The idea for this study emerged while I was collaborating with Robert E. Denton, Jr., on a persuasion textbook entitled Persuasion and Influence in American Life. Our work on that project had the effect of triggering two conclusions that are reflected in these pages. One was the realization that there is a particular kind of persuasive setting -- persuasion directed to a hostile audience -- that is irresistibly fascinating. Most forms of everyday communication take place in an environment of at least implicit concurrence. We usually engage each other in conversation because we expect that our ideas and our egos are relatively secure. By contrast, the communicator faced with the need to unravel opposing beliefs functions in quite a different environment, one that is far riskier and much more unpredictable. I became intrigued with such persuasive encounters. They provide a kind of Technicolor vividness to elements of the persuasive process that are often lost in the monochrome routines of everyday communication.
In addition, in our earlier book we attempted to lay out as clearly as possible some of the theories, approaches, and practical recommendations that define the broad discipline of persuasion. Such an emphasis on theory has obvious validity, but it necessarily limits the time that is available to pursue the details of specific cases. The prospect of reversing this emphasis seemed to hold promise. The ultimate measure of any theory of human behavior does not lie in its abstract purity but in its quality as a window into real human events. The result of this approach is not a study of the "golden ideas" of persuasion but a more openended exploration of how some of these ideas work -- or fail to work -- as ways to explain the illusive process of effecting attitudes. The six short case studies and their five chapter-length counterparts offered here are intended to anchor