328
Summary 329

12 Ethical Considerations of Persuasion 335
Ethics, Values, and Principles 338
Communication, Ethics, and Society 339

Persuasion and Communication Ethics 341
Sources of Attitudes and Values 342
Categories of Communication Ethics 344

Issues and Strategies of Message Preparation 333

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Considerations for Ethical Communication 346
Communicator Considerations 346
Message Considerations 347
Medium Considerations 347
Receiver Considerations 348
Ethical Values of Communicators 348

Areas of Special Concern 349
Media and New Technologies 349
News Journalism 352
Politics and Political Communication 356
Public Discourse 359

Summary 361

13 Constructing and Presenting Persuasive Messages 365
Strategic Considerations for Nondiscursive Persuasion 367

The Visual Image 368
Honoring Gestalt Values in Visual Design 369
Set Realistic Goals 376
Keep the Message Thematically Simple 376
Consider the Appropriate Cultural Palette 376
Use a Sympathetic Figure or Key Icon to

Communicate Your Central Idea 378
Frame the Discussion in the Imagery of

Heroes, Villains, and Victims 379

Strategic Considerations of a Set Presentation 379
Know the Audience 380
Determine Your Objectives 381
Determine Your Thesis 382
Develop Main Points as Good Reasons 383
Amplify and Support the Main Points 384
Write the Introduction 386
Prepare the Outline 389
Presenting the Message 390

Two Additional Considerations for Discursive Messages 391
When to Reveal the Thesis 391
Whether to Recognize Opposing Views 392

Summary 392

Endnotes 395
Index 431

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The first edition of this book was published twenty-five years ago. At that time
interest in persuasion in universities was largely defined by a tight circle of con-
cerns drawn largely from the fields of rhetoric, communication theory, and experi-
mental psychology. But the circumference of the subject’s boundaries has grown to
such an extent that it is even pushing against formerly distant fields such as ethnog-
raphy and neurobiology. Researchers now track “neural pathways” activated when
subjects are exposed to everything from “shooter” video games to deodorant ads.1

Factor in recent interest in personal and social media, alternative routes to tradi-
tional advertising, or “screen time” as a measure of the dominant activity of
humans during their waking hours, and it becomes evident why nearly everyone
now seems interested in the processes of personal influence.

We enthusiastically endorse the expanding exploration of persuasion, although
with some concern about the growing fashion for seeking answers using brain
imaging devices. It is increasingly common to find research where neural imaging
is used to map the “brain activity” of individuals while they view movies, play
video games, or scan web pages.2 There is no question that we have much to learn
about specific brain locations and routes that are awakened by certain kinds of
media and presentational forms. And while there is ample evidence that some mes-
sages and activities influence hormone releases that affect mood and feelings, we
believe such mapping feeds a growing impression that a relatively new “science”
will give the analysis of persuasion a form of certainly that it has never had. We
heartily welcome all forms of research that give us more insight into how we pro-
cess communications, but we doubt that persuasion can be usefully understood as a
function of electrochemical processes.3 The reduction of cognition to the connec-
tivity of neurons is like describing a piece of music in terms of the physics of the air
pressure created by the musicians who created it. To be sure, it is easy to measure
sound this way, converting pressure into frequencies, and perhaps displaying them
on an audio analyzer. But to study music or persuasion by focusing on their physical
processes has the effect of mistaking the conditions necessary for their production
with their essence.


xiv ? Preface

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It is important to remember that human communication must be understood
as a cluster of outcomes produced when minds are engaged. The brain is indeed the
physical site where thinking—cognition—takes place. But unlike nearly all other
body organs, it has no single function. In terms of higher-order mental activities, it
facilitates thought and perception, but in ways that are always unique to the experiences
of an individual. An individual’s presence—a rich mix of genetics, personal and
social history, and attendant memories—must be measured in terms of what we
say and do, what we “know,” what we believe about our intentions and the inten-
tions of others, and so on. Thinking, decision-making, the weighing of options, the
interpretation of other’s words are the functions that are more interesting for why
they occur than where they occur. The brain is so “plastic”—various centers accom-
modate so many different kinds of thought—that any search for a single “pathway”
of cognition seems far too simple. Neuroscience usually concedes as much.4 And
that acknowledgement serves as a healthy reminder that the analyst of persuasion
must be an interpreter of the person in their world.

The processes of influence discussed in this book are drawn from a holistic per-
spective that marries the social and “hard” sciences to the humanities and the ori-
gins of persuasion in rhetorical theory. This mix of approaches reflects the view
that this is a subject that must be explored by placing the individual not just in
material realm but also in the conceptual space of their experiences, ideas, atti-
tudes, and social judgments.

These myriad complexities keep us humble. The basic idea of a textbook is that
it will offer settled knowledge about its subject. But that has never really been true
of persuasion, where the contingencies and unique features of every situation com-
plicate efforts to make definitive claims. The subject requires respect for nuance
and a capacity to accept unanticipated outcomes. Students of persuasion may use
the tools of the sciences to test various strategies and approaches, but in basic ways
persuasion rarely submits to the kinds of certainties to which researchers aspire.
Though textbook style is traditionally the very definition of certainty, we are happy
to acknowledge the very soft ground on which theories of influence rest.

As you would expect this far into the new millennium, this edition pays more
attention to social media and online communities, to Internet product and politi-
cal marketing, and to refinements of theories and models that have become part of
the canon of persuasion theory. To better highlight the growing terminology avail-
able for analysis, key ideas in each chapter are set off from the running text in bold
italics, and simple definitions follow. We hope this formatting creates a useful run-
ning glossary of key terms that can be easily referenced when reading or reviewing
a chapter.

As with earlier editions, we examine the process of seeking influence from its
roots in the timeless ideals of democratic institutions and social ethics. And we
continue to see it as a set of interactions typically involving active rather than pas-
sive agents. From this perspective, persuasion is not necessarily something some-
one does to others. In its best forms, it works with willing recipients and attentive
persuaders, often in the same space. When asked about his techniques for manag-
ing the outsized Hollywood egos that filled his days, the former chairman of Sony
Pictures offered a piece of candid advice that seemed as accurate as it was simple.

Preface ? xv

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He noted that success often amounts to just being “in the same room” with some-
one and “breathing the same air.”5 As academics we instinctively want to add qual-
ifiers and exceptions, but his comment is a good place to start.

1 See, for example, Tom Hummer, et. al, “Short-Term Violent Video Game Play by Adolescents Alters

Prefrontal Activity During Cognitive Inhibition,” Media Psychology; April–June, 2010, pp. 136–154,
Ebsco Communication and Mass Media Complete, http://ezproxy.tcnj.edu:2417/ehost/

2 Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains (New York: Norton, 2011), pp.

3 For a preliminary look at how neuroscience fits into studies of communication see Jack Jordynn and
Gregory Appelbaum, “‘This is your Brain on Rhetoric:’ Research Directions of Neurorhetorics,”
Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Vol. 40, No. 5, 2010, pp. 422–437. See also Sally Satel and Scott Lilienfeld,
Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience (New York: Basic Books, 2013), pp. ix–xxiii.

4 Steven Pinker, “My Genome, My Self,” The New York Times Magazine, January 11, 2009, p. 50, and
Ibid, pp. 26–35.

5 Michael Cieply, “In Film and Life, The Story Is King,” The New York Times, February 27, 2011, Sun-
day Business, p. 6.

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Persuasion and Influence


? The Necessity and Challenge of Persuasion

? Persuasion Defined

? Five Introductory Settings
The Unanticipated Effects of Selling Inclusion
Doubt and Influence in the Jury Room
Advocating Dangerous Forms of Religion
A Campus Food Fight
Persuasion in Everyday Life

? What These and Other Persuasion Settings Suggest
Persuasion is as much about sources as messages
Persuasion is measured by its effects on others
Persuasion is enormously difficult
Even minimal effects can be important
Persuasion can easily stray toward the arts of deception
Persuasion outcomes are not very unpredictable

? Three Types of Communication
Pure Information
Pure Expression
Pure Persuasion


2 ? Chapter One

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The pursuit of wisdom through discourse is, after all, the charac-
teristic humanistic act. We are all worshipers of Peitho, the God-
dess of Persuasion.1

—Hugh D. Duncan

Every year about 30,000 men and women between the ages of 18 and 21 pass
through a well manicured collection of low buildings that adjoin the Provo campus
of Brigham Young University. The Missionary Training Center of The Church of
Latter Day Saints (LDS), perhaps the largest institution for that purpose in the
world, lies at the base of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains. The specific goal of the center
is to prepare recruits to proselytize Mormonism in the United States and overseas.
These novice missionaries spend up to twelve weeks honing their foreign language
skills, studying the Book of Mormon and the Bible, and getting ready for the rigors
of 10-hour days of communicating with strangers in distant locales. It’s all part of
the church’s tradition of encouraging young members to devote two years of their
lives to finding new converts.

This massive effort at persuasive outreach is a huge change from the mid-nine-
teenth century, when small groups of followers of Joseph Smith escaped the East
and Midwest in their own diaspora. Although the Mormons eventually settled in
the geographic isolation of Utah with the hope of being left alone, the LDS Church
is now among the largest five denominations in the United States, and one of the
fastest growing religions in the world.

All male Mormons over 18 are asked to serve on a mission, and about half do.
Women who are at least 21 can also join the ranks, but they do so in smaller num-
bers.2 After they leave the training center, individuals are assigned a partner who
will be their constant companion for the duration of the mission. Young men in
buttoned-down white shirts, pressed slacks, and conservative haircuts easily stand
out from their surroundings. They may end up in Baltimore, Manila, or Sao Paulo,
but they all look like they could have just walked out of the pages of your grandpar-
ent’s high school yearbook.

Missionaries call potential converts “investigators,” recognizing that conver-
sion is usually not sudden. Investigators seem at least willing to listen, often at bus
stops, or on street corners, and front yards. The logic is that the more they learn, the
more willing they may be to explore the church or to attend services or meetings.

The Student Manual at the Missionary Training Center sees the task of winning
converts in terms of the expected biblical admonitions to go out and serve as wit-
nesses for the faith. In this frame of reference, missionaries often think of them-
selves as “sharing” or “teaching” the two primary works in the Mormon canon,
with the hope that some of these scriptures will be prophetic or provide moral clar-
ity.3 The church also emphasizes the classic persuasion idea that you should physi-
cally embody what you advocate, a principle that echoes back to ancient rhetorics

Persuasion and Influence ? 3

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that urged persuaders to show in their own conduct the values that they espouse.
New missionaries are taught to be positive, courteous, and to approach every per-
son as a potential new friend. They also talk up the importance of family and try to
communicate with the unambiguous certainty of a committed believer. This is not
an effort that owes much to the irony or cynicism that flows through much of the
rest of American life.4 Earnestness is the order of the day.

Many new recruits are initially shy. Most who openly write about their experi-
ences are positive about the experience. But a reader of these accounts sometimes
gets a sense that many of the church’s volunteers don’t see themselves as natural per-
suaders.5 After all, this is not going to be their career. Some appear to struggle to find
the confidence to approach people in settings far different than the prosperous Rocky
Mountain enclave that is the center of the LDS church. What do you say to an
impoverished mother of seven in a rundown section of Columbus, Ohio? One resi-
dent, Star Calley, feels the awkwardness of the moment, but invites Jonathan Hoy
and Taylor Nielsen to sit on her porch and talk. She worries about raising her kids in
the neighborhood. The missionaries listen, sympathize, and then ask her to pray with
them.6 After they leave, she admits she was just trying to be nice, noting that “it must
take a lot of courage to do what they do, for all the good it does.”7 For their part, they
hope they can come by again, perhaps building on a first encounter to offer more
reassurance that her family will be better off within the local LDS community.

The Manual also offers a range of more secular advice about how to maximize
success. As a general rule, it urges missionaries to follow what is by now an axiom of
political persuasion: look for people who have recently been buffeted by reversals or
unwanted change. “People who are experiencing significant changes in their lives—
such as births, deaths, or moving into new homes—are often ready to learn about the
restored gospel and make new friendships.”8 It also reminds recruits to find a way to
be brief and effective. What can be offered to someone waiting for a bus, or a person
who is willing to give up just a few minutes? The promise of eternal salvation is, of
course, the primary message. But there are other inducements that open doors as well,
such as helping someone do a simple household repair or offering to help a family
research its own history through the vast genealogical resources of the LDS church.9

One researcher studying Mormon missionaries estimates that in the thousands
of contacts a single member makes in a given year, he or she will convert only
about four to seven people.10 That can amount to a “success” rate of a fraction of
one percent. Jonathan Hoy went through the experience and remembers even
fewer but still found his limited success worth the effort. In 2007 Hoy recalls the
nearly 10,000 people he talked to during a 22-month stint in Ohio and Greece. He
especially remembers a young woman in Athens who converted after spending
time studying various “r