book review example

book review example

The Power of Persuasion: A Book Review

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1. Introduction

Persuasion can invoke resistance. O’Keefe has given us a thorough blueprint for resistance and its implications. But persuasion bypasses resistance too often leaving us defenseless against its tactics. The text explores the ethics of persuasive influence and manipulation. Measures for the remediation of present social ills are given in the final chapter in the form of attitude change. An example is demonstrated on how persuasion can best be used as a force for positive change in a society that is fraught with failed attempts to alleviate a myriad of social problems. The book has profound relevance to academics and professionals in behavioral sciences and to the consumer and voter public who are all too often the targets of damaging persuasive tactics.

The Power of Persuasion is one of the most comprehensive studies of persuasion and its implicit, and often insidious, role in American society. The text is an incisive analysis of the use of propaganda and its impact on our daily lives. The book takes a hard and systematic look at the integral role persuasion plays in our society. Perspective is offered on what persuasion is, how it actuates our behaviors and forms our attitudes, and why it is so prevalent. Throughout the text there is an in-depth evaluation of social influence and the part it plays in the cultivation and perpetuation of consumer culture. The theory and tactics of attitude change are dissected and categorized in a “how to” manual. An interesting explanation is offered on the wide discrepancy between persuasion knowledge and its application as well as the failures in exercising strategic self-defense against various influence agents. Difficulty in recognizing persuasive intent and the unintentional, yet long-term effects of influence are central themes.

Over the last 100 years or so, the English language has undergone some dramatic changes in sales and marketing. Many phrases have come and gone but few have stood the test of time, and most of those that have are tied to basic human instincts and activities. The phrase “The sizzle sells the steak” first appeared in print in 1937 in a journal called Printer’s Ink. It is as true today as it was then. It refers to the promotion of a basic commodity as though it were a product of unique quality and value. The definition of sizzle is the impression of something great. That is persuasion.

2. Summary of the Book

Summarizes the book’s central thesis: that the exemplary power of the “new science of persuasion” has an effect on our daily lives. This is especially significant as its impact has been largely detrimental, yet people have been unable to protect themselves from it. The author has named his book “The Power of Persuasion” because he believes that the only way we can defend ourselves from the tactics of persuaders is to learn the tactics. The book is essentially an instruction manual for doing this. The two main reasons that the author provides for the necessity of learning how to do this are: 1) “…on the whole, the individual is the target and the change is not in his best interest” and 2) that the stakes have become higher as the technological advances of the 20th century have brought mankind into a small world of mass society, and the manipulation of this mass society has become a pressing issue. Step by step, the author shows how persuasion has subtly and deviously crept into our lives. People think that they are in control of their decisions, but it is actually the result of a “shotgun” approach to the art of attitude change. Now, we can find out our vulnerabilities and map our personalities with the supercomputer, and tailor the persuasive message to fit. Advertising is a field where such practices are abused to the level of ridiculousness. The author gives the example of a radio ad that he heard about an advertising awards contest, where one award was given for the best use of Freudian symbolism in a soap commercial.

3. Analysis and Critique

Mills’ final chapter analyzes three hypothetical case studies. This is a very useful end to the book as it is always a good idea to put theories into practice. All three cases give very different examples of where the power to persuade plays a major role in politics.

4. Impact and Relevance

I realize that, in general, the power to change minds is a crucial power. It is the power that allows people to control the social, economic, and political scenes. It is the power that allows people to change the life of one, a community, or the entire world. What makes this sort of power interesting is the fact that it is not a simple application. It is not pulling a lever or throwing a switch. It is a concerted and strategic effort to change the mind of another person. Just because someone has an idea that benefits the world does not mean that it will come to light. There are some ideas that are more beneficial than others, and even then it is often the more eloquent idea that wins out. Then again, this is the ideal situation. We know that the reality is not exactly the same. Ideas are often accepted at face value, and there is definitely not always an even playing field for all ideas. As we know, at its purest form, power can be measured in terms of capability. One might have a great idea with a lot of potential, but if he has no means to execute it, then it is all for naught. This is what sets the idea of persuasion and power apart. Power in terms of capability is beneficial to the one wielding it. His goal is to use his power to benefit himself. On the other hand, the power to change minds is selfless. The persuader, while he may have something to gain, is looking to stimulate change within the subject. He may not receive anything for himself, and in some cases, he may stand to lose. Ideas of this nature are the ones that benefit society, and with society bettered, each member appreciates how it affects him.

5. Conclusion

This book covers a lot of persuasive tactics to use to make a change in an audience or a person. One chapter talks about how to prepare the audience to be more receptive to the persuasive message. This is a very important chapter because most people try to persuade others with no avail, of course, because the other person is not willing to listen. This chapter can also relate to the issue of the US and Iraq. The message the US gave was not properly translated to the audience in Iraq, thus they were greeted with hostility. This is due to the US not properly preparing the audience to receive the message. The message would be more relevant to the antagonist if they had earlier been given the right message, answered the message, or made a positive or negative attitude change toward the message. This will make things easier for the change agent. This was not done in Iraq.

The book “The Power of Persuasion” contains many chapters that show us many aspects of everyday life. There are a lot of ways to learn persuasion. The Greeks discovered the earliest form of persuasion by finding the persuasive proof and sharing it with others. Aristotle, the father of persuasion, discovered that in order to persuade a message to an audience, the message must contain ethos, logos, and pathos. This is still used in classes today to teach rhetoric and persuasion.

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