Persuasion header image
The Nature of Attitudes and Persuasion

The Yale Approach

Congruity Theory

Cognitive Dissonance Theory

Social Judgment/ Involvement Theory

Information Integration Theory

Theory of Reasoned Action

Elaboration Likelihood Model


The Yale Approach
The Yale Approach - Overview 
- Message Organization
- Message Content
Strengths and Weaknesses of the Yale Approach
The Yale Approach - Overview 
After World War II, Carl Hovland and his co-workers produced a great deal of research at the Yale Communication and Attitude Change Program. In part, they wanted to learn about wartime propaganda. There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of experimental studies that fit the Yale approach, which is basically to test variables that might influence comprehension, acceptance, and retention of persuasive messages. This section will focus on the highlights of this research.

William McGuire (perhaps best known for his inoculation theory, which concerns how to create resistance to persuasion) proposed a model of attitude change that helps understand the Yale approach to persuasion.
McGuire’s (1968) model of the persuasion process includes six steps (sometimes it is described as five steps, omitting “Presentation”):

Presentation > Attention > Comprehension > Yielding > Retention > Behavior

“Presentation” is McGuire’s term for the persuasive message. He then reasoned that people cannot be persuaded by message they ignore, so after the message is presented to the audience the next step in the persuasion process is paying “attention.”  Third, the audience must understand the message before it can influence their attitudes, so “comprehension” follows attention in his model. “Yielding” is McGuire’s term for acceptance, the point at which attitude change occurs. When a persuasive message succeeds at changing a listener’s mind (attitudes), McGuire says that the receiver has yielded to the message. The fifth step is “retention,” and it concerns how long the attitude change lasts. McGuire recognized that attitudes do change; if they were permanent, of course, we couldn’t hope to change them with our persuasive messages. But the very fact that attitudes do change (and can be changed) means that when we succeed at changing someone’s attitude, that change probably won’t last forever -- some other persuasive message (or experience) could change their attitudes again. Finally, McGuire considered “behavior” to be the ultimate goal of persuasive discourse. If we look at the persuasion that surrounds us -- sales messages advertising goods and services, political messages asking us to vote for politicians, public service messages urging us not to drink and drive, friends trying to get us to go see a movie or a concert -- we can see that persuasion often has action as the ultimate goal.

This model is important to understanding the process of persuasion. As we shall see, some of the factors studied in the Yale research program probably work by influencing different parts of the persuasion process (for example, some factors may have their greatest influence on persuasion through comprehension, while other factors probably concentrate on yielding). Most of the research conducted under the Yale approach can be organized into two major headings: speaker and message. I will discuss each of these topics separately. I will suggest ways each factor might contribute to the process of persuasion.

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