COMM 339 – Persuasion

Theory Knowledge Homework #3

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. Recently scam artists tried to get people to buy a worthless stock by sending email messages praising the stock in a way that led investors to think they were getting insider information by mistake.  That way they would believe the false praise of the stock more readily.

    Attribution Theory  Since receivers (incorrectly) believe that the message was not directed to them and is NOT an effort to persuade them, attribution theory says they will not attribute a self-serving motive to the sender and will, thus, be more likely to believe it.  ELM peripheral route could work too.


  1. Many companies seek to have their clothing products used by movie stars and other famous people in places where the products will be seen connected to the stars in public settings.

    Identity-Emotive Model
    :  Viewers see the admired identity of the stars (step 1), see the identity enacted in public settings where admirers surround the star (step 2), note the star is wearing the product as announcers often will identify the clothing manufacturer (step 3) and viewers will assume they can acquire some of this popularity if they buy the product (step 4).  Balance theory will also work

  1. An insurance salesman tells you he gets no commission if you buy his product.  That’s a way to get you to be less suspicious of his motives so you will be more likely to go along with his sales pitch.

    Attribution theory
    :  Since the salesman appears to have no self-serving motive to persuade us to buy his product we attribute greater honesty to his persuasive efforts and take his arguments more seriously than we otherwise would.

  1. When my son was first eligible to vote, he was reluctant to go do it because he was afraid he would look foolish not knowing where to go or what questions he would be asked.  So I took him to the polls and let him follow my lead.

    Theory of Reasoned Action:
      What was inhibiting the young man from going to vote was his attitude toward the actual behavior of voting not the idea of voting.  TRA says you have to overcome negative attitudes toward behavior if you want to get action from someone.  McGuire also works here.


  1. When I was told that a person I admired had made a serious mistake, I resisted believing it.  I only accepted that there was a problem when I was shown the documents that were clear and uncontestable and showed my friend had messed up.

    Cognitive dissonance (involuntary exposure to counter-information case):
      Dissonance is high when a person is liked a great deal and there is directly contradictory information that is negative about that person.  If the information is incontrovertible, change may occur.  McGuire also works here.

  1. A crucial part of getting young people to follow medical guidelines for diabetes treatment includes not only showing them the treatment is necessary to their lives.  It also requires convincing them that it will not be as hard to adopt the behaviors they need to change as they may think.

    McGuire’s Two step theory  This event seems to describe first getting the young people through the “reception stage” and the “It’s not that hard” part seems directed at the “yielding stage.”  Hovland also could work.

    Theory of Reasoned Action  The first part of the event seems directed toward getting a favorable attitude toward the concept of treating the diabetes.  The “It’s not that hard” part seems directed at getting a favorable attitude toward the required behaviors.