Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Testing a Binding Communication Strategy in a Company: How Could Persuasive Information Be More Efficient?

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Testing a Binding Communication Strategy in a Company: How Could Persuasive Information Be More Efficient?

Article excerpt

One of the most objective definitions of communication has been provided by Lasswell (1948): "Who says what to whom in which channel with what effect?" (p. 37). A message (what) is issued from a source (who, the transmitter) to an individual or a group (whom, the receivers) using a specific communication mode (the channel), in order to induce the receiver/s to adopt a belief or opinion. As persuasive communication is unilateral from the source to the target, the latter cannot argue for or against the message. The individual using persuasion tries to change the attitudes of a person or group to obtain a change in attitudinal behaviors. Attitudinal change occurs when there is direct or indirect social interaction between individuals in a context of freedom. Persuasion may prove useful and efficient for different reasons. When one uses persuasion it permits one to focus on a precise subject, and provides knowledge, particularly in politics, the environmental field, or the public health field. By using persuasion one may be contributing to raising the awareness of individuals, citizens, or members of a team. This may, in the long term, encourage them to act in the way being advocated by the persuader.

However, results in the many studies that have been carried out have often been insufficient and they have not provided concrete action. Although one may be firmly convinced of the necessity of performing actions for underprivileged people or of giving one's blood, one may not necessarily act in consequence of this belief. In a longitudinal study in Washington State, USA, by Peterson, Kealey, Mann, Marek, and Sarason (2000), the authors highlighted the limited effects of persuasion on behaviors. After having organized an antismoking prevention program for 8,000 young people for 10 years, the researchers came to the conclusion that the probability of becoming a 17-year-old smoker was no lower for young people who had taken part in 65 awareness sessions about the dangers of smoking, than it was for young people who had not followed the program. Most communication campaigns work on the assumption that to modify someone's behaviors, one must begin by changing his/her ideas. However, this is not necessarily so: constructive ideas or intentions do not systematically lead to related acts (Joule, Girandola, & Bernard, 2007, pp. 493-494).

For decades, social psychologists have been trying to understand and explain the complex connections between ideas and behaviors. To improve the impact of persuasive communication, researchers have looked at the theory of commitment. According to this theory, when an individual freely accomplishes a decisional act, he/she is more likely to rush into a precise course of actions related to his/her first behavior. Kurt Lewin (1943, 1951), who is considered the founder of social psychology and the originator of the concept of commitment, characterized the intermediate link between attitude and behavior. While studying group dynamics and working on the best way to induce people to change their habits--in this case food habits--he defined the freezing effect. When comparing lecture and group decision procedures, Lewin (1943) concluded:

"The group decision had a 'freezing' effect for future action. This is an aspect missing in the lecture method. After a lecture many paths are still open whereas after a decision the person has committed himself to follow one path." (p. 64).

Kiesler provided the theoretical basis for commitment and defined it as a pledging or binding of the individual to behavioral acts (Kiesler & Sakumura, 1966, p. 349). He made the assumption that the commitment variable could be manipulated. For example, to increase the degree of commitment, it was necessary to increase one or more factors, such as the explicitness, the importance, the irrevocability, and the repetition of the act, and the perceived degree of freedom within which the act was performed (Kiesler, 1971, p. …

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