Published on September 13th, 2013 | by No Artificial
Winning Supporters With Weak Arguments
The latest research suggests that in some cases, presenting weak rather than strong arguments might stimulate greater advocacy and action.
In general, when people seek support for a cause, they always present the strongest arguments. However, the recent research from Stanford University indicates that in some cases, the opposite strategy may bring a better results.
Omair Akhtar, David Paunesku, and Zakary Tormala from Stanford University conducted their experiment in the months prior to the 2012 United States presidential election.
They asked 165 people to report their feelings about President Barack Obama’s reelection. Based on their answers, participants were categorized into pro- and anti-Obama voters.
Then the researchers showed some respondents a series of strong arguments from other voters in favor of President Obama’s reelection. Here are examples:
“I support President Obama because he has done a great job under extremely difficult circumstances. He inherited a broken economy, two wars, and an America with a battered international reputation. He’s made significant progress towards reversing all of these problems.”
“Obama has my support in the 2012 election because he’s stood his ground and pushed for important social changes, like health care reform and gay rights, even when they weren’t popular.”
Other respondents looked at a series of weaker arguments, like:
“One reason I support the president is that he has such a wonderful family. You can tell a lot about a person from the way they raise their kids, and his daughters are absolute darlings! And his wife is so well-dressed. You can tell he makes great choices.”
“One reason I support Obama is that when he gives speeches, he looks right at the camera to connect with voters at home, or sometimes stares off into the distance like he can see a better future. I find that inspiring.”
As a next step the research leaders asked respondents a line of questions about how likely they were to take action to support President Obama’s reelection campaign, such as how willing they were to make phone calls on his behalf and convince others to vote for him.
Pro-Obama voters were more likely to support the reelection campaign after when they were exposed to only weak arguments . The poor-quality advocacy made them think they have something valuable to contribute and rouse them to start more skillful advocacy themselves.
“When individuals already agree with a cause, receiving weak arguments in its favor can prompt them into advocating more on its behalf”, the researchers stated.
“Individuals with high argumentation efficacy and high certainty generally advocate more, regardless of the strength of arguments received”, they added.
Sometimes, if you’re trying to convince people to support your case and your views, it might be worthwhile to go against your instincts and use only your weakest points. Let others do the advocacy for you.