Seminar Psychology of Communication

Dr. Josef Sawetz
+ 43 699 1 006 5056


Seminar Overview

  • From persuasion theories to professional persuasive strategies in three days.
  • Overview of basic theories and models in persuasion research.
  • Utilization of theoretical models as tools and methods for managing persuasive communication in professional practice.

Seminar Goals

The seminar covers a broad range of theories, frameworks, concepts, and tools to reach higher levels of persuasive effectiveness for successful communication strategies and campaigns. The goals of the seminar are:

  • To gain an insight into the connecting structure behind the theoretical models to reveal the core principles as guidelines for decisions in professional life of a persuader.
  • To provide a fundamental, interdisciplinary and integrated view into persuasive dynamics: the brain, society, emotions, cognitions, motives, automaticity and areas of deliberation.
  • To develop theoretical knowledge and practical skills to create, analyse and optimize persuasive communication campaigns and strategies.

Teaching Methods

  • An exploration of the theoretical framework to uncover the interconnected core principles of successful persuasive communication.
  • A combination of psychological, neuroscientific and evolutionary perspectives to convey a clear picture and deeper understanding of the reasons why and the way how persuasive techniques work.
  • Best practice & current examples of the application of theory including:
    • Analysis of award winning international advertising campaigns
    • State-of-the-art persuasion techniques in marketing: native advertising, content marketing, thought leadership, etc.
    • Checklists: “Adaptive Mental System Toolbox” for persuasive communication

Seminar Readings

  • Main Reading:

Briñol, P., & Petty, R. E. (2012). A history of attitudes and persuasion research. In A. Kruglanski & W. Stroebe (Eds.), Handbook of the history of social psychology (pp. 285-320). New York: Psychology Press.

Preliminary Seminar Schedule of Topics

Day 1: 

Basics of social psychology and persuasion research: from historical origins to latest findings of (Social, Cognitive, Affective, Decision, etc.) Neuroscience

  • Yale Communication Research Program
  • Social Judgment Theory
  • Inoculation Theory
  • Balance Theory
  • Cognitive Dissonance Theory and revised cognitive dissonance model
  • Theory of Psychological Reactance
  • ELM – Elaboration Likelihood Model
  • Hierarchy-of-Effects-Model
  • Heuristic-systematic model
  • Uses-and-Gratifications-Approach, mood management

Mass communication trends:

  • Multiple fragmentations as contextual conditions for communication management

Levels of Processing from Perception to Action:

  • Attention, perception, categorization, emotion, cognition, evaluation, motivation
  • Nonverbal communication, Semiotics, Laws of Gestalt Psychology, Schema Theory, orientation reaction, etc.

Hierarchical System of Regulation and Adaptation:

  • Reflexes, sentiments, emotions, feelings, meanings, thoughts, opinions, attitudes, beliefs, values

Day 2:

The brain as the tool and target of persuasive techniques: brain structures and processes as the framework for persuasion theories

  • Core principles rule the main functions of our brain: the automatic, social and emotional brain
  • Brain processes on different levels: collective, individual, situational – modularity of the mind
  • The human mind as an adaptive mental system: brain processes become structures
  • Man as trivial and non-trivial machine
  • Somatic marker hypothesis, embodiment, from mirror neurons to theory of mind

Learning theories:

  • Classical and instrumental conditioning
  • Observational learning (modelling, possible selves)

The rationality of emotions:

  • Reflexive vs. reflective judgements, automaticity of mind
  • Priming – the manipulation/modulation of the direction of associations; framing
  • Demarcation line between conscious and unconscious processes in the brain
  • Autopilot-System, zombie systems, enslavement and consistency principle

Day 3:

Judgment & Decision Making:

  • Attitudes: function, formation, components, structure, change
  • Theory of planned behaviour, theory of reasoned action, multi-attribute decision analysis, satisficing, adaptive decision making
  • The MODE model (Motivation and Opportunity as DEterminants of the attitude-behavior relation)
  • Interplay of emotion & cognition (meta-emotions, meta-cognitions)

Bounded rationality: heuristics & biases, mental shortcuts:

  • Fundamental attribution error, mere-exposure-effect, validity-effect, endowment effect, third person effect, primacy vs. recency effects, attractiveness bias, sleeper effect, sunk-cost fallacy, risk/loss aversion, context and contrast effects, etc.

Profiling methods: basic set of personality traits

  • Sensation & variety seeking, basic motives, introversion vs. extraversion, locus of control, involvement, age-related neurotransmitter levels, regulatory fit: promotion vs. prevention focus, etc.

Techniques for persuasive interventions:

  • Social proof & conformity, sub-mental signals of dominance, scarcity, honesty, nonverbal signs of self-assurance, reciprocation, liking, commitment/consistency, authority, etc.