Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Why I can't find the book in library?

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When I write the assignments and look for the books on the essential reading list in the library, I always find out that all hard copies, regardless of the number of edition, have already been taken. I have to request the book and it may leave me much less time to write the assignment. Thus I am wondering why everyone would choose the same book for one module, even for one essay?

There is a theory explaining how people's attitude and behavior change. In attitude change, the source-communication-issue schema developed most extensively by Hovland and his associates (1953) provides a useful way to organize many problems. This case is a typical example of The Yale Attitude Change Approach (Hovland, Janis & Kelley, 1953). The approach suggests that there are three dimensions to recognize how persuasion works: the source, the message, and the audience. This is the agreed to be the first principle of persuasion, in which case we need to solve one question "who says what by what means to whom."

The source - Who
The Yale Attitude Change Approach suggests that the characteristics of who told you the message should be credible, attractive and similar to the audience. The person should be expertise and trustworthy so that the audience who hear the message would believe it is true. In this case, the lecturers and the teachers are definitely experts who are qualified by the university and their doctorate/professor title. Thus we believe what they say is trustful, and their words and recommendations are persuasive. Moreover, Pettey and his colleagues proved that the credibility of the source could make a huge difference on change of people's attitude, no matter the audience is personally relevant to the message as shown in figure 1 (Petty, Cacioppo, & Goldman, 1981).

The message - What
Despite the source, Hovland also suggests whether the message is well-argued with good quality also decides how persuasive it is. Anderson (1971) analyzed that there are two ways of message order may change the strength of persuasion: primacy effects and recency effects. People may be influenced by the reason given at first place, or by the end of the message, in which either way will leave a stronger impression in minds. Hovland also suggests that repetition will increase liking and validity of messages. As the theories suggest, the lecturers tell us the books they think is essential in the first lecture, then keep mentioning and repeating that the book is worth reading in future classes. Thus the students are more likely to believe that they can dig out more knowledge and information from those books. In figure 1, the second graph also shows that no matter how the person is relevant to the situation, stronger arguments are always more persuasive (Petty et al., 1981).

The audience - Whom
Image result for university lecturerLast but not least, the characteristics of the audience would also influence the persuasion: distraction, intelligence, self-esteem, and age. How much attention they are paying? Are they smart enough to know the evidence? How much are they susceptible? Hovland suggests people who pay more attention, with high intelligence, and under 25 years old are more susceptible. These people are more likely to be persuaded when the message and source are both with good quality. The students surely pay more attention than others in their classes which they choose to study. Also, after previous education and by passing the exams/entry requirements, they should be qualified to be smart enough to understand the reason of why they should read the book. Furthermore, most undergraduate students are between 18-24 years old, who are seen to be the most susceptible group. Almost every characteristic match the audience, in this case, the undergraduate students, so we believe they should be influenced easily in general and listen to what their lecturers recommend.

In conclusion, we can see that the characteristics of the source (lecturers), the message (books), and audience (students) in the situation all match with the Yale Attitude Change Approach. Therefore, "reading the book which recommended by your lecturer" is persuasive, thus more students will borrow the book from the library. Following this theory, you should find more that you are influenced by your teacher or someone you trust around you. 

Anderson, N. H. (1971). Integration theory and attitude change. Psychological review, 78(3), 171.

Hovland, C. I., Janis, I. L., & Kelley, H. H. (1953). Communication and persuasion; psychological studies of opinion change.

Petty, R. E., Cacioppo, J. T., & Goldman, R. (1981). Personal involvement as a determinant of argument-based persuasion. Journal of personality and social psychology, 41(5), 847.

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