The study focuses on the source of a persuasive message and how differing levels of trust and expertise influence both the perception of the source and the message. Persuasive messages are constantly being used in every channel of information available therefore, it is imperative to understand how persuasion works and what influences its processes. The source of a persuasive message has been shown to be crucial in the persuasiveness of the source. A highly credible source is more prominent in shaping attitudes and opinions regardless of message content. Creditability is defined as being composed of two distinct factors, expertise and trust. This study attempts to clarify these factors and discover how differing variations and interactions affect a persuasive source. Vignettes followed by a questionnaire, consisting of about 20 statements with a 7-point Likert Scale, will be used to address the perceived trustworthiness and expertise of the communicator, and the persuasiveness of the source. It is predicted that a source possessing high levels of perceived expertise that displays altruistic motives would generate higher levels of creditability, thus enabling persuasion. Conversely, a source of low expertise displaying ulterior motives will elicit distrust and hinder the persuasiveness of the message.
Persuasion means measuring audience attitude about a message. Attitudes are evaluations of ideas, people or products. We have attitudes toward people, places, events, products, policies, ideas, and so forth (O’Keefe, 1990). Attitude is often presumed to influence our behavior. Persuasion is the process of changing or reinforcing attitudes of behaviors. An example is advertisers trying to persuade potential consumers to buy their products by draw attention to certain benefits or features which may appeal to their target audience. Professions such as law, politics and sales are essentially about persuasion. Apart from persuasion being used to influence people and getting what you want, it is also about understanding the psychology of why people think and act in certain ways. Persuasion can be used as alternative to apathy and coercion.
Credibility is very important in persuasion. For example, it may be hard to be persuaded by a homeless person to take some medicine that would improve your health. But if a doctor persuades you to take the same medicine it is highly likely that you will take them. Source credibility is the perceived expertise and trustworthiness. With these two factors an individual ability to be persuaded or persuade either increases or decreases. Expertise can be divided into two levels: high and low expertise. High expertise involves practical and technical competence (Farr, 2007; Farr & Witte, 2003). Low expertise lacks practical and technical competence. Trustworthiness can be divided into three levels: altruistic, neutral motives, and ulterior motive. Altruistic motive is the motivation to provide something of value to party who must be anyone but self or giving something of value with no expectation of any compensation or benefit. Second, neutral motives is the absence of information about the motivation of the communicator. On the other hand, an ulterior motive is the doubting or questioning of the motivation of the communicator (Hilton, Fein, & Miller, 1993) & (Stone & Esmora, 1969). If an individual thinks that the message is heavily biased he or she will carefully analyze the message and probably dismiss it.
Persuasion is very difficult to achieve in any walk of life. It relies on the perfect synchronization of source, message and audience. Petty and Cacioppo’s (1996) model depicts persuasion as a processing which the success of influence depends largely on the way the receivers make sense of the message. People are naturally more likely to accept the statements of an expert. The cognitive response model hypothesize that when auditors believe that the source of a message is an expert they have less motivation to scrutinize messages attributed to that source. Fewer unfavorable thoughts should result in more attitude change. Receivers should be motivated to think critically about messages from apparently non-expert sources and therefore produce more counter arguments reducing persuasion from sources (Petty & Cacioppo, 1996).
Research shows that expertise influences persuasion if only the source is identified before the message which suggests that credibility influences persuasion by altering message processing or elaboration (O’Keefe, 1987). When people are told the source was an expert after listening to the message that information did not increase persuasion. The expertise helps in persuasion only if the expert source is identified before a message. When people are told or knows that the source was not an expert after the message, it rarely reduces persuasion. But when told that the source was a non-expert before the message it reduces persuasion. Source expertise works by influencing the way people listen to a message. Once the message is over we have already had our cognitive responses and our knowledge the source’s expertise or lack of expertise rarely makes a difference. Knowing the expert decreases our motivation to engage in central processing.
The expert restores confidence in us and we do not believe that we must be critical listeners. On the other hand when we know that the source is a non-expert our motivation to engage in central processing is increased. We become suspicious and carefully scrutinize the messages of non-expert. Sources that are thought to be biased are viewed as less trustworthy hence they are less persuasive. The objective and reluctant sources are seen as trustworthy hence produce more favorable and fewer unfavorable thoughts and are more persuasive. The spokesman for NRA is likely to be viewed as impartial on the matter of gun control. Though she or he might not give false information or distort the facts. But there is a notion is that people will always focus more on the ideas that help them rather on the ideas that hurt them.
One factor that is crucial within persuasive messages is the source. Other factors include trustworthiness and expertise. This study is attempting to clarify these factors and discover how differing variations and interactions affect a persuasive source. We are studying the effects of trustworthiness, credibility, and expertise on the persuasive source. Nonetheless, this study focused on the source of the persuasive message and how differing levels of trust and expertise influenced both the perception of the source and the message. Since persuasive messages are flooding every outlet of information possible, it is of great importance to understand how persuasion works and what influences its processes.
Credibility is defined as being composed of two distinct factors; expertise and trust (Pornpitakpan, 2004). A source perceived as highly credible has been shown to be more influential in shaping attitudes and opinions regardless of message content (e.g. Hovland & Weiss, 1951; Petty, Cacioppo, & Goldman, 1981; Petty & Wegener, 1998; Pornpitakpan, 2004). High self-monitoring individuals tend to agree with the expert source regardless of the quality of the arguments presented but agree with the attractive source only when they delivered strong arguments. By contrast, low self-monitoring individuals tend to agree with the attractive source regardless of the quality of the arguments presented but agree with the expert source only when they delivered strong arguments (De Bono & Harnish 1988). The effects of explicit persuasion and the endorser’s likeability have been found to be determined by the attribution of self-interest. In contrast, advertising effectiveness for high NFC consumers was predictable only by their cognitive responses to the product (Reinhard & Messner 2009).
It is predicted that a source possessing high levels of perceived expertise that displays altruistic motives would generate higher levels of creditability, thus facilitating persuasion. Conversely, a source of low expertise displaying ulterior motives will elicit distrust and hinder the persuasiveness of the message.
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O’Keefe, D. J. (1990). Persuasion: Theory and research. Newbury Park, CA: Sage
Pornpitakpan, C. (2004).The persuasiveness of source credibility: A critical review of five decades’ evidence. Journal of applied social psychology, 34(2):243-281
Petty, R.E. & Cacioppo, J. T. (1996). Attitudes and persuasion: Classic and contemporary approaches. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.