Probabilistic Persuasion: A Brunswikian Theory of Argumentation

Torsten Reimer, Ralph Hertwig and Sanja Sipek

in Simple Heuristics in a Social World

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780195388435
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199950089 | DOI:

Series: Evolution and Cognition Series

Probabilistic Persuasion: A Brunswikian Theory of Argumentation

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The Brunswikian lens model has been widely used to describe how individuals integrate information when making a decision (Brunswik, 1943; Dhami, Hertwig, & Hoffrage, 2004). The chapter applies and extends the lens model to a persuasion context. Specifically, the chapter introduces the probabilistic persuasion theory (PPT) as a framework within which the quality of arguments can be defined and measured, and the cognitive processes involved in the selection and in the reception of arguments can be modeled. Construing persuasion within the framework of PPT has the surplus value of opening the door to a rich literature on information processing models in judgment and decision making. The chapter outlines basic assumptions of the new theory, exemplify its application, and discuss its heuristic value. The chapter begins by briefly reviewing dual-process models of persuasion and how they account for the impact of arguments on attitudes. Second, the chapter critically discusses the theories' implications for human rationality, particularly their equation of heuristic processing with irrationality. Third, the chapter describes basic tenets of PPT as an alternative account of persuasion that is based on a Brunswikian framework (Hammond & Stewart, 2001). PPT asserts that persuasion can be construed as a decision-making process, in which a communicator provides information with the goal to influence a receiver's judgments and decisions. The chapter demonstrates how PPT can be used to specify these influence processes and to study the cognitive processes involved in the selection and reception of arguments. Forth, the chapter derives five testable predictions of the new theory and describe preliminary experimental evidence in support of this account.

Keywords: persuasion; decision making; brunswikian lens model; communication; argument quality; fast and frugal heuristics; social influence; bounded rationality

Chapter.  12750 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Psychology

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