The Power of Persuasion

We discussed the relationship between attitudes, beliefs, values, and behaviors in an earlier module, but understanding and utilizing this understanding is crucial if you are to effectively persuade others. To understand this relationship better, consider the example of Taj, who gave a persuasive speech about his college’s food service. He was fed up with the college food service. He felt that the food was poor quality and overpriced, and he wanted to have his classmates join in a boycott of the cafeterias and the snack bars as a way to force the cafeterias and snack bars to improve service. He planned a speech that would seek to persuade them that the cafeteria food at the college was awful and overpriced. He talked about the many items of food the cafeterias and snack bars served and showed that each of the items was served cold, was greasy, or had little nutritional value. He also showed that the food items were overpriced when compared to the same items purchased off campus.

In planning his strategy for the speech, Taj reasoned that if he was successful at achieving the above goals -getting the class members to agree that the food was greasy, cold, not nutritional and overpriced -he would probably find that, at the end of the speech, most would have a more negative attitude towards the food service than they did before.

If he asked the class if they agreed with him that the food was awful and overpriced, they would all raise their hands in agreement. However, the end result that Taj wanted was to get them to join a boycott. He wanted them to agree to bring a lunch from home the next day. This commitment is the intention to perform a behavior, which is more difficult to achieve. Further, even if everyone in class signed a pledge card promising to boycott the food service, he might find that some people forgot and had to buy their lunches the next day. Attitudes do not equal intentions, and intentions do not equal behavior.