How sender and medium characteristics influence the applicability of self-persuasion in media messages.


What is the best way to effectuate behavioural change? Traditional (mass)media interventions often rely on direct persuasion (i.e., providing arguments) as the basis to elicit attitude/behavioural change [1;2]. However, these forms of direct persuasion are often seen as ineffective: for example, the target group is not reached or only minimal changes in behaviour are accomplished. Therefore, I am interested in improving the effectiveness of (mass)media messages by including the self of the recipient in the intervention process, thereby making the message more personal and tailored, and thus more persuasive. The main aim of the project is to determine whether and how self-involving techniques can be applied in persuasive (mass)media messages to increase their persuasiveness, which boundary conditions are important for the effectivity, and clarify the underlying neural correlates. Several senior scientists (Prof. van Baaren & Prof. Buijzen) and PhD students (Shuang Li, Tess Beke, Jeroen Loman) from Radboud University participate in this research.
The direct methods elicit resistance [3;4]: when arguments are provided, individuals are likely to recognize the persuasive intent of the communicator [5], which in turn is experienced as a threat to their freedom to choose [6]. Consequently, the individuals engage in self-guarding strategies, including message avoidance or boomerang effects [7]. A promising alternative is the ‘self-persuasion-technique’: rather than providing individuals with arguments, they have to generate arguments themselves. For example, smokers are asked to provide arguments why smoking is bad. Thus, the target of persuasion creates the means to influence her-/himself [8;9]. This technique is more effective than direct persuasion [3] for two reasons: First, the before mentioned self-guarding strategies activated by direct persuasion attempts are much less likely to occur when arguments are self-generated. This is because individuals do not mentally detect, and correct for, internally generated information to the same extent as externally provided information [5;10]. Second, when individuals are asked to generate arguments, they come up with the reasons they find most compelling [11;12].
In the past years, several sub-aims of this research line were reached: SP was proven effective in different behaviours (smoking, drinking, helping;13-15), and several boundary conditions (agency, involvement;16;17) were identified. Currently, several sub-projects are performed: My lab investigates the possible moderating role of cultural factors (e.g., self-construal, PhD-project S. Li) and examines the applicability in a real-life context to decrease resistance to health professionals (PhD-project T. Beke). A project focusing on the applicability on social media finished recently (PhD-project J. Loman).
Dr. van Steen can contribute to the following planned projects: Firstly, a meta-analysis will be performed to clarify the effectiveness of SP and identify possible influencing factors. Secondly, a review on the more recent research on SP will be written as the last review is dating from 1999 [3]. Thirdly, the applicability and direct comparison of SP and related techniques in a social media setting will be investigated (a pre-registration report was recently submitted to Media Psychology,18). Lastly, we will investigate the neural correlates of SP, supported by a grant proposal (±50.000euro) to be submitted in August 2018.





Dr. B.C.N. Müller

Verbonden aan

Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen, Maatschappijwetenschappen


01/02/2019 tot 31/05/2019