An Examination of Mediation: Insights into the Role of Psychological Mediators in the Use of Persuasion Knowledge

An Examination of Mediation: Insights into the Role of Psychological Mediators in the Use of Persuasion Knowledge

Kenneth M. Henrie (Texas A&M University - San Antonio, USA) and Darryl W. Miller (University of Wisconsin - River Falls, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3631-6.ch007
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This paper examines the role of psychological mediators on consumers’ responses to persuasive sales tactics. Factor Analysis is used to determine the actual mediators identified by consumers as potential targets by salespeople and find structure in the data. An exploratory examination identifies four categories of potential psychological mediators. Experimental results reveal that consumers recognize sales tactics designed to influence these psychological mediators. These processes, in turn, mediate the influence of persuasive tactics on consumer responses. Overall, the study lends support to Friestad and Wright’s Persuasion Knowledge Model (1994).
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Persuasion Knowledge

Persuasion knowledge refers to a consumer’s knowledge about the persuasion tactics, intent, and persuasive messages produced by an agent (Friestad & Wright, 1994). Consumers use persuasion knowledge to evaluate the manner in which the persuasion agent communicates this message, most notably in terms of their motives and intentions. When consumers are exposed to persuasion attempts, they try to cope with the situation in a way that is consistent with their own goals within the context of the episode. Coping can include not only behavioral outcomes but also cognitive and perceptual outcomes. Thus, persuasion knowledge does not involve the activation of a static set of beliefs, but instead it is a dynamic, evolving phenomenon. As consumers experience future persuasion episodes, they will likely use what they have learned in evaluating and coping with past persuasion attempts.

For example, consider a situation where a salesperson is attempting to sell a car to a potential customer. The customer will use persuasion knowledge to evaluate each of the persuasion tactics (e.g. their actions, and verbal/non-verbal communication) by this salesperson. The customer will then compare these tactics to prior experiences (e.g. interactions with other car salespeople) in an attempt to evaluate them in terms of appropriateness, fairness, and effectiveness. In this scenario, the customer is using this persuasion knowledge in an effort to maintain control over the outcome of their interaction with the salesperson, in this case, purchasing a car that meets their needs at what they perceive to be a fair price. This interaction will then be saved and become part of their persuasion knowledge for all future interactions with car salespeople.

Several recent works have addressed persuasion knowledge within the context of consumer response to persuasion including the development of persuasion knowledge among youth (McAlister & Cornwell, 2009; Wright, Friestad, & Boush, 2005), the use of persuasion knowledge in response to covert marketing tactics (Wei, Fischer, & Main, 2008), and its role in the development of guilt and charitable giving (Hibbert et al., 2007). However, the number of recent works regarding persuasion knowledge remains relatively limited.

Of particular importance to this paper is the concept of psychological mediators. Friestad and Wright (1994) suggest that psychological mediators are the psychological processes activated by consumers that mediate the relationship between the persuasive tactics employed by the agent of persuasion, such as a salesperson, and the response to the persuasive efforts (e.g. consumer’s coping responses). Persuasion knowledge theory indicates that agents of persuasion identify and try to influence specific psychological mediators in an effort to enact desired changes in an individual.

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