Chapter 7: Superficial and systematic routes to persuasion: From snap judgments to considered opinions (pp. 238–258)
- How are people influenced?
- Which information is the most persuasive?
- Do we process all information in the same way?
- Do our emotions influence our information processing?
In this topic
Superficial Processing: Persuasion Shortcuts (pp. 235–245)
- Attitudes by association
- Moods as heuristic cues: If I feel good, I must like it
- The familiarity heuristic: Familiarity makes the heart grow fonder
- The attractiveness heuristic: Agreeing with those we like
- The expertise heuristic: Agreeing with those who know
- The message-length heuristic: Length equals strength
Systematic Processing of Persuasive Communications (pp. 245–249)
- Processing message content
Superficial and Systematic Processing: Which Strategy, When? (pp. 249–258)
- How motivation influences superficial and systematic processing
- How capacity influences superficial and systematic processing
- The impact of capacity on heeding health-related messages
- How personality differences influence superficial and systematic processing
- How moods and emotions influence superficial and systematic processing
Superficial Processing: Persuasion Shortcuts
Even when you are processing superficially, some information is getting through. Simple pieces of information are associated with, and activate, positive and negative evaluations, and can act as persuasion heuristics.
Attitudes by association
Adding positive associations to an attitude object can boost its evaluation (evaluative conditioning).
Moods as heuristic cues: If I feel good, I must like it
Your actual feeling tells you if you like the attitude object.
The familiarity heuristic: Familiarity makes the heart grow fonder
The more often you have contact with an attitude object, the more positive your evaluation will be (the mere exposure effect). Familiar stimuli can be more persuasive, irrespective of whether they are true or not.
The attractiveness heuristic: Agreeing with those we like
We agree with people we like.
The expertise heuristic: Agreeing with those who know
An expert has the knowledge and can be trusted. A message that is delivered rapidly is also more credible. Trustworthiness is an important characteristic for a credible communicator.
The message-length heuristic: Length equals strength
The longer the message, the more valid it appears to be.
Systematic Processing of Persuasive Communications
Processing message content
There are four steps involved in systematic processing:
- Attending to the message: Make sure attention is drawn to the message.
- Comprehending the message: Keep the message simple.
- Reacting to message content: This is through the process of elaboration.
- Accepting the advocated position: People have to accept the intended message.
Research activity: Systematic processing
Superficial and Systematic Processing: Which Strategy, When?
How motivation influences superficial and systematic processing
- Mastery motivation: When being accurate is very important, you will be more motivated to process systematically.
- Connectedness and me and mine motivation: When something is personally relevant, you will be more motivated to process systematically.
How capacity influences superficial and systematic processing
- The ability to process: Sometimes you lack the cognitive capacity to process systematically.
- The opportunity to concentrate: Distraction prevents systematic processing.
The impact of capacity on heeding health-related messages
Drugs and alcohol reduce the capacity to process systematically. Therefore, people are more sensitive to superficial cues.
How personality differences influence superficial and systematic processing
- Need for cognition: People with a high need for cognition are more eager to process information systematically.
- Self-monitoring: High self-monitors zero in on image-focused messages; low self-monitors are more attuned to value-expressive appeals.
- Promotion/prevention focus: Promotion focused people are more persuaded by gain-oriented appeals, whereas prevention focused people find messages that talk about avoiding losses more compelling.
How moods and emotions influence superficial and systematic processing
There are mixed results of emotions on the way people process. Sometimes emotions increase persuasion, but sometimes they make persuasion less likely.
- When the situation is good, superficial processing may take place.
- If positive emotions are a result of the task, this can encourage systematic processing.
- If you think information will keep you in a good mood, again this can encourage systematic processing.
- Positive events may lead to less capacity, hence resulting in superficial processing.
- The level of fear influences motivation and the capacity for processing.
- If no fear is aroused, no attention is paid to a message.
- The right amount of fear leads to the motivation to process systematically.
- Extreme fear can lead to a message being avoided or ignored (self-protection).
Anxiety can lead to less cognitive space being available, resulting in superficial processing.
Feelings of guilt make us more susceptible to persuasion.
So what does this mean?
When people are targets of persuasion, often they do not give persuasive communications much thought. In this case various superficial aspects of the persuasive appeal, like persuasion heuristics, can lead to attitude change. The mere exposure effect can make people feel more positively about objects they have frequently encountered. Sometimes people do carefully consider the content of arguments presented in a persuasive communication.
When people pay attention to a message, understand its content, and react to it (a process called elaboration), systematic processing can change attitudes. Attitudes resulting from such careful consideration last longer and are much more resistant to later change than most attitudes produced by superficial processing. People process messages systematically only when they have both the motivation and the cognitive capacity to do so. Messages that match people's motivational goals and their capacity states are most persuasive. Positive and negative emotional states influence persuasion because they have motivational and capacity consequences.