Power of persuasion, warps perception
Published: Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Updated: Monday, April 25, 2011 21:04
With the SGA elections coming up on April 15, a lot of speeches will be made to persuade student voters. The power of persuasion is used in order to capture our attention."Something that catches our attention, whether intended to be a persuasive communication, increases the possibility or a change in our attitude or behavior," said Brian Johnson, Psychology instructor.
However, according to Johnson, a more important way in which persuasion's power is seen comes from the fact that when we are exposed to a message for the first time, it will provide a means through which all future information on the topic will be perceived and filtered.
Johnson also gave the example that if a candidate for SGA says something is the single most important issue facing the student body, his or her opponent's claim that is something else is interpreted in light of the original comment.
"The language we use may be less about correct and objective discussion on an issue and more about influencing other's opinions by choosing words that are designed to create emotional reactions from others and lead to a less systematic analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of one's arguments," Johnson said. "We use language to basically frame messages so that one answer is seen as more acceptable than another answer."
Johnson said that in most elections, depending on the position the candidate is seeking, it will involve persuasive messages that seek to establish one's credibility. This will involve both a discussion of one's expertise and trustworthiness.
Just like in other social settings, in elections we attempt to influence other people's perceptions by showing ourselves to be more likable. We try to find a common ground or interest that we have as a candidate with what you have as a potential voter.
Another important factor that Johnson mentioned was how one presents his or her message.
"I'd expect to see two-sided appeals used,' Johnson said.
This would involve the candidate presenting their side of the argument and also their opponent's views.
"This is often seen as 'I'll first present my side to introduce the issue, address my opponent's side, and then rebut this alternative position.'"
However, if the candidate wants to simply encourage their own supporters to vote, the arguments are usually more one-sided because they want to reiterate their position again and again. Johnson said that repetition is used as a basic advertising and persuasion principle because the more we hear something, the more positive the evaluation is.
"That's why so many signs are seen around town in yards before state and federal elections as well as the writing and posters for student elections on campus," Johnson said.