The task initially began by assigning class members to groups, then specific roles were chosen as to who would be the facilitator Susan, the note taker Frances and that the remaining two people (Catherine and Gurleen) would participate in the discussion.
Suggestions from the guidelines were briefly discussed, and individual ideas were offered from each group member, which were homelessness by myself, care leavers by Gurleen and gay marriage by Catherine and Frances. The group then made a majority decision that the topic of gay marriage would be used for the persuasive communication, as there are still widely held beliefs especially amongst those who attribute cause, that gay marriage is wrong and should only be endorsed for heterosexual couples. (Olson, 2006)
Following on from initial discussions, the first theme identified was from the biological perspective and the nature versus nurture argument. I suggested exploring research related to whether the gay gene actually exists, and also more recent research on epigenetics, which states that homosexuality is not a choice, then commented if credible evidence could be found, those who believe gay marriage is morally wrong, may alter their attitudes and Gurleen offered to investigate this theme further.
The next theme was with regard to ‘Gay Bashing, as homosexuality has various negative stereotypes and stigmas attached, such as paedophilia and transmission of HIV, therefore it was decided to explore incidents in which homosexuals have been a victim of hate crime or violent attacks, and Gurleen agreed that she would find case studies and statistics in this area, which could assist the audience in paying attention and possibly feel guilt for having negative attitudes towards fellow human beings.
Third main key issue, was that of legal and civil partnerships and Catherine commented that even though stigmas are attached to same sex marriage, these relationships can be far more fulfilling and stable than so called ‘sham marriages’, which either mask true sexuality, or can be exploited in order to fulfil a business transaction. Furthermore Catherine commented that physical, emotional and sexual abuse is common within heterosexual partnerships, and therefore questioned what would make dysfunctional marriages better than same sex ones. Evidence in this area could be utilised in the persuasive communication as a qualitative argument and Catherine agreed to find information in this area.
The final topic identified was cultural differences globally, and it was decided to investigate Countries which legally accept gay marriages, versus those which do not. Frances agreed to research this area and investigate statistics on people who have been imprisoned or sentenced to death in countries which still deem homosexuality to be a crime, and this topic was considered to be another strong argument as to why there are many conflicting attitudes.
Finally, the target audience was discussed, and it was agreed that first year University student teenagers would be chosen, as previous studies evidenced that this age group were more persuadable and should have moderate levels of self-esteem. (Hogg & Vaughan, 2005) Also there was consensus with regard to utilising techniques of the Elaboration Likelihood Model by Petty and Cacioppo (1986), the Heuristic Semantic Model by Eagly and Chaiken (1993), to evoke cognitive dissonance by Festinger (1957) and to understand those who will be persuaded by Social Judgement Theory, Sherif and Hovland (1961). I put myself forward to co-ordinate and prepare a power point presentation and also design a poster.
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Commentary of Persuasive Communication
The rationale for this persuasive communication presentation is that gay people continue to be stigmatised in many area of society and that they do not have the same rights as heterosexual couples, thus it is important to address these issues and attempt to change perceptions and views in the public domain.
This communication was aimed at teenage students, who are found to be more open to persuasion according to Viser & Krosnick (1998). Also further studies evidenced that not only age is important in attitude change, but inclusively moderate levels of intelligence and self-esteem can influence persuasion. Thus it was anticipated that first year University students should possess these elements, according to an inverted U curve hypothesis, since they had recently been accepted into higher education. (McGuire, 1968)
The persuasive communication was developed, in order to take into account various models and techniques, such as the Yale approach by Janis and Hovland (1959) , the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) by Petty and Cacioppo (1986), the Heuristic-Systematic Model (HSM) by Eagly and Chaiken, (1993), cognitive dissonance by Festiner (1957), rhetoric such as pathos and Social Judgement Theory (SJT) by Sherif and Hovland (1961).
The communication began with a background Lady Gaga song, ‘Born this Way’, which aimed to have a priming effect on the audience, as the lyrics are well known and emphasise sexuality is set at birth. Priming can be described as accessing heuristic pathways without an individual being aware. For example a haptic priming study conducted by Goldinger and Hansen (2005) found that when students sat of soft chairs rather than hard wooden chairs, they were more open to persuasion.
Then the presentation began by utilising the Yale approach, by Janis and Hovland (1959), of which there are three variables, the communicator, the communication and the audience. William McGuire (1968) attempted to explain this Yale approach as six steps to persuasion, which are presentation, attention, comprehension, yielding, retention and behaviour. Presentation is the persuasive message itself and as the audience cannot be persuaded by a message which they may ignore, it was important to get them to pay attention to what was being said. This was achieved, by beginning the presentation with a short video titled ‘Sineads Hand’, which intended to engage the audience and also cause cognitive dissonance, as an actor repeatedly asked many strangers permission to marry Sinead.
Cognitive Dissonance can be described as a feeling of discomfort, when a person simultaneously holds two or more conflicting cognitions, which may stem from their beliefs or emotional reactions. In a state of dissonance, people may feel ‘disequilibrium’ such as guilt, embarrassment or anxiety and thus would aim to remove discomfort, by changing their thoughts. (Festinger, 1957) Moreover, guilt has been found to influence persuasion according to O’Keefe, (2002).
Also it was deemed important to present both sides of the argument as the audience was relatively intelligent and also unsympathetic to the topic of gay marriage, therefore this two-sided approach briefly mentioned opposing opinions and then refuted or attacked them, with a series of strong arguments, which supported the topic. (Hovland et al., 1949)
The next step was an emotive speech, in which the audience was asked to listen to a love scene which they, their friends or family could be involved in, and was intended to arouse pathos, which would induce emotions such as pity or sadness, and thus participants would be engaged in the topic. (DemirdöÄŸen, 2010).
After this step, it was necessary for the audience to understand the content of message before their attitudes could be influenced, therefore the comprehension stage followed, by explaining the nature versus nurture argument. Recent research on Epigenetics has evidenced that homosexuality is formed in the womb during development, and thus emphasised that homosexuality is not a choice. Also previous studies have found that those attribute cause to homosexuality, tend to have more negative views of gay marriage, therefore this slide aimed to refute these beliefs. (Wilcox and Norrander, 2002).
Another slide consisted of case studies of people who had been victimised due to homophobia, and also presented information on innocent victims, who were served prison and death sentences. These messages intended to cause a moderate fear appeal by McGuire (1969), in that it could be one of their friends or family in this predicament. This inverted ‘U’ fear hypotheses as with self-esteem, states that only a moderate amount of fear will cause a change in persuasion, therefore the messages were not too explicit.
The next step in the process was yielding, which can be described as acceptance of the message and this is where attitude change would occur, if the persuasive message had been successful. Yielding was anticipated to be evidenced by a change in attitude when completing the Attitudes towards Gay Marriage (ATGM) questionnaire after the presentation ended. This reliable seven point Likert scale questionnaire has been used in recent studies, which covered the reasons why people object to gay marriage, such as attributing cause or strong religious beliefs, and has been adapted for this communication, in order to measure attitude change. (Olson, 2006)
Furthermore, it was decided not to pre-warn the audience what the persuasive communication topic would be, as this can lessen the effects of the persuasive message, put people on their guard and influence yielding. Therefore, the persuasive communication tailored around the topic equal rights, instead of directly addressing the topic. (Benoit, 1998)
McGuire (1968) recognised that although attitudes can change, another persuasive message could revert this attitude back to the original standpoint. Therefore the next stage was retention, which would be measured by asking participants to complete the ATGM questionnaire every six months for a two year period. Lastly, McGuire considered behaviour to be the final goal of persuasive discourse and was concerned with actions which would demonstrate that the persuasion had worked, and this could be evidenced if individuals no longer feel uncomfortable about seeing gay couples displaying affection according to question three of the ATGM questionnaire.
A criticism of the Yale model was that another step was not considered, which is what the audience thinks about the message; a cognitive element addressed by the ELM. Also a major weakness found that the approach discusses steps in the persuasion process, but not how persuasion or yielding actually occurs and also tends to assume that any attitude change, results from learning ideas of the message, even though persuasion can occur when a message is not learned.
The ELM by Petty and Cacioppo (1986), addressed the Yale approach shortfall and demonstrates two routes to attitude change, which are the central and peripheral routes. For the central route to be activated, the message should be highly relevant and interesting, in order for the person to be much more likely to think or elaborate or think about the message. This central route tends to deal with message content as in text, words or written material, and was covered by case studies, quotes from famous people and the reflection period, whereby participants were asked to write down their thoughts, known as the thought listing technique. (Cacioppo, Harkins and Petty, 1981)
Also the ELM states there are several factors that influence receivers’ thoughts, which are involvement in the persuasion process, the quality of the argument, the quantity of arguments and credibility of the presenters. Participants’ involvement was achieved by asking them to engage in the communication, when they received the emotive speech and to reflect upon their thoughts. The quality of messages was covered by topics discussed such as epigenetics and case studies, also for quantity, several arguments were presented and the credibility element ensured that the presenters were qualified to deliver the information in an informed and knowledgeable manner.
Credibility has been found to be a crucial factor in persuasion, which accesses both the central and peripheral route. The peripheral route is accessed when the listener decides whether to agree with the message based on other cues or source factors, rather than from the strength of the arguments or ideas in the message. For example, a person may decide to agree with the message because the source appears to be an expert or is attractive or when a listener notices that a message has many arguments, but lacks the ability or motivation to think about them individually. (Petty, Cacioppo & Schumann, 1983).
The HSM by Eagly and Chaiken, (1993) is similar to the ELM, in that it also has two routes in persuasion processes. The first route is the heuristic mode, which depends on cues such as speaker credibility and the second is the systematic mode which is much more cognitively demanding, as the receiver has to undertake a critical appraisal and engage in the message. Alternatively the HSM is different to the ELM, in that it considers an interaction between both the heuristic and systematic routes, known as the co-occurrence hypothesis. Also the sufficiency principle, emphasises that individuals will use whatever effort necessary in order to attain enough confidence that they have accomplished their processing goals. (Bohner et al., 1995)
Another theory which aims to explain opinion change, is the SJT by Sherif and Hovland (1961). This model addresses judgement and whether the message agrees or disagrees with the persons own attitude, who have their own ‘anchor point’ and latitudes of either acceptance, non-commitment or rejection fall within this range. Most persuasion has been found to occur in the latitude of non-commitment, therefore it was anticipated that those who had moderate scores on the ATGM, would be more susceptible to attitude change, than those who scored higher.
Finally, the presentation ended with an explicit conclusion and explained exactly what point was being made to enable comprehension and retention, which has been found to be more powerful than an implicit one, which leaves the individual to decide for themselves. (Cruz, 1998)
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This longitudinal study is being designed to examine the effectiveness of the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM), which will be utilised as part of a persuasive communication event, in an attempt to change negative attitudes towards same sex marriage. The ELM is described as being on a continuum of a central and peripheral route and it is anticipated that by accessing the central route, there will be a positive and long-lasting shift in favour of gay marriage, evidenced by a change in responses to an Attitude Toward Gay Marriage (ATGM) questionnaire. (Appendix 1)
Furthermore, this study aims to demonstrate that homosexuality is not a choice, by evidencing recent research on epigenetics, which states that sexual orientation is decided during pregnancy by environmental factors, such as nutrition and hormones. Herek and Capitanio, (1995) stated an important predictor of attitude towards homosexuality, was whether individuals attributed choice as a reason why the person is gay. Also Bartkowski (2004) publicised that those who believed homosexuality was a choice, were markedly less likely to support gay rights, while those who attributed a biological cause, were much more supportive. Importantly, those who believed that sexual orientation is determined at birth, are much more likely to approve of gay marriage. (Wilcox and Norrander, 2002).
First year (N=60) University students will be recruited, by advertising on campus grounds, which will request for individuals to contact the researcher, who will initially ask if they approve of gay marriage; are indifferent or if they do not approve, and those who approve will not be enrolled in the experiment. All participants will be compensated with two free cinema tickets.
The materials which will be used will be a persuasive communication presentation and the ATGM questionnaire.
This longitudinal study will be a between subjects design, as different participants will be randomly assigned, to either group one who will receive the presentation, which incorporates the ELM and epigenetics video or control group two, who will only watch a music video. The ATGM questionnaire will be completed by all participants before the event, immediately afterwards and then over periods of six months for two years. It is hypothesised that group one will demonstrate a positive and long-lasting change in their attitude towards gay marriage, but group two will demonstrate little or no change on their attitudes towards gay marriage.
The dependent variable will be the participants’ attitude, measured by comparing overall scores from 46 ATGM questions on a 7-point Likert scale, which will range from strongly agree to strongly disagree. The independent variable will be the persuasive communication itself. Results will be statistically significant if those who objected strongly, therefore had high scores to ATGM questions, improved their scores and this change was maintained over time.
Participants will be randomly assigned to either group one or group two and asked to complete the ATGM questionnaire. Next, the groups will be taken to separate University class rooms and group one will receive a ten minute persuasive communication, which will include the nature versus nature argument, while the control group two will watch a music video . During the presentation, group one will be asked to reflect on their feelings, by writing down their views, to ensure that they are engaging in the process and thus accessing the central route of the ELM.
The implications of this study could be that more education on nature versus nurture evidence should be delivered, which demonstrates that homosexuality is not a choice.
Ethically, participants’ perspectives and any threats to their well-being, dignity or values should be anticipated and eliminated. Whenever possible, informed consent should be obtained, which will debrief participants, emphasise