Saturday, April 20, 2013

Week 9: Persuasion

Have you ever felt tricked or trapped into saying yes; contributing to a social cause; or buying something you didn’t really want? Each year, legions of ad people, copywriters, market researchers, pollsters, consultants, and even linguists spend billions of dollars and millions of man-hours trying to determine how to persuade consumers what to buy, whom to trust, and what to think (PBS, 2004). Merriam Webster Dictionary states that to persuade is to move by argument, entreaty, or expostulation to a belief, position, or course of action (2001).
Scientists, doctors, professors and other professionals often appear in ads and advocacy messages, lending their credibility to the product, service, or idea being sold (Media Literacy Project, 2013). We all seek the opinion of specialists or authorities that can provide true, accurate, and reliable advice. The principle of authority is the idea of the power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior (2001).

In September 1969, an American medical drama television program premiered on the ABC Network, Marcus Welby, M.D. The primary character, Dr. Welby was portrayed by Robert Young. He was featured in a coffee commercial that stated the benefits of drinking decaffeinated coffee. The ad campaign was successful because Young represented a successful show and he was the nation’s most famous physician. He received a quarter of a million letters from viewers most of whom were seeking medical advice (Cho, Wilson, & Choi, 2011). Young portrayed a doctor and was not qualified to disseminate medical advice.

Beautiful people celebrities or politician attract our attention. When people like you, they are more likely to say yes or whatever it is you are seeking. One component of liking is physical attractiveness. Research and marketing techniques are increasingly migrating to the high-stakes arena of politics, shaping policy and influencing how Americans choose their leaders (PBS, 2004).

 In 2005, Alexander Todorov of Princeton University published the article, Inferences of Competence from Faces Predict Election Outcomes. The published study indicates inferences were made within 1 second of viewing the faces of candidates. According to Todorov, inferences based solely on facial appearance predicted the outcomes of U.S. congressional elections better than chance (e.g., 68.8% of the Senate races in 2004) and also were linearly related to the margin of victory (Todorov, Mandisodza, Goren, & Hall, 2005).                           

As consumer we must become aware of persuasive techniques in order to make rational decisions.


(2004, November 9). Retrieved from PBS:

(2012). Retrieved from Influence at Work:

(2013). Retrieved from Media Literacy Project:

Cho, H., Wilson, K., & Choi, J. (2011). Perceived Realism of Television Medical Dramas and Perceptions About Physicians. Journal of Media Psychology, 141-148.

Dictionary, M.-W. C. (2001). Springfield: Merriam Webster, Incorporated.

Todorov, A., Mandisodza, A. N., Goren, A., & Hall, C. C. (2005). Inferences of Competence from Faces Predict Election Outcomes. Science, 1623-1626.

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