Persuasion: How Opinions and Attitudes Are Changed

By Herbert I. Abelson | Go to book overview

PREFACE

The impact of the social sciences is all about us. There is hardly a situation that affects people which has not attracted the interest of social scientists--those individuals who look for the principles that would explain, and eventually predict, the behavior of people and the relationships that people have with each other. Social science research influences the methods by which our children are educated, the styles of the automobiles we drive, the ways in which our communities are planned, the political policies we pursue at home and worldwide.

This book is a report on one area of investigation which has lately claimed the interest of many social scientists: the study of opinion and attitude change. It is a segment of social science which has also received much attention from the general public. Exposure to propaganda, political speeches, TV commercials, and newspaper and magazine advertisements is creating at the same time a more sophisticated public for those who attempt to change its opinions.

The topic of persuasion has been discussed in many books for the general reader. Typically, such books reflect the experience of successful persuaders--of a salesman, a newspaperman, an advisor to a political candidate; they do not systematically weigh the factors responsible for the success or failure of attempts to persuade people.

In this book the factors and facets of persuasion are presented in order, and the evidence introduced here has been collected by methods acceptable to the social sciences. I believe that this is the criterion which makes the book valuable.

The social-science methods used in persuasion studies are described in Chapter 7. Briefly, their advantages are threefold. (1) They help keep the convictions and personal feelings of the investigator from influencing the results. Even the most conscientious person can never be completely aware of the forces that

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Persuasion: How Opinions and Attitudes Are Changed
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • 1 - How to Present the Issues 1
  • 2 - The Influence of Groups 19
  • 3 - The Persistence of Opinion Change 41
  • 4 - The Audience as Individuals 53
  • 5 - The Persuader 71
  • 6 - Broad Issues Related to the Study of Persuasion 87
  • 7 - Social Science Methods 93
  • 8 - A Few Definitions 101
  • References 105
  • Index 114
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