yes, therapy helps!
Persuasion: definition and elements of the art of convincing

Persuasion: definition and elements of the art of convincing

May 6, 2021

Since the beginning of time human beings have tried to achieve their goals in the most optimal way possible by creating long-term plans and strategies for this. However, as social beings that we are, in many occasions our objectives are that others act or think in a certain way.

Although in some cases the objectives of others coincide with their own, it is common to find that normally this is not the case, having incompatibility of objectives and conflicts that make it difficult to reach our goals. How to solve this problem? One of the methods that can be used for this is to try to change the behavior, affection or opinion of others in a way that favors their own interests. That is, make use of persuasion .


  • Related article: "The 3 keys to persuasion: How to convince others?"

What is persuasion?

We understand persuasion as the process by which messages are used that are endowed with arguments that support them, with the purpose of changing a person's attitude, causing them to do, believe or think things that they would not originally do, create or think .

According to McGuire, This process of change depends mainly on the existence of the probability of receiving the message , that is to say, if the receiver of this has the capacity to attend and understand the message that is wanted to give him, and of acceptance on the part of the receiver of this one.


This acceptance will depend mainly on how the message is processed, as well as the level of involvement and familiarity that we have with the subject we are trying to persuade. Thus, someone who gives a high importance to the topic that is spoken and that is felt interpellated by this will especially pay attention to the content of the message, evaluating it critically, while someone who does not consider relevant the subject will be less likely to even begin to analyze the content of the message may not be so analyzed, although it can be persuaded by elements external to the message itself.

For example, if someone tells us that this text is going to be examined in a subject next week, those students who have the subject in question will be highly motivated to believe it, while others will hardly change their attitude.

Persuasion is not based on slogans

Of course, we must bear in mind that the persuasion process is not direct: that is, because one person tells another that he should exercise more or use X product with a convincing technique this does not mean that the last one is going to obey him . Some elements that make it difficult to make a real change are the fact of presenting weak arguments that the recipient can counteract by further strengthening his initial point of view.


Furthermore, believing that they want to manipulate us through deceit or simplistic proclamations makes the process of being persuaded more difficult, provoking a resistance and even an action contrary to what was intended to be attacked by our personal freedom. This phenomenon is called reactance.

Key elements of persuasion

In order to better understand the process by which a person or means can influence another by changing his or her mind, one must take into account the key elements of the process, being these the source, the receiver, the message itself and the technique used to transmit it .

1. Issuer

With regard to who transmits the information, the source that tries to persuade, there are two characteristics that are taken into account at the time of being or not being persuaded: its attractiveness and its credibility . It has been demonstrated in multiple experiments that we generally consider more reliable those individuals that we perceive as more attractive (partly because of the halo effect, in which we assume that someone who has a good quality will surely have others). This is one of the reasons that in advertising appear frequently men and women of great physical attractiveness, or famous well valued, in order to sell us a product.

But nevertheless, the most influential characteristic of the source when persuading us is the credibility , which is given before the level of competence of the source in the subject in question and the perceived sincerity.

Let's see it with a simple example. They tell us that within ten years the comet Halley will crash into Earth. If the person who tells us is a person that we meet on the street, we probably will not change our way of acting, but if the person who says it is a NASA expert, the concern for it is more likely to increase. Another example would be found once again in the use of celebrities to advertise products in advertising pieces.In this case, most celebrities not only tend to be attractive, but they are also associated with a good level of credibility based on their public image.

2. Receiver

In regard to the recipient of the message, The main characteristics that affect the time to be influenced are the level of intelligence, self-esteem and the level of involvement with the subject .

It must be taken into account that the effect of the level of intelligence should not be taken as a direct measure. It is not that the most influential person has less intelligence, but someone with greater intelligence will have more resources to question the arguments used in persuasion. By having a greater capacity when it comes to learning and using memorized information in real time, the way to talk of the smartest people is more fluid and consistent, something that is reflected in the results they get when it comes to convincing.

With regard to self-esteem, we generally find that at lower self-esteem, we are less likely to consider our own arguments as valid, accepting more easily those of others.

3. Message

Another of the main elements when persuading someone is the message itself . Several studies indicate that the use of a more rational or more emotional message will depend on the type of response that one wants to favor. It also affects that the message incorporates elements that provoke fear or a sense of threat: according to Rogers' theory of protective motivation, we will tend to look for and consider more certain messages that allow us to minimize or avoid damage.

The fact that persuasion occurs more often with a closed or open message has also been investigated, indicating that it is generally better to leave a conclusion open to interpretation, although guided in the direction from which one wishes to persuade. This may be because in this way listeners are more satisfied when they reach those conclusions , something that they experience as if it were a discovery made by themselves, without someone trying to impose an idea from outside.

Finally, it has been discussed whether it is convenient to indicate only the arguments that favor one's position or the arguments of the opposite position should also be indicated. In this aspect it has been suggested that it is more persuasive to show both positions, otherwise it is more noticeable that the intention of the message is to create advertising or propaganda rather than to provide data to rationally decide, and this ends up causing reactance.

A way to influence others

As we have seen, persuasion consists partly in detecting those "cracks" in a person's psychological defenses that can be influenced and easier to convince them to make a decision. Of course, this process should not give the feeling that the person you are trying to convince loses or gives in to the person who convinces you, given that the simple fact of experiencing an exchange of ideas perceiving it from this perspective generates resistance that is difficult to overturn. .

Therefore, persuasion it does not act through rationality, but through heuristics and mental shortcuts in general. People who are persuaded hardly realize it, since in many cases they think they are acting only from their rationality.

That is why these strategies are so used; they allow a person to opt for a certain option without noticing the presence of a plan to persuade them.

Bibliographic references:

  • Cialdini, R. (1983, 1984). Influence. The Psychology of Persuasion. Revised Edition. HarperCollins.
  • McGuire, W.J. (1969). An information-processing model of advertising effectiveness. In H.L. Davis & A.J. Silk (Eds.), Behavioral and Management Sciences in Marketing. New York: Ronald.
  • Rivas, M. & López, M. (2012). Social psychology and organizations. CEDE Manual of Preparation PIR, 11. CEDE. Madrid.
  • Rogers, R.W. (1985). Attitude change and information integration in fear appeals. Psychological Reports, 56, 179-182.

Science Of Persuasion (May 2021).


Similar Articles