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Social Psychology 101: Persuading Others


Social psychology is the study of everyday life – the self, one’s relationships, social influence, and how people view and behave toward others. Its overarching themes center on the principles of situationism, meaning that situations have a powerful influence over behavior, subjectivism, meaning that everyone sees the world through a filtered perception, emergence, or the idea that phenomena are constructed rather than fundamental, and the fact that phenomena are multidimensional – they are the result of many factors. This 101 series examines various introductory topics in social psychology.

Social Psychology 101 is divided into the following chapters of content:

  1. Social Psychology 101: Conducting Research

  2. Social Psychology 101: Thinking in Social Contexts

  3. Social Psychology 101: Perceiving Others

  4. Social Psychology 101: The Mechanisms of Social Influence

  5. Social Psychology 101: Persuading Others

  6. Social Psychology 101: Attraction, Love, & Relationships

Social Psychology 101: Persuading Others

Persuasion exists in many aspects of human life, from the small, everyday social interactions people experience to the more significant realms of politics, religion, and education (Petty & Briñol, 2008). It is in the advertisements one is subjected to and in the advice from a friend. When one person is persuaded by another, an attitude of theirs changes. Everyone holds certain attitudes or relatively ongoing evaluations about things, which involve a preference for or against those things (Stangor et al., 2022). Attitude formation and change are frequently social processes as attitudes are often learned from others, are affected by persuasion from others, and have the power to bind communities together (Albarracín et al., 2018). The principle of attitude consistency predicts that people’s attitudes are likely to guide their behavior, so attitude change by persuasion is a significant psychological phenomenon to examine (Stangor et al., 2022). Attitudes based on high levels of thinking are more “accessible, stable, [and] resistant to counter messages, and predictive of behavior” than attitudes built on little thought, so the most effective persuasive messages motivate people to think and enable them to understand the message at hand (Petty & Briñol, 2008). This article will explore the factors that make a message persuasive, describe how mental processing affects attitude change, and explain the techniques used to persuade others to comply.

Figure 1: Persuasion is the process of one person changing the attitudes of another person (Edwards, 2014).

The Factors of Persuasive Messages

When persuading others, there are several categories