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Category: Psychology

Autor: reviewessays 03 January 2011

Words: 3598 | Pages: 15

A message is worth least without a source

An Attitude is a mixture of belief and emotion that predisposes a person to respond to other people, object, or institutions in a positive or negative way (Mitterer& Coon, 2007,p.632). Attitudes summarize our evaluation of objects (Oskamp & Schultz, 2005).Put another way, evaluation of objects come before an attitude formation. Understanding how an attitude is formed is prerequisite for examining how do sources play a prominent role in forming a new attitude to substitute the audience current attitude.

In communication perspective, a communication process is comprised of 4 elements, i.e. source, message, receiver, and feedback (Dominick, 2002, p.4). The attitudinal change among audiences is evident when we scrutinize the feedback of the audience as the audience feedback could be either a positive feedback (attitude) or a negative feedback (attitude) towards the message that originated from source. Thus, how an attitude changes or how a new attitude substitutes the current attitude is depending on how the audience (receiver) evaluate particular message from particular source/sources.

This further reinforces the notion of attitudinal changes can be traced to the sources that presented the message. Imagine that you are in a situation where your lecturer and your course mate told you that there will have no essay questions in your final exam next week, both of them are telling you the same message but which one of them can make you feel more positive or relief towards your final exam? This scenario shows that a same message from different sources can have different impact on a same individual and it also implies that the source has dominant role over the message. How would anyone evaluate a message without knowing its source? In short, a message is worth least without a source.

What makes the source persuasive?

Most of the scholars, if not all, who wrote about the art of persuasion will discuss about how to establish the speaker (source) credibility because the message is made and delivered by the source, if the source is not credible, there is no point to look at the message. Aristotle (1984), an ancient Greek philosopher and guru of persuasion, asserted in Rhetoric that there are 3 important elements to persuade someone to change an attitude which are Ethos(credibility),Pathos(emotional appeal) and Logos(logic).

Aristotle favors that the message effectiveness is relying on the speaker (source) ability, who is trustworthy, to tailor-made it to appeal to the audience emotionally with certain level of logical sense but not the message itself. It is convinced that the source is has a dominant role than a message to change people’s attitude.

In the art of public speaking, Stephen Lucas (2004, p.428) also asserted that through out all the notions and ideas about how people is persuaded have been brought out, from ancient time until now, listeners can be persuaded by a speaker for not more than 4 reasons: the speaker’s high credibility, evidence, reasoning skill, and emotional appeal. In my opinion, the speaker’s credibility and emotional appeal are far more crucial than the evidence and reasoning skill.

The audiences will change their attitudes towards certain issue as long as they trust the source will not lie to them and the source touches their heart disregarding the evidence and reasoning skill. I insist on using the term “source” in lieu of “sources” because I believe that if a person trusts a source, one will not resort to alternative sources to confirm the original source accuracy and they will rule out possibility that alternatives sources are credible.

The incubator incident

The incubator incident is one of the classic and vivid examples to strengthen this notion. During Persian Gulf War in 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, A PR agency is hired by an organization named Citizens for a Free Kuwait to marshal public relations support to ask United States government to launch a war to liberate Kuwait from Iraq. The PR agency found out that the Americans are more likely to go for war to end atrocities than to protect the supply of oil.

Thus, the agency released Nayirah, a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl, testimonial in public and her testimonial is as followed: “I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital(Kuwait city) with guns, and go into the room where 15 babies were in incubators. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators, and left the babies on the cold floor to die.” This incident which known as “incubator incident” has become a rallying cry(attitude change) for war. Even George Bush, the president of the United States favored the war to end atrocities.

After Kuwaitis get back their homeland, the “incubator incident” existence is being questioned. We never know that with certainty .What is known is that sufficient circumstantial evidence exists to lead a reasonable person to doubt the veracity of Nayirah’s claim(Guth&Marsh,2003,p.162).If we examined on how the Americans were persuaded to change the attitudes to go for war , they are persuaded because of the Kuwaiti girl, the source. In other words, the American might have launched a war to liberate Kuwait from Iraq without a no valid reason.

Nobody ,including the president of the United States, ever question the source credibility as nobody have the resources and time to get into Kuwait to authenticate the incident. Americans trusted “incubator incident” owing to several reasons: the girl is from Kuwait, she knows more about Kuwait than any other American, there are no available resources to authenticate the message or evidence. The Americans also have the common assumption that children are not good in pretending and tend to be trustworthy than adult although her ability to recall and express the incident vividly when she is in fear are doubtful.

In a nutshell, the attitudinal change among American is owing to the source credibility and the source emotional appeal that have greater role than source’s ability to reasoning and evidence as the former have successfully make no one to evaluate the Kuwaiti girl ability of reasoning and evidence provided by her .

Social scientific approach on the source potency

The incubator incident aforesaid is similar to Petty& Cacioppo’s (1986) elaboration likelihood model (ELM). Americans tend to be persuaded because the source is appealing to the audience peripherally. When they have limited knowledge on Kuwait and limited time to authenticate the incident, they ability to rationalize the incident in central route is limited and thus, the only source they can trust is the Kuwaiti girl. When they are persuaded to form certain attitude on Iraq atrocities in Kuwait, they are processing the information peripherally and merely small amount of central processing was used. . This further elaborate how prominent is a source role in changing others attitudes than the content of a message.

Thus far, our central discussion is given more focus on how source credibility changes people attitudes rather than source emotional appeal. In ELM, it is convinced that though one possess exceptional ability to process information (central route), that ability goes to waste if you are not motivated to process the information (peripheral route)(Larson,2004,p.94).

The cognitive psychologists stated that human has not much time to process the information that these cognitive process produces (Baran & Davis, 2006, p,287).We experience this information as an intuition- we have a feeling that other feel certain ways or will act certain ways(Baran& Davis,2006,p.287).This information processing theory is similar to ELM which stated that we need to motivated by peripheral route to respond to the information we receive. For instance, if you feel good and comfortable with the source such as your lecturer, you are more likely to pay attention to what your lecturer said and respond to the source positively. If your lecturer requested you to photocopy the textbooks for whole class, you will comply to it willingly although you know photocopying textbook is illegal. You will comply with the lecturer’s request (source) because you know that a lecturer will not put you into trouble as your peripheral route reinforce/add on your trust on your lecturer into your central route information processing.

The example as above depicted how the student’s emotional state influence his /her attitude towards photocopying textbook which is against the law. Human dislike experiencing cognitive dissonance because information that is not consistent with a person’s already-held values and beliefs will create a psychological discomfort (dissonance) and it will increase one’s tendency to perceive the information selectively in order to make someone feel comfortable or cognitive consistent (Festinger,1957) .

Back to the previous example, you feel psychological uncomfortable (cognitive dissonance) when the lecturer that you admired requested you to conduct activities that are contradict to your own belief (photocopying textbook is illegal). Hence, you choose to believe that the lecturer must have a very good reason to request you to do this and your instinct told you that he will not put you into a trouble. Your attitude towards photocopying textbook has been modified.

Seeing Pathos in a wider spectrum

In fact, the Aristotle’s pathos appeal has some limitation as it did not cover adequate aspect that will appeal to the audience emotionally. Aristotle stresses that a persuader (source) can create emotional moods by their choice of words and images and can heighten the mood by varying their local tone, rate and volume ( Larson,2004,p.56).Simply put, pathos means make your audience feel your “words” not execute your “words”.

The pathos should cover the motivation aspects among audiences because a speaker or a source should have the ability to motivate the audience to change particular attitudes not just appeal to their emotional states. For example, a speaker such as Health minister (source) who is delivering a speech about the negative effects of taking cigarette to mass audience should not merely focus on creating the fear appeal among the audience but also try to create and make the audience feel that there is a need to quit smoking. The effect of the message from the source will be limited if we merely concentrate on creating fear appeal but forgo the efforts to create the needs.

Emotional appeal does not guarantee a long term attitude changes without motivation as human tend to have mood swing. Motivation refers to the dynamics of behavior –the ways in which our actions are initiated, sustained, directed, and terminated (Coon & Mitterer,2007, p.388).

Many activities initiated with a need. If we examine the pervious example of giving a speech about negative effects of taking cigarette, making them people feel fear of your “words” does not guarantee an attitude changes because they do not see the need to quit smoking and feel less motivated to commit the act. The results will be more effective if we associate the content by evoking the audience needs to achieve. Everyone has a desire to meet an internal standard of excellence (McClelland, 1961).Meaning, everyone has the need for achievement and we always strive to meet the internal standard of excellence.

Most of the smokers feel that when they smoke, they feel enjoyable as if they are in cloud nine and they look more macho. If the source/speaker portray the image that a non-smoker in fact look more macho than smokers, it arouse the needs among the smoker to quit because they have the needs for achievement , they want to look macho and thus this nAch drives them to change the attitudes towards smoking and desire to quit it. In other words, the speaker or the source should have the ability to create emotional appeal and motivate them by appealing to audience needs in order to change their attitudes.

Formerly, ELM stated that sometimes human tend to make quick judgment and let the peripheral route to take over central route because we did not always evaluate all of the choices available carefully (Baran &Davis,2006, p.94).This shows that as long as the source can appeal to the audience emotionally and motivate their needs ,the audience may have immediate attitude change. Similar speculation can be observed in October 1938.

In the Halloween night in 1938,Orson Welles, the producer of a weekly CBS radio network program, played a not so funny Halloween joke on his listeners. He announced that we are facing an invasion from Mars, their spaceship had landed in New Jersey, and strange creatures were emerging from it. Then the fictitious reports ceased and real-life panic broke out in several cities, especially those that were near the fake landing site.( Baran &Davis,2006,p.82).

Pathos that may trigger immediate attitudinal change

The source,Orson Welles had effectively provoked and caused an immediate attitude and behavior change among the listeners for 3 reasons; first, listeners perceive him as a credible source; two, he had successfully tailor message that are appeal to the audience emotions which is creating fear among them and lastly, he appeal to the listeners security needs. When listeners feel fear, they tend to look for shelter because they have the needs for safety and security(Maslow,1954), after they are aware that their homeland is invaded by Martians, they lost their sense of security and this lead to cognitive dissonance which motivates them to leave their home and seek out a new shelter. This is why the relevant cities are in chaos, people are out there seeking for a new shelter that has can fulfill their needs for security and safety. Therefore, the attitude change among audience could be immediate if a credible speaker utilizes the pathos appeal with motivational needs.

The effect of source on attitudinal changes among audience is visible if the source is close to us such as our peers as there are little doubts that many of our attitudes are influenced by group membership (Coon& Mitterer, 2007, p.633). When the persuader is your group members, you will more likely to be change your attitudes to meet your group expectation as if how the Asch’s (1956) experiment works. In that experiment, the real student has to change the attitude on evaluating the length of the lines because he/she is facing group pressure and resort give out to majority of point of view in order to confirm to majority.

The source, the group of “student” has changed the real student attitude because they have social influence on the real student. Owing to people’s fear of isolation or separation from those around them, they tend to keep their attitudes to themselves when they think they are in the minority (Davis & Baran,2006. p.321) This is similar to Aristotle’s pathos appeal which are creating fear among audiences.

The correlation between Ethos, Pathos and Logos

I agree to Aristotle’s ethos, pathos and logos appeal. However, the pathos appeal seems to be lacking in motivation approach because without emotional appeal, the attitude of audience will not be changed as the audience will feel bored and less attentive to credible source if the source delivers all facts and figures to form logical reasoning without emotional appeal. Audiences always try to maintain their arousal at optimum level (Hancock &Ganey,2003). A source that is lacking in emotional appeal will not be effective because a boring source makes their arousal lower than optimum level and detract their concentration on the source(Coon & Mitterer,2007,p.400).

Thus far, its is convincing that the overriding element that a sources should possess is the source credibility, then followed by emotional appeal and logical reasoning. Logical reasoning has less important role in attitudes change among audience if compare to Ethos and Pathos because most of the example and cases aforesaid illustrated that the source credibility and emotional appeal can in fact cause an attitude change before logical reasoning come into play.

Meanwhile, it is not rational to deny logos effectiveness as logos is meant to supplement the other two elements to persuade the audience who is tend to trust the evidences, proofs and logical reasoning than the source itself. Good reasoning skill can help audience to process all statistical data, examples or testimony in a logical way and reach a conclusion the source intended.(Larson,2004,p.58) Previous examples also illustrated that the effect of source’s emotional appeal come into play after the source is considered credible .Thus this strengthen my notion that the source credibility is what that matters the most to the source .

What makes a source credible?

The source credibility is affected by two factors which are the competence and character (Lucas, 2004, p.429).Competence includes how the audience perceive the source’s intelligence, expertise and knowledge of the subject (Lucas,2004,p.429). A speaker or source should able to impress the audience that he/she know more than the audience do and have more relevant experience in a subject discussed.

Character covers on how an audience regards a speaker’s sincerity, trustworthiness and concern about the well being of the audience (Lucas, 2004,p.429). In other words, the speaker must create a bond or rapport with the audience to make the audience feel that the speaker does not have personal agenda and intend to help.

Summing up, in order to change the audience attitudes, the source must possess or have the ability to intergrate 3 characteristics which are the credibility that are made of competence and character, the ability to create emotional appeal that arouse motivation needs among the audience and the ability to form logical reasoning to make audience life simple.


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