The persuasive power of emotion

The persuasive power of emotion

Emotion and persuasion

Advertising slogans and political phrases are not designed to provide facts about attitude objects. Conversely, they are emotional touches, communications designed to produce feelings that, in turn, influence attitudes.

Just as cognitive information can be used to change attitudes, affective information can also be used to persuade. And just as beliefs can influence our attitudes, both superficially and systematically, feelings, moods and emotions can influence attitudes developed with little or much reflection.


  • 1 How do they help persuade emotional resources?
  • 2 How does affective information influence?
  • 3 Emotional Resources in Marketing
  • 4 The heuristics of attraction: agree with those we like
  • 5 Feelings as heuristic clues: if I feel good I should like it
  • 6 Positive affect and systematic processing
  • 7 Motivational consequences of the capacity of the Positive Provision
  • 8 Negative Emotions and Persuasion
  • 9 How can we avoid subliminal influence?
  • 10 Anticipation means being armed beforehand
  • 11 Vaccination: practice may be the best medicine
  • 12 Vaccination and advertising effectiveness
  • 13 Conclusions

How do they contribute to persuade emotional resources?

The appeal to emotions often persuades through surface processing. Emotions associated with attitude objects or positive feelings evoked by an attractive source, pleasant music, a model, or some other cause can contribute to the persuasion when it is not being processed deeply.

Represent a soda with the colors of the Paraguayan flag, and in the World Cup qualifiers! It can increase product success.

An object of the attitude - the drink, for example - can evoke a feeling of patriotism, well-being or nostalgia. A communicator can convey a youthful charm or the characteristics of being a triumphant person, a well accomplished scene can represent joyful music or glowing lights. All these tactics can influence the attitudes we are formed.

How does affective information influence?

The persuasive power of emotions acts as follows: If positive or negative events are repeatedly associated with a particular attitude object, it suddenly awakens the feelings associated with those events. This process is what we already know as classical conditioning.

Suppose the person is in front of a neutral object - a pen - that is presented to him along with a stimulus that is positively evaluated by the person - moved music -, after this happens a few times, the stimulus positively evaluated, In this case, the music moved will produce positive feelings that will be associated with the object of attitude.

Once the conditioning is achieved the pen will evoke itself positive feelings.

Emotional resources in Marketing

Classic conditioning is the backbone of "easy selling". Encouraging customers to rely on their emotional reactions, rather than thinking carefully about the product, can encourage sales.

"Launch the product as something simply wonderful, by putting around as many ... nice associations as possible."

Perhaps the conditioning explains the popularity of dinners to raise funds, requesting a donation with a good and substantial meal can increase the persuasive capacity of the cause, in itself perhaps noble.

The heuristic of the attraction: agree with those we like

Imagine the power of an attractive face or a triumphant personality. The ads often match an object of attitude with a popular and attractive figure, betting that someone who makes us turn our heads can also change our minds. Why are they persuasive? Attractive people are nice, and we often agree with the people we like and we believe that the people we like are right.

Research shows that attractive people get things easier. One study, for example, showed that attractive people are more persuasive than less attractive people, that is, that attraction serves as an index of persuasion.

When advertisers use attractive communicators, they usually make them the most prominent feature of induction.

Feelings as heuristic clues: if I feel good I should like it

When people evaluate a persuasive insinuation superficially, they often get their own feelings mixed with the object of attitude itself. That is, they like what they evaluate when they feel good and they don't like what they evaluate when they feel bad.

Sometimes our feelings exist totally independently of a persuasive insinuation or an object of attitude. Under these circumstances, taking a shortcut can lead us along the wrong path.

All these defects disappear when the subjects undertake a reflexive consideration about the subjects and the objects.

Positive affect and systematic processing

Positive feelings can interfere with people's motivation and his ability to process persuasive messages systematically. This, in turn, reduces the effectiveness of strong arguments and increases the persuasion of weak arguments.

Popular belief and professional practices based on them indicate that a person in a good mood is particularly easy to persuade, however research does not always confirm this belief.

When people base their evaluations on emotions, positive feelings will produce positive attitudes. And if thinking about the arguments when you're in a good mood makes me evaluate them in a favorable way, good humor can increase persuasion.

A happy person is more likely to succumb to an expert or attractive source, to a long message or "scientific appearance" or other heuristic resources.

Someone in a good mood also has little chance of seeing through weak arguments and detecting false assumptions., rational arguments can have little impact on a happy person.

Motivational consequences of the capacity of the Positive Provision

That a good disposition leads to superficial processing has to do with the impact that the disposition prints on motivation and Cognitive ability.

When people feel good, they may wish that nothing interferes with their well-being, not even the effort of careful analysis, their good mood tells them that everything is working well, so much confidence makes the hasty conclusions they reach seem appropriate. . Some researchers suggest that good disposition reduces systematic processing because the mind is occupied in other thoughts.

Negative Emotions and Persuasion

Using negative emotions, such as fear, to persuade can be a very complex system. In a correct dose, fear and anxiety can motivate people to process, but an excess of these emotions can reduce cognitive ability and motivation, undermining systematic processing.

For example: A young man who smokes but whose partner does not agree with him and is more, does not want to continue with the cigarette.

He tells her: "I need to smoke." She replies: "I don't like you to smoke," but he insists, saying, "Then you don't love me, because smoking is good for me and I need smoking more."

He is using his power of persuasion with her. But she uses fear to be able to persuade him and get him to quit the cigarette telling him that people who smoke can get to have various diseases, including cancer, also that the smoke from his cigarette not only hurts him but also those who are around and that produces a bad breath.

Hearing these misfortunes can change the attitude of the young man about the cigarette.

Fear as an advertising resource

Fear is one of the negative emotions most commonly used by relatives and other agents of influence. For example:

  • When the ads say that bad body odor, bad breath or dandruff can make us "social outcasts", they are influencing our feelings.
  • When politicians tell us that their opponents are tolerant of crime, that they are corrupt and thieves, they use fear and slander to accumulate votes in their favor.
  • Many of the public health campaigns also use scare tactics in the hope of reducing risky behaviors (such as drinking before driving).

Anxiety and systematic processing

The level of fear influences motivation and the ability to process a message, and this in turn influences the change in attitude.

The Anxiety-Motivation Connection

A negative emotional resource is persuasive only when the threat awakens enough (but not too much) fear. If a message does not produce any anxiety it can be ignored as irrelevant. Instead, if there is the appropriate amount of anxiety, people will pay attention in the hope that the anxiety-provoking event can be eliminated.

For a resource that appeals to fear to be motivating, listeners must also be convinced that the consequences of the negative threat will occur and that it will happen to them.

Messages that provoke too much fear, however, frighten listeners. If people feel overwhelmed or unable to escape, they can respond with avoidance by dismissing, denying, contradicting or ignoring threatening information. This type of reaction is called defensive avoidance. "

To overcome defensive avoidance, fear inducing messages must contain clear information on how to avoid or eliminate the danger.

The Anxiety-Skill Connection

As the intensity of fear grows, people find it more and more difficult to concentrate on the content of the message and evaluate it.

High levels of stress nullify performance in complex cognitive tasks, such as systematic processing.

Fear works, but only in the right dose and in the right combination.

Fear has to be motivating without being debilitating, it has positive effects only if the feared consequence is credible, and if the recommended change is possible to achieve and gives the assurance of relief.

Actually both positive and negative emotions can increase or interfere with persuasion in different circumstances.

How can we avoid subliminal influence?

Although some data suggest that we may be vulnerable to subliminal manipulation of our attitudes, the research itself raises questions about this possibility. First, in laboratory studies on subliminal effects, the researchers asked subjects to carefully focus their attention on the region in which subliminal stimuli were presented.

Second, subliminal effects are obtained with a limited proportion of stimuli.

Research on how we process sounds offers evidence that we are not so vulnerable. Because the sounds that are simultaneously heard and intermingled are very unlikely that humans are able to decode verbal subliminal messages.

Expectations have powerful influences on the social behavior. But subliminal tapes have no persuasive value for brainwashing listeners, without them noticing. And if the sounds presented just below the threshold of consciousness are ineffective, it is certainly not possible that messages recorded backward or at high speed can influence attitudes or behavior.

There is a third line of evidence against the power of subliminal stimuli to determine our attitudes and behavior, and it is perhaps the most important of all. Even when subliminal stimuli produce a potential impact on our attitudes, this potential is quickly severed at the beginning, when conscious processing takes place. What we know which is true erases all "vague sensation" that we may have.

The fact that conscious processing dominates subliminal influences means that what we want Doing is much more powerful than any "hidden urgency" we might experience.

These results demonstrate that conscious processing invalidates the impact of subliminal events. This, in turn, means that it is unlikely that subliminal influence can make us do anything we do not want, to the extent that I act on some kind of thinking. But that thought is the key: To resist persuasion on important issues, we must devote effort and time to our judgments.

Anticipation means being armed beforehand

Anticipating an attempt at persuasion can help resist it. Having previous experience with the associated arguments is also a defense against persuasion.

We spend a lot of time “with the autopilot” without noticing the attempts of those who want to persuade us, filling our heads or emptying our pockets. Even if we are safe from hidden messages, can we resist this constant bombardment of overtones overtones, most of which are irrelevant to our goals and needs? Careful thinking is, once again, our best defense. When people expect to be the target of persuasion, they lead the arguments to mount a good defense.

Vaccination: practice may be the best medicine

Do we have to wait for a warning, or can we protect ourselves in advance against persuasive arguments? William Mcguire (1964) has suggested that the most effective way to resist persuasion is to test against arguments.

Vaccination and advertising effectiveness

The messages that teach us to analyze opposite opinions have an additional advantage: they strengthen our current views. Advertisers are well aware of the effectiveness of this strategy. Refuting the proposals of the competition and demonstrating one's superiority is a common practice in advertising.

"Vaccination" ads are also more effective in overcoming people's objections to behaviors that promote safety.

Can vaccination help children ages four to eight resist television advertising on Saturday mornings? Norma Feshbach (1980) thought so. Feshbach taught small groups of children in Los Angeles Elementary School about how to handle the incitements presented in the Saturday morning commercial series. They saw the ads and then discussed them, played with the toys and found that they often could not do what the ads said. When they realized that some of the descriptions were more fanciful than real, the children learned to see advertising (and perhaps the programs) with a somewhat more cynical eye.


Using people's emotions to persuade them of certain facts is not something harmful in itself.

Awareness campaigns for the use of a seat belt or for the consumption of iodized salt, which have saved and improved the quality of life of many compatriots, use this knowledge to achieve their goals.

Unfortunately leaders like Adolf Hitler also knew how susceptible the masses are to "emotional manipulation."

What undermines respect for the integrity of the human being is the lie. It is the resource used for selfish purposes, with the intention of making the facts invisible and possible the deceptions.

If we intend to live in an "alert" community and advocate for its achievements, we have to know that education and critical and respectful analysis of situations, are aspects that need to be strengthened, because they are what will make us see what exists behind a speech, a color or a polka.