This literature review aims is to inform the reader on how persuasion is present in every cultures, how it differs and above all how it is used. Persuasion is a fundamental part of communication.
Persuasion occurs daily and has a massive influence on people lives. Universally it is recognized as a potent weapon, able to condition other people to achieve their goals. In ancient Greece, it was called 'ars oratoria', or the art of communication. Today is a tool widely used by the media (newspapers, televisions, social networks) to change ideas and behaviour to the general public.
Definition of persuasion
A process by which a single person or an audience of people is induced to take specific actions or think about certain thoughts that would otherwise not be the fruit of their own will.
Definition of culture
The culture is based on three main components: Values, norms, beliefs, present for a long (centuries) period in a specific group of people. All these components have been grafted into the social fabric and have become one with the group. A merger took place.
Persuasion falls within the subset of these components present in the social fabric and differs from culture to culture.
How does this process takes place
It is a real figurative process with effective methods/mechanisms used; everything is finalized to 'embrace' the interlocutor towards the point of view of the person with whom the interaction takes place (person, media...). The central figure of the communicator tries to induce other people to change their thoughts/behaviours through the transmission of a message. Apparently this process takes place at a conscious, logical level. Actually such messages condition the unconscious mind. These messages make change ideas to the human mind, emotions (the real protagonists of the unconscious mind) and attitude. Since these messages arrive directly into the unconscious mind, the interlocutors are convinced that they act autonomously, spontaneously, but in reality, they are influenced by external factors.
The process of persuasion can be explicit or finer, sneaky when performed subliminally.
Thus described, persuasion can look unethical; may seem to be the description of coercion.
What is the difference between persuasion and coercion?
Coercion is a type of social influence aimed at changing the weights and behaviours of others by using subtle and deceptive schemes and methods, which can also lead to both psychological and physical abuse. Persuasion occurs through an exchange of ideas. In this exchange, the tools used are words and body language. Everything is aimed at putting the interlocutor in a specific mood that the persuader seeks to.
Persuasion has always been present in human social exchanges and is connected to the culture of belonging of a person or a group.
Based on Edward T. Hall's theory, it is essential to understand in depth the culture of the interlocutor to avoid misunderstandings. Without this knowledge and empathy, there is the risk of making the interlocutor feel coerced.
Particular attention must be paid to this, first of all as human beings and above all as international business managers. Globalization is a fact and cultures are increasingly interconnected, so this knowledge is indispensable.
This knowledge can be deepened through the following theories:
Edward T. Hall's Cultural Iceberg Model
The tip of the iceberg represents the visible and most superficial aspects of a culture. These are codified and unambiguous rules that can be easily described: language, laws, clothes, food, music, rituals. Below the surface, there are less objective aspects that can create misunderstandings in intercultural communication. They have unexpressed rules, that became conscious only when they are broken, such as, e.g. traditions, perception of time, variability in the use of greetings, courtesy, and other sociolinguistic aspects. More in-depth there are values that are deeply rooted within a society, and that determine behaviours and preferences (what is right or wrong, desirable or undesirable, acceptable or unacceptable).These are: social conventions, not communication verbal, human space and interpersonal distance. They are rules followed automatically but of which they are not aware and therefore are not easily recognizable by an inexperienced observer.
Cialdini Theory Persuasion
The psychologist Robert Cialdini, identified six persuasion strategy:
The authority. There is an attitude of reverence, devotion to the authorities. The decisions taken by the authorities are not called into question, even if some behaviours are not fair or moral.
Reciprocity. Happens when someone receives something and feels almost obliged to reciprocate what he has received. This 'unwritten' rule of returning something is a rule that, if not respected, the person is labelled 'ungrateful' or 'parasite'.
The social proof. When so many people act, it is recognized as socially adequate. As a result of this, when the approval takes place by authoritative people, it leads to greater trust in the community.
Sympathy occurs when there are particular similarities between individuals. We like those who are like us, with common connection elements.
Scarcity or trend. Individuals tend not to appreciate what is abundant and to overestimate, what is scarce. Articles, people, scarce opportunities become more attractive to human eyes.
Commitment and consistency. Unsatisfactory people in maintaining a particular goal are labelled as irresponsible. Keeping one's image coherent with the interlocutor has a tranquillizing function.
Individualist societies are aimed at achieving personal goals. The primary value is that of individual autonomy with weak ties between individuals. The principle of independence of the individual with respect to the organization is emphasized; therefore the possibility of having time to dedicate to one's personal life and to carry out work that is also gratifying on a personal. In collectivist societies, the primary value is instead belonging to the group and social well-being is placed before the well-being of the individual. So there is much more attention to the possibilities of training, the conditions of the working environment and one's own abilities.
Johnstone, Lustig and Koester's Theory
This theory, conceived by Lustig and Koester (2010) and Johnstone (1989) exposes three persuasion styles: quasilogical, presentational and analogical.
In the first style, the principles of formal logic are used, through objective evidence and evidence related to the conclusion. The most used terms are: so, therefore. Deductive reasoning is created, without shadows or grey areas. The second style makes use of emotions. The language is used to obtain an emotional response. All five senses are part of this style. What wins is the intense way in which ideas are exposed. A sort of hypnosis occurs.
In the analogical style, persuasion occurs through an analogy or a parable, intending to teach something. The speaker seeks to empathize with the public. Persuasion occurs through the sharing of experiences rather than in the thoughts themselves.
Persuasion in African culture
This research has as its object the reaction of the Nigerians (West Africa) to the six principles of Cialdini:
The results show that the most attractive strategies are the commitment, authority, reciprocity and sympathy, while consensus and scarcity are the least attractive strategies. The male population is more sensitive to commitment and authority than women. In some areas of the continent, superstition is part of the social fabric, assuming a crucial persuasive role. Some examples are:
In Rwanda, goats are found in all the farms, but also on the menus of most local restaurants. However, there is a belief that eating goat meat makes women grow beards.
In some villages in Kenya, the population believes that geese can recognize the presence of witches.
In Uganda, former hospital patients are encouraged to step on an egg to get rid of the disease permanently.
Persuasion in Western culture
Western culture is often characterized by individualism and low power distance, based on Hofstede Theory.
In individualistic cultures, the preferred pronoun is 'I' and the unique traits of a person are emphasized. People socialize among themselves, always keeping a distance. These aspects are found in persuasion processes such as attitudes, slogans to self-evolution and personal goals. In this perspective, 'low-context' communication, i.e. information sharing, is direct. Examples are United Kingdom and United States. For example, advertisements that focus on the product or the brand itself, without a social context, are preferred within individualistic cultures.
In these cultures, there is a kind of rational persuasion, focused on achieving the tasks to be performed. Moreover, in the Western world, the power distance is low; therefore, citizens can question authority and are less persuaded by an authoritative figure.
Western culture persuasion is, based on Johnstone Theory, a Quasilogical Persuasion. Logic is used to convey the message, supported by objective evidence, as undeniable — all backed by examples, logical connections, witnesses to facts and quotes from experts.
Persuasion in Asian culture
Asian cultures, Russia, China have a high degree of power distance, based on Hofstede Theory. They recognize the broad power of the authorities over the people. Authority means government, police and experts. In these cultures, one is recognized as more persuasive if one is an expert in the field, or if one is a leader.
Furthermore, they are collectivist cultures; the pronoun used is 'we'. Persuasion is based on the benefit obtained by the group and not by the individual. The type of communication is indirect and requires attention to the emotions and implicit messages involved in the exchange. Based on Johnstone Theory, Eastern countries, including the Arab world, tend to use persuasive strategies of 'presentation' and 'analogy' Persuasiveness occurs through a targeted choice of words, combining phrases and rhythm. The style used is a narrative that allows connecting stories and information/past and present. The fundamental point is to use history and tradition as a precedent, using common cultural reference points.
Persuasion is a fundamental part of people lives, thinking and behaviuors. A good manager needs to understand that and need to be ready in order to develop appropriate management strategies across different cultures, always with mutual respect.