Humor and Persuasion Assignment Paper

Humor and Persuasion Assignment Paper

Humor and Persuasion Assignment Paper

Prepare a three- to five-page paper (not including title and reference pages), formatted according to APA style as outlined in the Ashford Writing Center, that details the effectiveness of humor in persuasion. You may use this week’s recommended scholarly sources as a basis for your observations. Your paper should delineate three or more aspects of the effectiveness of humor and indicate at least three risks of attempting to use humor in persuasion. Your paper should include previous theories of persuasion and discuss how the technique of humor can support or limit the effectiveness of persuasion  Humor and Persuasion Assignment Paper

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Humor has always worked for me when I attempt to persuade others. I have often used this tool when tension arises or my viewpoint dramatically clashes with another point of view that is important to me. Humor, particularly irony and self-effacement, have been found effective in persuasive communication. Using humor in persuasion is a risk, but well worth the risk when humor is effective in swaying an audience to a specific point of view. Expectancy violations theory is affected by strategically misaligned humor, distracting from the message itself and instead focusing on the humor; the risk use of humor is that the message might be misconstrued if it differs too much from what is expected. Mere exposure to a message delivered humorously can affect persuasion, such as a sign or billboard individuals pass as they drive to work each day. Humor creates cognitive dissonance, affecting attitudes or beliefs through laughter. Humor is an effective tool in persuasion. Humor aligns with some basic persuasive theories and impacts message receivers.Humor and Persuasion Assignment Paper

The effectiveness of humor in persuasion has very little empirical research to give credence, however correlations have been found with the use of irony and persuasion (Lyttle, 2001). Irony distracts the message receiver by creating a necessity for dual processing of the message, preventing a negative voice in the message receiver’s head because the brain is distracted by processing the message and the irony (Lyttle, 2001). Humor that is self-effacing is also effective because it actually gives credibility to the persuader who is willing to be the butt of the message joke (Lyttle, 2001).Humor and Persuasion Assignment Paper

Expectancy violations theories assume people expect certain behavior, or rather, normal behavior (Seiter & Gass, 2004). When individuals act differently than their prescribed roles dictate, then message receivers are surprised (Seiter & Gass, 2004). Sometimes expectancy violations provide the persuader an edge in with the audience being persuaded. A man speaking out for women’s issues or a cattle farmer arguing for vegans are two examples of expectancy violations. The receivers of expectancy violations are distracted and pay attention to the person sending the message instead of focusing on the message itself (Seiter & Gass, 2004). Humor, in an expectancy violations approach, distracts the audience into appreciating the message, a message that makes them laugh. Laughing with the persuader, the audience then feels compelled to internalize the message.Humor and Persuasion Assignment Paper

Mere exposure theory is a theory that people are persuaded simply by repeat exposure (Seiter & Gass, 2004). Driving on the freeway I see the same humorous billboard every day. The billboard has a funny message that makes me laugh so I repeat the joke to my husband or some friends. The joke becomes a regular part of our conversations when something funny comes up that relates. I may not have agreed with the original message, but because the joke was funny the message started to sink in and before I am even aware of it, an attitude change has occurred and now I agree with the message because of the funny joke. Nobody had to persuade me, I just repeatedly drove past the same funny billboard on the freeway everyday. By mere exposure to the message, delivered in a humorous way, I am persuaded along with all the friends I shared the joke with. Humor is truly a brilliant way to persuade with mere exposure to a message.Humor and Persuasion Assignment Paper

Print advertising is a mere exposure message delivery system where humor aids persuasion (Cline & Kellaris, 1999). Consumers hold a preference for brands that use humor in their print advertisements (Cline & Kellaris). However, a strong argument does not need humor and may actually be more persuasive without humor (Cline & Kellaris, 1999). This is another example of when humor is risky.Humor and Persuasion Assignment Paper

Cognitive Dissonance Theory is a theory that states people feel dissonance if their attitudes, theories, or beliefs are not in alignment (Seiter & Gass, 2004). Individuals will strive to make internal adjustments and find harmony with their internal discord when they are out of alignment (Seiter & Gass, 2004). A message that a receiver finds to be humorous may actually stimulate cognitive dissonance. I imagine a really funny comedian starts a humorous political attack on a candidate I voted for or support. Through humor this comedian makes me laugh about a behavior or decision my favored politician made. I may have been in denial or blind to the faulty behavior or decision-making process until the comedian opens my mind through humor. This is a hypothetical situation, but I can actually think of specific times this has actually happened to me.Humor and Persuasion Assignment Paper

Humor is something I rely on personally in persuasion and I have experienced persuasion by others who have made me laugh. Irony and self-effacement have been found effective persuasive tools. While some risks are involved with using humor, careful application or humor outweighs the risks. Several theories of persuasion such as expectancy violations theory, mere exposure theory, and cognitive dissonance theory can be looked at from a humorist perspective. Expectancy violations theory is risky if the receiver of the message rejects the humor, but humor can be found in the unexpected. Mere exposures to humor in print ads and billboards have a persuasive impact from repeat exposure and something to laugh about. Humor can create cognitive dissonance triggering a reevaluation of beliefs, attitudes or values. Humor is an effective tool in persuasion.


Cline, Thomas W, & Kellaris, James J. (1999). The joint impact of humor and argument strength in a print advertising context: A case for weaker arguments. Psychology & Marketing, 16(1), 69. Retrieved March 15, 2011, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 37875581).Humor and Persuasion Assignment Paper

Lyttle, J. (2001). The effectiveness of humor in persuasion: The case of business ethics training. The Journal of General Psychology, 128(2), 206-16. Retrieved March 15, 2011, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 77223102).

Seiter, John E., and Gass, Robert H. (2004), Perspectives on Persuasion, Social Influence, and Compliance Gaining, Boston, Massachusetts: Pearson Education. Humor and Persuasion Assignment Paper


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