The impact of the social context on resistance to persuasion: Effortful versus effortless responses to counter-attitudinal information (2023)

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

Volume 44, Issue 3,

May 2008

, Pages 640-649

Author links open overlay panel,


Past research has demonstrated that the presence of attitudinal diversity within a person’s social network increases his or her openness to attitude change. The current research explores whether this increased openness to attitude change is the result of relatively thoughtful or nonthoughtful processes. A nationally representative sample of US adults was exposed to a counter-attitudinal persuasive message that contained either strong or weak arguments. Attitudinal diversity within participants’ social networks was associated with greater argument quality differentiation: people embedded in networks that included a variety of views were more likely than those in attitudinally homogenous networks to carefully scrutinize attitude-relevant information, modifying their attitudes in response to strong but not weak arguments.

Section snippets

Attitude strength

Attitudes can be profoundly influential, shaping our perceptions of the world and guiding our responses to the objects we encounter. A favorable attitude toward a political candidate, for example, can color our perception of his or her debate performance, motivate us to put a bumper sticker on our car, and ensure that we turn out on election day to vote for that candidate. Further, our attitude may exhibit tremendous durability, resilient even in the face of a strong challenge.

Not all attitudes

Social network composition and attitude strength

In addition to these intra-individual features, researchers have also turned their attention to social factors that may also regulate the strength of an individual’s attitudes. Some scholars have focused on the “social networks” in which people are embedded (Huckfeldt & Morehouse Mendez, 2004, Mutz, 2002b, Visser and Mirabile, 2004). A social network consists of the people with whom an individual maintains ongoing personal relationships and discusses important matters. An individual’s social

(Video) M-26. Persuasion

Attitude change through what process?

The finding that attitudinal diversity within social networks increases attitude change opens the door to a new set of questions about the social bases of attitude strength. The first among these involves the process through which this attitude change occurs.

Dual process models of persuasion posit two relatively distinct routes by which attitude change can occur. The elaboration-likelihood model (ELM; Petty & Cacioppo, 1986a) and the heuristic-systematic model (HSM; Chaiken, 1987) both suggest

Current study

To determine whether diversity of opinion within one’s social network triggers primarily thoughtful or nonthoughtful consideration of attitude-relevant information, we embedded an argument quality manipulation into a design that otherwise replicates that of Visser and Mirabile (2004). Like Visser and Mirabile, we assessed the attitudinal composition of participants’ social networks and explored openness to attitude change by exposing participants to a counter-attitudinal persuasive message. In

Participants and data collection

Data were collected from 353 participants via an internet-based survey administered by Knowledge Networks and supported by Time-sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences (TESS). Participants were selected from a nationally representative panel of adults initially recruited through random-digit dialing procedures. In exchange for completing surveys, panel members receive internet access and other incentives.1Of the 353 participants, 18 were

Argument quality

We assessed the effectiveness of our argument quality manipulation by comparing the magnitude of attitude change among participants who received strong versus weak arguments. Attitude change was calculated by subtracting participants’ post-message attitudes from their initial attitudes.6Positive values reflected attitude


The current results replicate and offer an instructive extension of prior findings regarding the impact of social network members’ attitudes on one’s openness to attitude change. As in past research, individuals embedded in social networks whose members held a variety of attitudes were less resistant to persuasion than individuals whose social network members held attitudes more congruent with their own. The current findings shed new light on the processes underlying this heightened


The results of the current investigation contribute to a growing appreciation of the social bases of attitude strength. Increasingly, attitude researchers have turned their attention to factors such as group membership and social identity, social roles, social power, culture, social norms, and social networks, and have begun to explore the implications of these social factors for attitude properties and processes. The social contexts in which people are situated vary in countless ways, and the


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    How does persuasion affect attitude? ›

    The affective feelings of the recipients of a persuasive message influence attitudes directly, but can ultimately change beliefs as well. The psychology of persuasion has often been concerned with the impact of feelings such as a happy or sad mood.

    How people's attitudes are externally changed through persuasion? ›

    In order to reduce dissonance, individuals can change their behavior, attitudes, or cognitions, or add a new cognition. External forces of persuasion include advertising; the features of advertising that influence our behaviors include the source, message, and audience.

    How does attitude change in persuasive communication? ›

    According to ELM, strong persuasive arguments result in a flow of positive associations and in attitude change in the direction of the message. Weak arguments drive an individual into negative associations; as a result, attitude change does not occur or occurs in the opposite direction of the message.

    How do you overcome resistance to persuasion? ›

    One way to overcome resistance is to listen to and understand your audience, then communicate your reason for the change. In other words, listen first, take a second then communicate based on the emotions of your audience.

    What are the 4 factors affecting persuasion? ›

    Features of the audience that affect persuasion are attention (Albarracín & Wyer, 2001; Festinger & Maccoby, 1964), intelligence, self-esteem (Rhodes & Wood, 1992), and age (Krosnick & Alwin, 1989).

    What are the main factors that influence persuasion and attitude change? ›

    To assess the success of persuasive messages under different circumstances, an analysis of variance (ANOVA) is performed on the attitudes toward a topic presented via an oral message. Three factors were predicted to affect attitude change: motivational relevance, source, and argument content.

    What is the social influence of persuasion? ›

    Persuasion is a form of social influence in which an audience is intentionally encouraged to adopt an idea, attitude, or course of action by symbolic means.

    What is social influence and persuasion of attitude? ›

    The tendency for people to adopt the attitudes and behaviors of their social circle is referred to as social influence. Contrarily, persuasion refers to the skill of persuading others to act in accordance with your preferences and/or desires.

    What is an example of social influence and persuasion? ›

    Interlink Between Social Influence and Persuasion

    Using social influence of celebrities and campaigns have been quite effective in persuading people to adopt any desired behaviour. For example: United Nations taking help of popular Hollywood actors to promote campaigns for climate change and gender equality.

    What attitude is more resistant to persuasion? ›

    First, people with high self-esteem are particularly confident about their own opinions and thus less likely to change their attitudes and behavior upon exposure to a persuasive message.

    What is the most effective strategy for resisting persuasion? ›

    Selective exposure is, of course, a highly successful way of resisting persuasion. A number of studies have demonstrated increased resistance persuasion when individuals selectively expose themselves to congenial information (Brannon et al., 2007; Brock & Balloun, 1967; Frey, 1964).

    Does attitude play an important role in persuasion? ›

    This effect was explained by the fact that the weak (vs. strong) message engendered more irritation and negative affective elaborations. Results highlight the role of attitude importance in motivating resistance to persuasive communications and reveal that the resistance process is both cognitive and affective.

    What happens when people resist persuasion? ›

    Persuasion Resistance is a natural defense against pressure. Reactance occurs when a prospect senses that someone is trying to compel them to do something; they automatically resist and attempt to move away from the conversation. Desperation is a negative trust signal.

    What is an example of resistance to persuasion? ›

    Resistance to persuasion can be desirable, for example, when non-smokers repeatedly resist advertisements and peer pressure encouraging them to smoke. But resistance can also be an undesirable characteristic, as when smokers resist the many strong messages encouraging them to stop smoking and prolong their lives.

    What are the barriers to persuasion? ›

    These include distance, background noise, poor or malfunctioning equipment, bad hearing, poor eyesight, speech impediments.

    What is the most important factor when it comes to persuasion? ›

    The first factor is the audience's involvement in the matter of persuasion. People will be more attentive and active in the conversation if the topic is related to their self-interest; they probably won't pay too much attention if they see little relevance to themselves in the topic.

    What two factors increase persuasion? ›

    Attractive looks, relatability, and emotions are the factors that can guide the peripheral cues that can influence a person enough to persuade them.

    Why do people resist persuasion? ›

    Upon exposure to a persuasive message, people may experience psychological reactance because persuasive messages are perceived as a threat to freedom. This experience of psychological reactance often motivates people to adopt strategies that help them in resisting persuasion.

    What is the most influential factors that affects your attitude? ›

    Attitude formation
    • Direct personal experience. Direct personal experience is the most important factor of attitude formation. ...
    • Family. Family plays a major role in shaping our attitudes. ...
    • Association. ...
    • Teachers and peers. ...
    • Neighborhood and culture. ...
    • Economic status. ...
    • Mass communication.

    What are the characteristics affecting persuasion? ›

    Features of the audience that affect persuasion are attention (Albarracín & Wyer, 2001; Festinger & Maccoby, 1964), intelligence, self-esteem (Rhodes & Wood, 1992), and age (Krosnick & Alwin, 1989). In order to be persuaded, audience members must be paying attention.

    What is the influence of social influence? ›

    Social influence involves intentional and unintentional efforts to change another person's beliefs, attitudes, or behavior. Unlike persuasion, which is typically intentional and requires some degree of awareness on the part of the target, social influence may be inadvertent or accidental.

    What are the three of social influence? ›

    3 THREE TYPES OF SOCIAL INFLUENCE. There are three types of influence that a social presence can have on a consumer: utilitarian, value-expressive, and informational (Burnkrant & Cousineau, 1975; Deutsch & Gerard, 1955; Park & Lessig, 1977).

    What is an example of social influence? ›

    For example-When a person moves from village to city, he may change his dressing style to conform with the urban dressing sense. “What other people are doing in peer groups is a powerful influence.” Social Influence refers to how one can be influenced or affected by others.

    How could social influence and persuasion contribute to the success of? ›

    Social influence and persuasion can contribute to the success of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan by promoting desirable social norms, creating a sense of social identity and belonging, highlighting positive social proof, establishing authority, and encouraging reciprocity.

    How social factors affect attitude? ›

    Social Factors

    Social roles and social norms can have a strong influence on attitudes. Social roles relate to how people are expected to behave in a particular role or context. Social norms involve society's rules for what behaviors are considered appropriate.

    How does attitude influence social behavior? ›

    Everyone experiences different situations and are influenced by different kinds of people compared to others. As a result, everyone's attitude is shaped differently and everyone seems to act differently in a particular situation. Our attitude also influences those around us and vice-a-versa.

    What is the role of persuasion in social psychology? ›

    Persuasion is used to describe a process where a person, brand, or other factors influence another person's behavior or attitudes. Bear in mind that persuasion doesn't happen under duress; it's more a form of negotiating or influencing.

    What is one example of the influence of the social context on your life? ›

    Social context can influence how someone perceives something. For example, a person who is trying a new food in an unwelcoming or harsh environment might perceive the food as tasting bad and not like it in the future.

    What is the difference between social influence an influencer and persuasion? ›

    Influence is having a vision of the optimum outcome for a situation or organization and then, without using force or coercion, motivating people to work together toward making the vision a reality. Persuasion can be used to spur someone to action or to make a decision without actually earning their sincere buy-in.

    Why are strong attitudes resistant to persuasion? ›

    Individuals high in need for cognition may be more resistant to persuasion because they are more likely to carefully consider information and arguments.

    What is one method people use to resist persuasion? ›

    Selective exposure is, of course, a highly successful way of resisting persuasion. A number of studies have demonstrated increased resistance persuasion when individuals selectively expose themselves to congenial information (Brannon et al., 2007; Brock & Balloun, 1967; Frey, 1964).

    What are some negative examples of persuasion? ›

    Persuasion is a powerful force in daily life and has a major influence on society and a whole. Negative examples of persuasion often come to mind—as in an ad trying to get you to buy something you don't need, peer pressure that causes you to make a poor decision, or even deliberate misinformation.

    What are the three strategies for resisting persuasion? ›

    9 Ways Persuasion Can Be Resisted
    • Inoculation. ...
    • Forewarned is forearmed. ...
    • Reactance. ...
    • Reality check. ...
    • Counter-arguing and bolstering. ...
    • Resistance breeds more resistance. ...
    • Attack authority. ...
    • Being sharp and alert.
    Jul 24, 2022

    What is the key to effective persuasion? ›

    The key to effective persuasion is tuning into what resonates with the other person.” In the Strategic Persuasion Workshop, participants learn to think about influence scientifically, developing hypotheses and assumptions about what will be important to the other person.

    Why persuasive communication is more challenging? ›

    One of the reasons why understanding the demands of persuasive speaking is more difficult is because it requires a knowledge of terms that are specific to argumentation, such as claims and evidence.

    Why is persuasive communication important in attitudinal change? ›

    Persuasive communication is the method to change other feelings, behavior, and attitude toward people, things, and ideas. Persuasive communication is essential for changing the attitudes of the masses as it helps us to convince people to think or act in a particular way.

    Is persuasion important why or why not? ›

    Persuasion skills are necessary to help individuals consider alternative points of view in professional situations. The ability to persuade may prove beneficial in many job roles and business environments. In this article, we examine what is persuasion and explore some ways you can improve your persuasion skills.

    Is persuasion to influence an audience's attitudes beliefs and actions of an issue? ›

    Persuasive speaking seeks to influence the beliefs, attitudes, values, or behaviors of audience members. In order to persuade, a speaker has to construct arguments that appeal to audience members. Arguments form around three components: claim, evidence, and warrant.

    What is resisting in persuasion in social psychology? ›

    More formally, it entails a state in which people aim to reduce attitudinal or behavioral change and maintain their current attitude. In doing so, people oppose, counter, and resist persuasive attempts by adopting strategies such as counter arguing or avoidance.

    Is persuasion hard mainly because we have a bias against change? ›

    Persuasion is hard mainly because we have a bias against change. As much as we hear statements like “The only constant is change” or “Variety is the spice of life,” the evidence from research and from our personal experience shows that, in reality, we do not like change.

    How over persuasion became an unethical behavior? ›

    Persuasion is also unethical if the persuader makes threats against the welfare of another, or intimates that failure to comply will result in physical or psychological harm to the recipient or to someone the recipient cares about. These examples are what we call coercive persuasion.

    What is an example of resistance to social influence? ›

    EXAMPLE: For example, when Milgram introduced a 2 dissenters who refused to obey the authority figure, one dissenter refused to obey passed 150 volts, the second refused to obey at 210 volts, this lead 9 out of 10 participants to refuse to obey to shock the learner at 450 volts.

    What is a real life example of resistance to change? ›

    Resistance to change is common and can come in many forms. It can be subtle or overt, and it can be seen in both individuals or groups of people. Some examples might be missed meetings, sarcastic remarks, criticism, nitpicking, or even sabotage.

    What are the 5 main reasons people resist change? ›

    5 Reasons People Resist Change and What We Can Do About It
    • People fear being different--especially when there's no precedent. ...
    • People feel overwhelmed or stressed. ...
    • People fear a departure from the status quo. ...
    • People lack trust in the one making changes. ...
    • People know change brings a new set of possibilities and problems.
    Nov 15, 2016

    What are the positive effects of resistance to change? ›

    A: Yes, resistance to change can be beneficial as it encourages critical thinking, sparks innovation and alternative solutions, ensures thorough evaluation of the change, and helps identify potential risks or unintended consequences.

    What is the effect of using persuasion? ›

    When writers use language to deliberately craft a sense of identification with others—to share how they see the world in compelling ways so that others can see and experience it that way too—they're using the persuasion effect.

    Why are attitudes so important to understanding persuasion? ›

    Why are attitudes so important to understanding persuasion? Attitudes help to predict, explain, and modify behavior. Because respondents know their attitudes are being measure, self-reports are considered to be explicit measures of attitudes. based on the connotative meanings words have for people.

    What is the persuasive theory of attitude? ›

    Persuasion Theory is a mass communication theory that deals with messages aimed at subtly changing the attitudes of receivers. According to this theory, the communication process consists of a three phase model: Communication-Attitudes-Behavior.

    What does it mean to resist persuasion? ›

    More formally, it entails a state in which people aim to reduce attitudinal or behavioral change and maintain their current attitude. In doing so, people oppose, counter, and resist persuasive attempts by adopting strategies such as counter arguing or avoidance.

    How is persuasion a social influence? ›

    Persuasion is a form of social influence in which an audience is intentionally encouraged to adopt an idea, attitude, or course of action by symbolic means.

    What are the three effects of persuasion? ›

    Effects of Persuasion

    Miller (1980) proposed that communications exert three different persuasive effects: shaping, reinforcing, and changing responses.

    What is persuasion and why is it important? ›

    Persuasion is the art of convincing others to agree with the view you have or go through with your actions. Many people know about it, but not everyone is able to use it to its full capacity. In regular businesses, persuasion is very important as it can boost your sales and gain trust.

    Do you think persuasion is important in our daily life? ›

    Persuasion is a powerful force in daily life and has a major influence on society and a whole. Negative examples of persuasion often come to mind—as in an ad trying to get you to buy something you don't need, peer pressure that causes you to make a poor decision, or even deliberate misinformation.

    What are the two audience traits that influence persuasion? ›

    Are there certain qualities that will make someone more or less persuasive to the audience? Research has found that credibility and attractiveness are important in successful persuasion.

    What are the major theories of persuasion? ›

    Theories of Persuasion

    While there are numerous theories that help to explain persuasion, we are only going to examine three here: social judgment theory, cognitive dissonance theory, and the elaboration likelihood model.

    What is the concept of persuasion based on? ›

    persuasion, the process by which a person's attitudes or behaviour are, without duress, influenced by communications from other people. One's attitudes and behaviour are also affected by other factors (for example, verbal threats, physical coercion, one's physiological states).


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