COMM 339 – Persuasion

Theory Knowledge Homework #2

For each of the persuasion “actions” described below, identify the specific persuasion theory you believe best explains or fits the method used by the “persuader” (or the result described).  Then explain in a few words why the theory you selected seems the correct one (e.g. what features of the theory match the action).


  1. Motivational experts sometime say that, if you want to get a person highly committed to volunteer work, get him/her to agree to try it out a few times.


Cognitive Dissonance – Case1 (or 4)  Giving up free time to volunteer when a person could be doing more “fun” stuff creates dissonance.  After deciding to volunteer a person reduces dissonance by bolstering the view that the cause is really a good one and worth continued effort.


  1. If too much pressure and threats are placed on a receiver in order to get him/her to cooperate on a project, you won’t get much favorable attitude change if s/he does agree to work with you and you’ll get a committed opponent of your project if s/he refuses.

    Cognitive Dissonance – Case 4  Using high levels of threats results in less dissonance and thus less pressure for attitude change than modest pressure.  The theory suggests, however, that if a person resists high levels of pressure or threats, dissonance is high and likely creates strong pressure to convince one’s self that resistance is very justified.

  2. When you repeatedly attempt to persuade people to do things they don’t like and don’t want to do, over time your credibility and authority will likely decline with at least some of the receivers..

    Balance Theory  The theory states that when a source advocates a concept receivers dislike, the attitude of receivers toward the source sometimes change to negative.  Thus, if the attitude toward the concept is more negative than the attitude toward the source, the source will likely lose popularity/credibility.    ELM peripheral route and Congruity could work too.

  3. In 2012, President Obama sought out the endorsements of several well-known Hispanic leaders in key battleground states prior to the election in hope of winning the votes of Latinos.

    Balance theory
    :  Popular, positively-valenced Hispanic leaders say, “Vote for Obama.”  Receivers like the leaders (sources) and so decide they like to concept/cognition of “Vote for Obama.”  Congruity theory will also work.  Attribution theory is a stretch here.

  1. The real problem in convincing people to start saving for retirement early is getting them to understand how investing works.  Once they understand, they see the advantages and want to start saving immediately.

    McGuire’s Two Stage Theory: 
    The example shows that the problem is in the first McGuire stage of comprehension.  Yielding will occur readily due to the incentive of financial advantages.  Hovland and Rational Model could work here too.

  2. Political campaign managers will tell you that, for average workers, if you can persuade them that your candidate will do the most to protect jobs, then they will think favorably of your candidate.


Rational Model   If workers BELIEVE you will protect their jobs and they VALUE their jobs (or their MOTIVE is to keep their jobs) that should create a favorable ATTITUDE toward the candidate, which should mean they’ll vote for her/him.


Balance Model or Congruity Theory   If the worker is favorable toward job protection and the candidate is favorable to job protection, then that will create pressure for balance which can be obtained by workers being favorable to the candidate.