“Top 10” reasons: When adding persuasive arguments reduces persuasion
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Across four studies, we show that experts’ efforts to strengthen the persuasiveness of health and civic duty-related appeals actually weakened them. When designing “Top 10” reasons lists to get people to quit smoking, encourage young people to vote, and persuade individuals to engage in fitness, governmental (studies 1–2) and non-profit (study 3) agencies chose to include mildly strong reasons alongside strong ones in their effort to be as persuasive as possible. However, from the target audience’s perspective, those mildly favorable reasons actually decreased the persuasiveness of the message compared to a condition in which fewer but only highly persuasive reasons were used. Building upon the Presenter’s Paradox by Weaver, Garcia & Schwarz (Journal of Consumer Research 39 (3):445–460, 2012), these results demonstrate that averaging in impression formation occurs not only in targets commonly thought of as unified entities such as consumer products and people but also occurs in persuasion contexts where the individual arguments comprising a message are independent of each other.
KeywordsPresenter’s Paradox Averaging and adding Self/other differences Persuasive arguments
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