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The Impact of Case Studies on Persuasion

1. Introduction

Case studies are one of the many ways used in persuasion. They allow the person to have a better understanding of the topic by seeing how a specific case turned out. The drawback is that the case study may very well be biased and difficult for an individual to place oneself in that specific situation. Although case studies provide structured and clear results, people are often very complex and can be better persuaded by other methods. People have the tendency to be skeptical about things that do not allow room for ambiguity. It is in human nature to favour and remember information that supports our existing beliefs. Therefore, one person may be persuaded by the case study while another may be influenced in a contradictory manner. The aim of this review is to determine the impact of case studies have on persuasion. This will be examined in relation to other methods used in persuasion and the extent that it changes ones attitude or belief. This specific topic was chosen by the authors to enable a better insight and understanding to the implications of case studies and when they should be used as a method of persuasion. In the aspects of one that is trying to be persuaded and one that is trying to persuade. Case studies are frequently used as a method of persuasion in many varying scenarios. These scenarios range from a sales person selling their specific product to a doctor giving advice to a patient. Case studies are usually very effective in situations where a person is seeking advice or information to make a decision. This is due to the case study providing a clear and definite resolution which removes any ambiguity compared to other methods. The effectiveness of case studies is determined by how much it changes a persons attitude or belief of the information presented. In research by Eagly and Chaiken, it is considered that a person’s attitude is often not changed when the information is forgotten or not accessible at the time of decision. Usually, low involvement decisions have a delay in the information processing phase, to the point of decision. This may result in the person forgetting what information led to the initial attitude.

2. The Power of Case Studies

Hugh Rank refers to case studies as “encounters between two persons” and a form of “narrative thinking.” This is a distinct line of thought as it regards case studies not just as stories, but as a tool to persuade. According to Rank, case studies are an effective tool of persuasion as “an affected person is brought into contact with an unaffected person” and there is no “other form of writing where the reader can so easily identify himself with those involved.” The latter point is particularly relevant to the war on terrorism, as it implies that the reader will identify with the persons in a case study and understand the situation. Usually people who are persuaded by the actions of terrorists are on the outside looking in and do not understand the situation of the terrorists and their reasons for what they have done. Case studies provide a way for these affected persons to understand both sides of the issue. This has huge implications for governments trying to prevent terrorism. In the battle of ideas, it is critical to understand what causes persons to resort to terrorism. Decision makers can use case studies, showing the cause of a specific terrorist act to better understand the root causes of terrorism and in so doing formulate policy to prevent further incidents.

3. Case Study Design and Methodology

Case studies are essentially stories—narratives that provide a convenient vehicle for illustrating a general point, to demonstrate the application of a theory, or to make a person come alive. They are a time-honored way of teaching at universities and, for students, a part of the standard fare. The method in teaching has persisted because it has adapted to new educational modes and because it has proved to be an effective mechanism for helping students to learn to think like practitioners. Recent trends seem to suggest that the case study method is being applied with renewed vitality in field research. Perhaps it is because we live in an age of increasing specialization, when policymakers and scholars need a well-delineated understanding of how things work in a particular set of circumstances, in order to apply theory or findings to the solution of concrete problems. Case studies can explain the complex interplay of institutions and decision-making environments, and draw attention to the role of the individual in history. At the same time, a renewed interest in comparative methodologies may have raised the profile of case studies, since it is often easier to do controlled comparisons within the context of a single case than between different cases. Additionally, the focus on process-tracing inference in contemporary debates about methodology has drawn attention to the research potential of studying actual sequences of events. All of these are ways in which the teaching method may have influenced contemporary social science research, since they are all domains in which the method has been found to be particularly useful.

4. Analyzing Case Study Results

The results from the above scenario are quite consistent with the theory of availability in that case study information was more available and accessible at the time of diagnosis, influencing a change in judgement. Consider the implications of this result. If there are different diagnoses for the same patient depending on the information available from the case study, it is quite likely that the treatment and therapy endorsed for the patient will reflect the diagnosis. With the same rationale that case study information is more available, the therapy decided would be considered more correct and appropriate; when in fact, had the clinician been given different information, he more than likely would have reached a different diagnosis and a different treatment. This could have dire consequences for real-life patients involved and is a true reflection of the impact of case study opinion and decision making. This influence on judgement and decision making is not just restricted to those involved in the health and helping professions. This author has personal experience with an industrial consultant who was given case study information of this author’s research/scholarship ability to help decide whether or not to offer a paying position as a tutor for GRE preparation. The perception of the case study led to a decision to offer the position, which would not have happened if the case study were not available. Although in existence, the effect of case study is typically quite unconscious, and it is in this that it presents a pretty strong case for persuasion.

While the preceding example helps demonstrate this point, the second influences individuals’ construal of reality such that when the pressure to make a decision is high, they are much more likely to rely on the availability heuristic in decision making. In other words, the interesting and vivid anecdote presented will be more available and accessible when individuals form their own opinions on the issue and therefore have a biasing influence on their judgement. This is true in the following manner. An experimental study conducted to examine the effect of case study on mental health clinicians’ diagnosis showed that when presented with the same case history in a different manner, participants chose different diagnoses based on the portrayal of the patient’s condition.

5. Conclusion

In conclusion, there is substantial evidence from the given study to suggest that case studies are especially valuable in the business and law and changing mind and creating action with the person or persons involved. The research has shown that case studies have many capabilities to influence people in ways that other methods such as statistical data and generalized examples do not. Primarily, case studies serve to open the host person’s mindset by providing detailed information of a real-life example. It will work, it will open person’s mindset on how certain approaches have been taken and will change the person’s judgment on what should have been done instead. This is because the person will be evaluating the information given and thinking critically about the problem and solution stated. More important is the ease on the part of the information acquired as mentioned, people find it less stressful to learn by memorization practice and mental visualization on things they have understood and will be tested on. This is especially true with students at all levels. Any sort of research paper can be printed out and given to a person to complete some form of assessment, but most people would agree that to do a written assignment on a hypothetical scenario is more enjoyable and effective to do one on something that has happened in real life. And lastly, case studies will leave a lasting impression. As results and conclusions often have a personal stake with the agent undergoing the case study, they will not forget it because of what happened and how it has affected or will affect them. It is quite likely that someone will use the same case study to further analyze the situation at a later time. This is most beneficial considering that changing a person’s decision or opinion may not have instant results, and a persuader will want it to stick in the long run.

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