Making a Message Convincing
In social psychology, attitudes are frequent topics of research. An attitude is the emotionally loaded evaluation of a person, object or idea. An important part of this research centers around the question of how the opinion and behavior of others can be changed. In order to make a message (more) convincing, there are three main aspects to be considered:
- The messenger,
- The message, and
- The target
A message that tries to convince someone always comes from a source, usually a person. There are three characteristics of a messenger that can add to the persuasive power of the message:
- Credibility: the most important characteristic, which is constituted out of two components: (1) the competence of the messenger, and (2) the interest of the messenger. In general, we are easier convinced by a source that has expertise and by a messenger who has a personal interest in the message.
- Equality between the messenger and the target: the more the messenger resembles us, the easier we are convinced by the message.
- Attractiveness of the messenger: attractive people stimulate sales more than unattractive people. This effect becomes even greater when the messenger is someone famous.
There are some characteristics of the message itself that can contribute to the effectiveness of it:
- Form: the most efficient form of a message depends on the complexity of the message. A difficult message is more effective in written form, allowing ‘targets’ to calmly go over it again. In most cases, however, the message is not that complex and then it is better to make the message noticeable through visual or audible effects.
- Emotion: by adding emotions to the message, it will be better equipped to convince people. Both positive and negative emotions can be used.
- Repetition: repeating a message has also proved to be effective. The more we see or hear a certain message, the more positive the image we have about it will become. When a message uses negative emotions the repetitions should add small variations each time to prevent people from avoiding it.
The characteristics of the targeted person also play a part in whether or not the message is convincing:
- No attitude yet: the chance to convince people is better when they haven’t yet made up their minds.
- Discrepancy between message and attitude: if the people one is trying to convince already have a certain attitude towards a subject, one should find a position that is not exactly similar, but also not too distant from theirs.
- Involvement of the target: people who are or have been involved with the content of the message will be easier to convince. (For example, someone who knows a person that has died from smoking will be more quickly convinced to stop him- or herself.)
- Personality: the personality of the target is also important. Some people are just easier to convince than others.
- Cesario, J. & Higgins, E.T. (2008). Making Message Recipients “Feel Right”: How Nonverbal Cues Can Increase Persuasion. Psychological Science. 19(5), pp. 415 – 420.
- Kang, Y. & Cappella, J.N. (2008). Emotional Reactions to and Perceived Effectiveness of Media Messages: Appraisal and Message Sensation Value. Western Journal of Communication. 72(1), pp. 40 – 61.