COMM 339 -- Persuasion

Dr. Lee McGaan  

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Language Strategies - Framing and Shorthands



  1. What is a frame?
    1. The nine dot problem is an example
    2. The frame dictates which window you look out of, which perspective you take.
    3. Frames are conceptual “boundaries” within which we form understandings.  Concepts “outside” the frame are not considered, usually not even recognized as possible or relevant.
    4. Metaphors are frames  (e.g. “ the war on ….”
  2. Reframing is persuasion
    1. A new frame (or metaphor) changes perceptions and, thus, how people understand and behave
    2. Frames can be found in

                                                              i.      Communicators

                                                            ii.      “Texts”

                                                          iii.      Receivers

                                                           iv.      “Culture”

    1. Is there a difference between an 80% chance of success and a 20% chance of failure?  Between “welfare mothers” and “Recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children?”  Between “private sexual matters” and “perjury before the grand jury?”  Between "class warfare" and "Paying your fair share in taxes?"


Cognitive Shorthands -  “rules of thumb people use to get on with their lives without protracted deliberation (e.g. “Everybody lies about sex.  It’s no big deal.”)


  1. Cialdini’s Seven Principles
    1. Contrast – “ask for a mile”
    2. Reciprocity – “one flower given”  “door in the face”
    3. Consistency – justifying actions as consistent with B+V/M,  response set bias
    4. Social proof – “heuristics,”  “bandwagon effect,”  “behavioral modeling” (Bandura)
    5. Authority – “credibility is in the eye of the beholder,”  credibility is a social construction/concept
    6. Liking  - balance theory, credibility research, reciprocity
    7. Scarcity – scarce is valuable (often), “expensive is better”


  1. Mother Turkey hypothesis – social triggers, automatic releaser mechanisms.  ("It's for the children.")
  2. The Faulty Autopilot  -  Mental shortcuts - that usually work without much thought - can sometimes guide us very wrongly .


Material on this page adapted from  H.W. Simons. (2001)  Persuasion in Society. Sage. 115-150. [Note the “Get-Rich Scheme description on page 150 of Persuasion in Society.]


 last updated 3/7/2012