Students of social influence, from Aristotle to contemporary scholars, have viewed communication processes as fundamental to the induction of attitude and behavioral change in people. When the experimental study of persuasion became popular at the midpoint of the 20th century, researchers sought to isolate the causal variables responsible for producing attitude change ( Hovland, Janis, & Kelley, 1953). While research reported during that era examined the role of personality variables in the persuasion process ( Janis & Field, 1959), such message factors as fear appeals and message sidedness, as well as the order of presentation of persuasive communications, were deemed central to the induction of social influence ( Hovland, 1957). With the introduction of television, increased concern was expressed over the persuasive effects of mass media, especially with respect to such issues as violent media portrayals and their influence on children ( Schramm, Lyle, & Parker, 1961). However, almost identical alarms were sounded more than two decades earlier by the Payne Fund researchers with respect to the potential deleterious effects of movie attendance on children ( Charters, 1933; Wartella & Reeves, 1985).
Whether studied within the confines of the laboratory or in the context of survey research, it was generally assumed during this period, as it is today, that persuasive messages disseminated in either face-to-face communication situations or mass mediated contexts are the currency with which influence agents ply their trade. Under this conceptual umbrella, the induction of social influence is viewed as a linear process in which sources or influence agents devise messages that they send through channels to influence receivers. Not only did these early, linear models of the communication process employ such terms, but the source, message, channel, receiver