Research on Persuasive Power of First Person Testimonials in Changing Beliefs Published in Communication Research
Professor Michael Slater, Associate Professor Emily Moyer-Gusé and Judy Watts’ (PhD 22) piece “Affective Responses to Counter-Attitudinal Testimonials Drive Persuasive Effects: The Case of Physician-Assisted Suicide” was published in Communication Research on Sept. 13.
People are typically strongly resistant to and dismissive of persuasive messages that are opposed to positions they hold based on their ideological or moral beliefs. Based on this, researchers tested testimonial versus conventional persuasive messages concerning physician-assisted suicide, a topic on which opinions generally are both strong and divided. They produced both types of messages on both sides of the issue, to ensure that differences in the effects of these two types of messages weren’t due to the side of the issue being addressed.
The researchers found that using an emotionally moving first-person testimonial message opposed to someone’s beliefs was more likely than a conventional persuasive message to influence them. Their evidence suggests that the reason for this is that when people are emotionally moved by someone’s experience, they are likely to be less dismissive of the message overall. They also are likely to argue less vigorously against the opposing point of view when thinking about the message in their own minds.