In the very heart of human essence, there is a strong desire to influence other people. The modern society is like the Garden of Eden where Eva convinces Adam to eat the forbidden fruit. Consciously or unconsciously, people try to get the desired things by using different ways of affecting others. Persuasion, manipulation, and seduction are the powerful tools used in different areas by means of human communication. It is extremely easy to become a slave of words if the reason of submission is not the power of the mind but the senses. Nowadays, the techniques empowered to charm people’s minds and emotions reveal influence on different target audiences.
Persuasion, manipulation, and seduction are close but different in meaning terms, the results of which are similar. Codoban (2006) defines persuasion as “the process by which a person’s attitudes or behaviors are, without duress, influenced by other people through communication” (p. 151). In other words, persuasion is the honest attempt to change someone’s belief or opinion about something. Persuasion is a psychological impact, aimed at a person’s conviction in the rightness of a persuader and self-assurance in the correctness of a decision. People use it to convert the reported information into the values and norms of an individual. The process of persuasion starts with the presentation of logical and truthful arguments by the communicator. The target audience or particular person accepts the new system of logical, rational proofs. Nevertheless, even Plato in his time stated that the aim of persuasion was not only the logical proofs, but also the impact on emotions. Therefore, persuasion influences the rational and emotional beginnings of an individual.
The interpersonal and mass communications involve this method daily. Fear is one of the main tools that effectively influence people to change their minds or actions. The classic example of utilizing fear to persuade is to make children brush or decrease the eating of sweet products in the interest of preventing tooth pain. Parents tell their children what to do and then present them the negative and potentially scary effects that could happen because of not doing the “right things”. One more example is the advertisement and PR technologies that society faces every day. Advertisers are the masters of persuasion. Every company spends billions in the race for profits. Every firm tries to present ads to persuade the target audience to buy their goods and services. However, persuasion is not necessarily negative. The highly regarded example of using this method of communication is social advertising, which helps raise the healthy society.
Codoban (2006) describes persuasion as a process that “is mainly based on a logical address to consciousness” while “manipulation appeals to the prior encoding of the individual” (p. 154). Manipulation is one of the ways to manage people by creating illusions or conditions to control their behavior. Manipulators directly influence the human psyche. This influence is secret. It aims to change opinions, intentions, and goals of people toward the interests of a particular group or individual. Manipulation is the oppression of an individual because a person wants to believe in the desirable things (knowledge, experience, wealth, psychological comfort, etc.). However, the main aim of manipulators is to bring the object to the choice. The choice is constrained and unconscious, but the object is sure in the full accordance of his deeds and desires. Therefore, anyone can be a manipulator: a business partner, boss, or a family member. Most often, the brightest manipulators are TV personalities, politicians, and tradesmen. The most famous areas of spreading manipulative effects are politics and mass media. The ultimate goal of these efforts is control over the population, its steering and obedience. Usually, manipulators pursue their commercial goals. For example, experts suggest that the deadly swine flu pandemic in 2009 is a myth spread by the WHO. The organization possibly fabricated the pandemic together with the major pharmaceutical companies to increase sales of their products. There are dozens of such examples of manipulating the outlook or view of things occurring in the mass media every day. Headlines in newspapers warn us about different things: “All Muslims Are Terrorists!”; “The Global Warming Deadly Effects!”; “The End of the World Is Coming Soon!”; “The Iraq Dossier”; “New iPhones: Years of Stunning Success!” Manipulation is everywhere, and it causes the feeling that we live in the age of the fake.
Seduction is also one of the effective methods of influential communication. Codoban (2006) notes that the tactic of seduction is very similar to persuasion because it “focuses on the subject even if the seducer becomes an object” (p. 155). It is the most intense method of human communication because it appeals directly to the human subliminal mind. In the book Seducing the Subconscious: The Psychology of Emotional Influence in Advertising (2012), Robert Heath says that most of the purchase decisions appear in the subconscious. Marketing specialists and advertisers know how to charm consumers appealing to their senses. The subconscious part of the mind is connected with imaginary. Thus, people can be easily transformed from the slaves of words into the slaves of images. Advertising companies seduce the target audience by showing people happier, stronger, and healthier. They give a feeling that everything is possible after using their products. Even if most people know that these advertisements are quirky techniques to make people buy things, they continue to be tempted. Moreover, subconscious seduction that was previously used in the advertisement of cigarettes, alcohol, or cosmetics occurs in the advertisement of a wide range of products and services today. Sexual item has become so popular recently, making advertisers use it in an inappropriate, ridiculous way. Crackers, chocolate, travel tours, clothes, perfumes, cosmetics – everything can be related to sex. Two minutes dedicated to viewing ads are not enough to memorize the product, but it is enough to grab one’s attention and stimulate the desire to register deep in the subconscious.
Depending on age, gender, culture, education, economic status, political views, religious beliefs, and various people’s needs, the methods of manipulation, persuasion, and seduction are used for different audiences. The true challenge is to use an appropriate persuasive method for the right audience. Affected by a number of factors, audiences respond to different types of techniques effectively. From fear and humor to an emotional appeal, everyday messages, visionary seducing, irony, storytelling, design and graphics are on the endless list of persuasion (Sprague, Stuart, & Bodery, 2008, pp. 45-46). Beyond the general characteristics, there are many individual and environmental factors to consider – mood, motivation, ability, and attitude.
In conclusion, the modern day persuasive devices surround society. Unfortunately, they are not always obvious; as a rule, they are subtle. The other problem is that people usually do not filter all the information they receive from different sources. The age of information and consumption explodes with news, offers, and products every day. The aim is to persuade people to buy, believe, and trust and make them more manageable. Otherwise, every person can carefully examine the messages presented to the masses and understand the way persuaders, manipulators, and seducers influence people’s minds and emotional compliance so that to sell things.
Codoban, A. (2006). From persuasion to manipulation and seduction. JSRI, 14, 151 – 158.
Heath, R. (2012). Seducing the subconscious: The psychology of emotional influence in advertising (1st ed.). New York, NY: Wiley-Blackwell.
Sprague, J., Stuart, D., & Bodary, D. (2008). The speaker’s handbook. Farmington Hill MI: Cengage Learning.