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Unformatted text preview: HumorThe Effectiveness of Humor on PersuasionMary ODellCom.323 Persuasion & ArgumentationInstructor: Maureen MartinousDecember 11th, 2011HumorThe Effectiveness of Humor on PersuasionHumor comes in many forms such as wit, satire, sarcasm, irony, farce, parody,mimicry and even parody. Humor is something that is experienced even in the earlieststages of life (Cohen, 2010). Humor is just as prevalent in the life experience of ahuman as the use of persuasion. The effectiveness of humor can be seen when applied topersuasion theories such as the Mere Exposure theory, the Consistency theory and theHeuristic-Systematic Model of Persuasion.Humor can be applied to many persuasion theories but one particular theory isthe ME theory. Mere Exposure Theory, also known as the Mere Exposure Effect, statesthat repeated exposure to an unfamiliar stimulus can in and of itself increase positiveaffect toward the stimulus (Seiter & Glass, 2004). This theory is one that simply growson a person. Its not often recognized by individuals, but its widely applied in everydaylife. For instance with advertising, the more a commercial is run the more a personbegins to relate to it. However, this approach isnt always positive, when people areover exposed to things the opposite of the desired effect can be applied: people begin todespise the product. My own personal experience with this theory has to do with thisgirly song called Tic Toc, the more I heard it and familiarized myself with the more Ienjoyed it. However, when I heard it to many times on the radio I began to hate thesong. Humor has played a positive role in re-acclimating me to that particular song asthis male coworker of mine would walk around the office singing it. The song onceagain has a positive spin on it because a new respected source that used humor wasapplied. Humor might be effective in persuasion is by increasing liking for the source.HumorIn particular, the choice of humor might illustrate a shared sense of humor that hints at asimilar set of underlying values. It has been suggested that moods during a persuasivemessage might be attributed to the source (Lyttle, 2001). This theory requires a balancebetween all variables, the right amount of exposure vs. the right amount of humor.Psychological Consistency theories are also affected by humor. These theoriesshare the common assumption that individuals have an innate desire to hold consistentbeliefs, attitudes, and behaviors (Seiter & Glass, 2004). The strength of the consistencytheory has to do with the populations need for consistency in life. Its a natural desire tohave a form of consistency in all forms of life, as we are raised to place a high value onit.Humans work well in patterns, and given such it is an unconscious desire tomaximum consistency in even the smallest matters. Persuasion often takes advantage ofthis particular theory, and humor within that persuasion can play large role. Humormight be effective in persuasion [by blocking] systematic/central processing bydistracting receivers from constructing counterarguments. This effect has beenconfirmed repeatedly. The effect may be even stronger when ironic humor is used(Lyttle, 2001). An example of this taking place can be seen everyday life, say a personlikes the actor Adam Sandler and goes into buy one of his movies, the salesclerk endsup targeting his love and locates a collection of Adam Sandler movies. The salesclerkcan use humor to distract the client from finding negatives in the sales pitch, andtherefore swindling the client into five movies instead of one. The weakness of this isHumorthat the client could potentially get annoyed with the use of humor in this situation, andwalk away with nothing.Another theory referred to as the Heuristic-Systematic Model of Persuasionoperates on the assumption that individuals rely on two different modes of informationprocessing. One mode, called systematic processing, is more thoughtful, deliberate, andanalytical. This mode focuses on the content of the message. The other mode, calledheuristic processing, is more reflexive or automatic. Heuristic processing is based on theapplication of decision rules or heuristic cues, such as mental shortcuts, which simplifyinformation processing and decision making (Seiter & Glass, 2004). This theoriesstrength is drawn from todays society of apathetic beings. People are looking for thesimplest way to reach a reliable outcome and its become a trained process to rely onmental shortcuts to get to a desirable place. This is the simplest theory to apply humorto, simply put, humor can make a person feel warm and comfortable therefore kickinginto gear the heuristic theory. Instead of consciously putting in the effort to find the bestproduct, its easy to just go with what feels right. One way that humor might beeffective in persuasion is by creating positive affect. People who are in a good mood areless likely to disagree with a persuasive message and more likely to rely onheuristic/peripheral cues (Lyttle, 2001). Obviously the adverse effect would be that ifhumor happened to be at the expense of the target, making them feel uncomfortable andin a bad mood. Now, no longer trusting of the source and their feelings, the client mayswitch to a critical evaluation of the persuasion at hand.HumorWhen theories such as the Mere Exposure theory, the Consistency theory and theHeuristic-Systematic Model of Persuasion are used in unison with humor, differentvalues of effectiveness can be calculated. Humor can be effective by creating a positiveeffect, putting a person in a good mood which makes them less likely to disagree with apersuasive message. Humor can be used to make someone more comfortable with thesource, and therefore a bond is created with strengthens the ability to persuade. Comedycan also be used to distract receivers from being analytical making persuasion an easiertask.HumorSources:Cohen, S.B. "Humor." World Book Advanced Encyclopedia. World Book, 2010 Web.Retrieved April 27Jim Lyttle. (2001). the effectiveness of humor in persuasion: The case of business ethicsRetrieved April 27,2010, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 77223102).Seiter, J. E., and Gass, R. H. (2004), Perspectives on Persuasion, Social Influence, andCompliance Gaining, Boston, Massachusetts: Pearson Education, Inc....
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