Communication and Media Studies 333

COMS 333: Pursuasion

Prerequisites: COMS 130 or permission of instructor

Credit Hours: (3)

Modification of attitudes and behavior through purposeful oral communication. Techniques studied include generation of attention and interest, motivational devices, persuasive campaigns and development of credibility (ethos).


Detailed Description of Content of Course

The course content focuses on those theories, processes, and techniques that allow an understanding of the process of

persuasion and give insight into the construction and presentation of persuasive content. Topics of study include:

I. The nature of persuasive communication

            A. Persuasion defined

            B. Propaganda

            C. Key elements of the persuasive process

                                    1. Attitudes

                                    2. Beliefs

                                    3. Behaviors

            D. Ethical concerns

II. How attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors are acquired: learning


            A. Classical learning

            B. Operant learning

            C. Social Learning

III. Individual responses to persuasive messages.

            A. McGuire's Theory

            B. Perceptual Mechanisms

            C. The Elaboration Likelihood Approach

IV. Group influences on responses to persuasive messages.

            A. Cohesion

            B. Pressures toward Conformity

            C. Norms

            D. Symbolic Convergence

V. How hierarchies of attitudes and beliefs are managed

by individuals.

            A. Cognitive Dissonance

            B. Cognitive Consistency

VI. Individual characteristics that influence the persuasive


            A. Source Credibility

            B. Source Attractiveness

            C. Power

VI. Audience characteristics that influence the persuasive


            A. Psychological characteristics of audiences

                                    1. Self-Concept

                                    2. Dogmatism

            B. Demographic characteristics of audiences

                                    1. Age

                                    2. Gender

            C. Lifestyle characteristics of audiences

VII. Message characteristics that influence the persuasive


            A. Fear, humor, and warmth

            B. Organization

            C. Logical Construction


Detailed Description of the Conduct of Course

This course is taught in a communication intensive format that employs the team learning approach as the primary environment for learning. Students are assigned permanent membership in a heterogeneous learning group at the beginning of the semester.

Each unit consists of assignments designed to insure that the student understands key concepts, processes, and theories and are able to apply what they have learned. In achieving these objectives students are provided with numerous opportunities for written and oral expression.

Each week groups are provided with two worksheets. The first, a concept learning worksheet, is a group test which covers the content of the current unit. The quiz is open book and groups are instructed to not only get the right answers but to also make sure that every group member understands the answers and the concepts that lie behind them. The second, a concept application worksheet, focuses on the ability of students to apply what they have learned from their reading, the concept learning worksheet, mini lectures by the instructor, and class discussion. Concept application projects may involve case study analysis, developing persuasive campaigns, and oral presentations.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

There are two fundamental goals of the course:

1. Students will become more effective consumers of persuasive messages through their knowledge of

persuasive theories, processes, and techniques.

2. Students will develop skill at developing the content and structure of persuasive messages through

their knowledge of persuasive theories, processes, and techniques.


Assessment Measures

1. Group assignments and participation and persuasive notebook encourage students to apply persuasion principles to other


2. Midterm and final exams will test student understanding of principles of persuasion.


Other Course Information



Review and Approval


David Dobkins, Chair

Bill Kennan, Chair September 2001