Last Updated 16 Jun 2020

Discuss the Relationship Between Persuasion and Attitude Change.

Category Attitude
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Discuss the relationship between persuasion and attitude change. The procedure of changing attitudes to then furthermore change behaviour has led psychologists to develop research into the topic of how persuasion takes place. The Hovland-Yale model was initially developed to persuade the American public for more support in the last stages of WW2. It was learnt that in order to persuade effectively, the need was to focus on who and what. Principally the content, the audience and the communicator.

It was found that the most effective sources were experts as they had more credibility than non-experts, but also popular and attractive sources were more effective than unattractive sources. Bochner & Insko asked students to suggest how much sleep was needed, before showing them two different sources of information - an expert and a non-expert. Students were more persuaded by the expert even when it conflicted with their own beliefs. Another finding from the model found that messages are more effective if the audience feels that their main purpose is not to persuade.

Also, if a message contains a moderate level of fear it becomes more successful. McGuire also found that there was a primacy effect in messages. His research found that when he was trying to persuade students to join a course, he was more persuasive if he gave the positive points first. The final factor involved in the Hovland-Yale model is audience factors. It was seen that moderately intelligent audience members were more easily persuaded and when aiming at high intelligence audience members, it would be more effective to present both sides of the argument.

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The Elaboration-Likelihood model focuses on the message itself and splits this into two sections. Whether the audience focuses on the main content of the message or if they focus on other factors such as the communicator giving the message. Petty et al. called this the central and peripheral route. The central route audience members focus on the quality of the arguments and are motivated to think about the message. It’s been suggested that this has a lasting attitude change.

The peripheral route is quite the opposite as audience members are not motivated to think about the message and they focus on the peripheral tools (such as music, celebrities, colour) rather than the arguments presented. Attitude change through the peripheral route is temporary. The Hovland-Yale model has good research support for all three factors involved in the model. Morton et al. found that children had more favourable attitudes after being given information from an expert (doctor) than a parent. Lewis et al. ound that fear arousing messages were effective in the short-term, but messages containing humour were more effective in the long-term. However, Fechback et al. found that high fear level was most effective in messages which disputes McGuire’s findings. However, McGuire’s findings can also be explained another way to show support. If following the basis of the psychodynamic approach, messages using high fear arousal may trigger defence mechanisms such as denial or repression in audience members, suggesting moderate fear level is the most effective.

Research also supports the key points of the Elaboration-Likelihood model. A psychologist supports the claim that the central route is more effective for high need-for-cognition audience members. Models have heavily relied on laboratory based research, which causes us to question the ecological validity. However, real-life application has occurred and found that when students were exposed to a fact-based or emotion-based health campaign, the higher NC individuals were more influenced by the central route (fact-based) and the lower NC were more persuaded by the peripheral route (emotion-based).

Although both models are heavily supported by research, many research studies have involved students which brings problems of generalisation. Students have an age, wealth, and education status which is not typical of the general public. In addition, experimenters have exposed participants solely to their stimuli, whereas in the real world, we are exposed to thousands of media forms everyday; thus lacking in mundane realism.

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