Persuasion Theory – The Belief Hierarchy Theory by Maral Cavner
While all of the theories included within persuasion theory are interesting to me, especially in their novelty, the belief hierarchy theory was the one that resonated with me the most and also the one that seemed like the most realistic theory in terms of achieving its stated outcome. For example, I have a hard time believing that the silver bullet theory, which from my understanding is the theory that you can send such a well constructed message that will convince (kill) as much (or as many) as you need it to, is actually a realistic possibility for a single constructed message. I say this primarily because of the wide variety of opinions and the accompanying variability of conditions that each individual person could possibly require in order to be convinced of anything subjective. In contrast, the belief hierarchy theory, which, again from my own understanding, is the theory that there are three levels one has to work through, each with increasing difficulty, 1) beliefs, 2) attitudes, and 3) values, in order to persuade someone and change their beliefs, attitudes, and values seems like the actual process that one would need to work through in order to persuade an individual. One can see the outcomes of the persuasion or value change through policy.
This process of working through beliefs, attitudes, and values, with each being more difficult to change than the last, seems logical to me. After all, my beliefs inform my attitudes which in turn impact my values. However, when I was considering this theory, and when I tried to give definitions to beliefs, attitudes, and values, as well as other related terms like motive and behavior with regards to persuasion I began to conflate the terms. Additionally, because, as I mentioned before, I am new to the persuasion theory concept, I thought that it might be helpful to have concrete definitions to as many of the terms that we might see or hear when learning about persuasion theory. This is why I found the article “Introduction to Persuasion” by Ms. Lee McGaan of Monmouth University to be so helpful. Not only does she discuss and define the terms belief, attitude, and value, but she also discusses and defines motive and behavior in relation to persuasion theory. Further, Ms. McGaan discusses another persuasion theory in her article: the rational model of persuasion which is the theory “which suggests that people think and behave in ways based on reasons and are relatively predictable” (McGaan 2009). She concludes her article with a discussion of the five general purposes of persuasion: 1) create uncertainty, 2) reduce resistance, 3) change attitude, 4) amplify attitude, and 5) gain behavior. I found her writing to be clear and easily understandable and was able to learn a great deal about persuasion theory from her article. I hope that it helps you all too!
McGaan, Lee. “Persuasion Theory Intro .” Introduction to Persuasion. Monmouth University, 2009. Web. 21 Jan. 2015. <http://department.monm.edu/cata/saved_files/Handouts/PERS.FSC.html>.