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Soc 401 (Week 5 & 6)

Mass Communications

benjamin waddell

on 2 October 2014

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Transcript of Soc 401 (Week 5 & 6)

N of 182 (population of 1000 students)

Factorial analysis (3 x 2 x 2)
3 levels of fear; 2 levels of effectiveness and 2 levels of pain.

High-fear material and low-fear material
Distinction between opinion and attitude
What a person believes to be factually true
Transitory – can be changed by good clear evidence
An opinion that includes an evaluative and an emotional component
Extremely difficult to change compared to opinions
Prior experience of the audience
A fed, relaxed, and happy audience is more receptive.
(Janis et al.; Petty et al.; Cohen et al.)
However, warning audience a persuasive attempt coming increases their resistance to the message.

Teenagers should not drive study (Freedman & Sears)
Two groups (warning ten minutes before message, no warning)
Greater change in the control group that did not get a warning

Reactance theory (Brehm)
We attempt to restore our sense of freedom if we encounter a blatant or coercive persuasive attempt.
Milder message more effective in changing drinking attitudes (Bensley & Wu).
Blatant attempt to stop us signing petition will encourage us to act (Heilman).
Reactance is blunted when we are distracted (Festinger & Maccoby).
size of the discrepancy

Listening to arguments that differ from our opinions causes us discomfort.

Early research suggested that more discrepant messages lead to most change.

Critical missing factor:
credibility of the speaker

If a source has low to moderate credibility it would be better to argue closer to the audience’s latitude of acceptance

Curvilinear relationship

How well informed is the audience?
If they are well informed give a two-sided argument – why?
If they are not well informed give a one-sided argument – why?
What is the audience’s initial position before the argument?
If they are in favor of your argument give a one-sided argument– why?
If they are not in favor or mixed – give a two-sided argument ending with the counterarguments against the opposition’s side last – why?
We do not seem to respond to fear messages about global warming.
It is possible we have evolved to respond to clear and present dangers that are deliberate and not to ones that are slow, gradual, and not intentionally directed at us – like global warming (Daniel Gilbert).
Swine flu (N1H1 flu) pamphlet study (Matthew McGlone)
When wording made N1H1 sound like an attacker, more people scheduled flu shots; tapped into an evolutionary response?

Global Warming (Copenhagen Climate Meeting 2009)

Enviromental (British Petroleum Ads)
Global warming and fear messages (11th edition)
AIDS and fear messages (10th edition)

Even though condom use might be considered a specific instruction when paired with high fear messages, people do not practice safe sex.

It is possible the association of death and condoms inhibits erotic responsiveness at the time of sexual activity and leads people to avoid use.

Need to change the advertising to pair condoms with erotic excitement to lead to positive associations with condoms.
Media, youth, etc

Obamamania!: “Far from stoking self-presentational concerns, Obama’s campaign developed followers very willing and eager to be associated with him” (294).

The questions is how will these groupies react when confronted with the Obama Adminstration…
Survey 1 (month prior to election)

Survey 2 (2 weeks after)

DV = “change in candidate rating”

“On average, ratings of McCain decreased while ratings of Obama increased” (290).

N = 161 (57% female; 43% male)

Median age = 19

109 voted for Obama; 52 voted for McCain

“Feeling thermometer” (0-100)

Online survey
The Experiment: Part I

Social Identity Theory (SIT): “Our memberships in groups, be they the Republicans or Democrats, or Red Sox fans or Yankees fans, can become a significant part of our identity and, accordingly, our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can take on group-serving orientations” (284).

“Yes We Did,” by Chris Miller.
Self-esteem and Fear
Beauty (Mills & Aronson)
Found that a “beautiful” women was effective at influencing an audience on a topic irrelevant to her beauty.
Impact was greatest when she told the audience she was trying to influence them.

(Eagly & Chaiken)
The more likable people are, the more effective at persuading others
Participants expected attractive sources to support desirable positions.

People are most affected by attractive sources about
trivial issues
– not issues that are vitally important to us.
The source of the communication
(recall Milgram)
We believe those we consider both experts and trustworthy.
Oppenheimer vs. Pravda (Hovland & Weiss)
People were given the same persuasive message but one group thought it was from Oppenheimer while the other thought it was from Pravda.
Participants were more influenced by submarine argument if they thought it was from Oppenheimer than from Pravda.
Two Major Routes to Persuasion (Petty & Cacioppo)

Peripheral Routes
Less judicious consideration of the message - affected by simple messages - often irrelevant cues that suggest rightness, wrongness, or attractiveness

Central Routes
A more deliberate process that involves weighing arguments and considering relevant facts and figures, and thinking about issues in a systematic fashion.
The systematic propagation of a given doctrine
The act of imparting knowledge or skill
Political candidates speech, education or propaganda?

Math education as propaganda? (Zimbardo, Ebbesen, & Maslach)
Not objective and free of bias if problems suggest a certain doctrine as normal and usual (e.g., capitalism, marriage) as part of a word/story problem.

Whether an emotionally charged issue is considered education or propaganda may depend on a person’s values and beliefs.

No matter what we call it – it is still persuasion.
Mass Communication, Propaganda, and Persuasion
Effectiveness of Media Appeals
Politicians as Entertainers (poor vs rich candidates)
Susceptibility to commercials
90% of preschoolers asked their mothers for toy/food seen on TV.
Skepticism of truth in commercials grows quickly.
12% believed commercials always were truthful
4% of 10th graders

Does skepticism make us immune to persuasion?

Why are we influenced by familiarity?
The more we are exposed to something, the more we like it (e.g., faces).
When decisions are unimportant, we may select the most familiar brand (e.g., laundry detergent, aspirin, root beer).
When important , we also may select based upon familiarity.
Life insurance (e.g., Northwest Mutual Life Insurance Company)
Presidential election (e.g., Willie Horton and spot commercials)

Discussion Questions
How, and to what extent, does the mass media influence the public’s attitudes and behaviors? Do television shows and newscasts, for example, simply reflect what is happening in the world or do they carry the potential to actually cause real-life events? Apart from advertising, do you believe the members of the media engage in deliberate attempts to persuade people to adopt certain opinions and attitudes?

Do you think your knowledge about strategies of persuasion, propaganda, and communication can help you to resist unwelcome attempts at persuasion? Since we live in an age of mass communication— in which way are we subject to a daily onslaught of influence attempts— should children receive some kind of formal training or education about persuasion? Why or why not?

Does it matter that information is misrepresented about our society?
People who watch a lot of television may come to adopt a belief system which affects their expectations.
For example, they may take a hard-line stance when serving on juries believing that defendants must be guilty of something otherwise, they would not have been brought to trial.
When TV became available in a particular region of the country it coincided with a sharp rise in larceny in that area. Why?

inoculation effect
(McGuire et al.)
If a weak argument is presented against your stated position and you defeat it – the process teaches you how to attack stronger arguments against your position in the future.
This model is similar to how a vaccine allows the immune system to learn how to defeat stronger attacks by first defeating a weakened version of a virus.

Research support
7th grade smoking study (McAlister et al.)

Aronson’s Cold War propaganda example
Characteristics of the audience (self-esteem)

self-esteem- more resistant to changing initial opinion
self-esteem- do not have confidence in own opinions; more open to change

Political orientation (John Jost)
Conservatives have a greater need to manage uncertainty and threat.
Thus, conservatives are far more moved by arguments that induce fear and which cast issues in simple black and white terms than liberals.
Liberals tend to respond to more nuanced, fact-based arguments that appeal to reason rather than strong emotions.
Why would it be difficult for conservative and liberal individuals to rely on arguments they find persuasive and be effective at changing each other’s opinions about a topic?
and the threat of terrorism
If you scare people – give them specific ways to be vigilant and to respond when they identify threats.
The Director of Homeland Security and other high-ranking government officials have issued several warnings and guidelines for citizens to follow since the Sept. 11th attacks.
Did their warnings and instructions meet the criteria for effective persuasion that have been presented in this chapter? If not, how did they fail?
As you watch the commercials take note of the specific tactics that are used.
Do the commercials invoke fear or provide facts or both?
Keep a list of the different approaches that the respective commercials use.
Then, in groups and in light of the information discussed in the readings, discuss which tactics might be more effective at convincing the general public to take action.
Group Activity

In general, fear is more effective than logical appeals but it is difficult to completely separate the two types of messages (e.g., fluoride in drinking water).

Research on the severity of emotional appeals reveals that the more frightened people are by a message the more desire they have to take preventative action.

Smoking and X-ray study (three levels of fear)
Mass Communication, Propaganda, and Persuasion
“McCain voters who were lower in self-esteem showed greater CORF (see Figure 1).”
1st: observed yard and window signs endorsing presidential candidates after Election Day.

2nd: pre- and post-election thermometer ratings were collected in an online survey. The survey examined group identification, self-esteem, and self-serving attributions as possible moderators of BIRG.

MN (democrat) and TN (republican)

“As hypothesized, Obama signs were displayed longer than McCain signs after the 2008 presidential election. This is the first successful field study of BIRG of a U.S. presidential election."
The Experiment: Part I

“In one study, they found more students wearing university-identifying apparel after their football team won than after they lost” (Cialdini, 284).

Snyder et al. reasoned the image protection motivation which leads to Cutting Off Reflected Failure (CORF) was more common than the image-enhancement motivation that led to BIRG.
Basking In Reflected Glory (BIRG)
Cutting Off Reflected Failure (CORF)
Pain and Effectiveness
Reactions to Manipulations
Fear arousal and persuasion

Dental hygiene practices; tetanus inoculations; safe driving practices; cigarette smoking.

PSA Texting While Driving (U.K.):

Interest in actual behavior change
“Effects of Varying the Recommendations in a Fear-Arousing Communication,” by James M. Dabbs Jr. and Howard Leventhal.
Increasing trustworthiness
We believe those we consider both experts and trustworthy.
Contradicting self-interest
Joe “the shoulder” study (Aronson, Walster, & Abrahams)
Joe (a criminal) was as effective as a politician persuading participants about the merits of stricter courts and prison sentences.
Such an argument does not help a criminal.

Businessman versus environmentalist (Eagly, et al.)
When they argued against a position that would benefit them they were more persuasive to the participants.

“Unintentional” persuasion
(Walster & Festinger)
EF Hutton commercial – overheard comments not intended for person are more persuasive because they are believed not to be a persuasive attempt.
Mitt Romney video.
Messages are often a mix of both.

Messages that target the peripheral route are often most effective.
The effect of rhyme on the persuasiveness of the argument
O.J. Simpson trial
College students and rhyming aphorisms (McGlone)

“Estate tax” vs. “Death tax”; No Child Left Behind
Media contagion
(emotional contagion)
The rapid transmission of emotions or behaviors through a crowd
The Tylenol poisoning in Chicago and teen suicides
Initial explosion of media coverage may have lead to copycats.

David Phillips research
Large increase in teen suicides when compared rates before and after the stories were run on national broadcasts.
The more coverage on broadcasts, the higher the suicide rates.
Also held true of single car accidents with no passengers.
Considered a form of suicide
Single car accidents increased when compared before to after stories.
No increase for accidents with passengers or multicar accidents.
Victim’s age highly correlated to age of person in the suicide broadcast.
Mass Communication, Propaganda, and Persuasion
Age of
mass communication
Donald Rumsfeld learns about the internet
The impact of movies and TV shows (e.g., The Day After; Roots; Cry Rape; Rodney King/Riots; OJ Simpson)
News media events (e.g., Sept. 11th and the Twin Towers)
Can you think of other examples?

Age of
mass persuasion
Explicit attempts by advertisers
Subtle or unintentional influence by news or the arts
Are newscasters trying to sell us anything?
Which items are covered or left out (e.g., entertainment value?)
Flood vs Levee
Mass Communication,
Propaganda, and Persuasion
Chapter 3

Mass Communication, Propaganda, and Persuasion

of communicator (Aronson & Golden)
Same message about the importance of math given to white 6th graders by either an engineer or a dish washer (the engineer was more persuasive).
When the race of the engineer was varied (black, white) the black engineer was least effective for highly prejudiced children. However, the black engineer was most persuasive for the children who were low in prejudice.
Being influenced by irrelevant peripheral characteristics of a source is maladaptive but just what advertisers of products capitalize upon.
Can you think of some recent examples?
I used to say that politics was the second-oldest profession. I have come to know that it bears a gross similarity to the first.
-Ronald Reagan

The role of
High self-esteem
people act right away to a high fear message.
Low self-esteem
initially do not act, but do so later (initially overwhelms).
Study manipulated size of screen and distance away while watching a film about car accidents (Leventhal et al.).
Close - big screen initially inhibited low self-esteem, more likely to act when they saw the film on a small screen.
Mass Communication, Propaganda, and Persuasion
statistical evidence
single person examples
One clear, vivid example can be more impactful than statistics.
Consumer Reports and my cousin’s Volvo (Nisbett et al.)
What would you do if you had a hole the size of a basketball in your living room? (Aronson)
61% had work done when vivid language used (15% when did not)
My mom says....
Effects of TV watching (
Staggering amounts of TV watched in the U.S. daily

Shows that are watched are not value free
George Gerbner analyzed shows since 1960s and found that gender, ethnicity, social economic status, and the prevalence of crime are consistently misrepresented.
"The Impact of Mass Media Violence on U.S. Homicides," by David P. Phillips.
The study (3rd day spike, like suicides)
H1 Personal experience

H2 Modeling hypothesis

H3 Precipitation

H4 Gambling
"Unless a compelling deterrent exists, people who anticipate danger prefer to do something rather than nothing" (109).

Warfare: Vietnam, 9/11, current strikes on ISIS?
Bullying the new kid?
Xenophobia: immigrants?
Order of presentation

What is the
primacy effect
? – a learning effect
What is the
recency effect
? – a memory effect
Which is more effective?
Depends on time (Miller & Campbell – jury trail study)
If no delay occurs between speeches but decision delayed – primacy is better.
If a delay occurs between speeches but no decision delay – recency is better.

Research evidence (Aronson Turner, & Carlsmith)

Participants read and judged a passage of poetry.
People then read an essay review of the same piece of poetry.
Essay was (mildly, moderately, extremely) different
Manipulated the source credibility as well (T.S. Eliot, college student)
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