Eric Hoffer ( 1973) has said that there is almost always a pause between ideas and actions. This chapter is concerned with that pause. We have explored the reasons for the cultural pause or lag between the introduction of an idea and society's doing something about it. Now we wish to examine the intrapersonal pause that occurs between the time when a person has read and understood a message and when he has taken subsequent appropriate action. This is a complex process because we are dealing with human communication, and communication so permeates and surrounds our lives that it is difficult to separate components of it for analysis. But to understand cogency, we must tear apart the communication process, analyze essential components of it, and then put it all back together again; in the process of doing so we hope to understand better why some messages are cogent and others are not, and how to arrive at more cogent communication.
Basically, we are dealing with persuasion, because cogency may be defined as having the power to compel or appealing forcibly to the mind or reason. The question we are asking here is why, upon reading a message (for example, a journal article, a set of terse conclusions, or a popularization of scientific discoveries) that should cause a response, the reader does not respond appropriately. Let us examine some fundamental ideas about attitudes, attitude change, and persuasion.