Honors College Thesis

Social media styles : The influence of emotion on persuasion through Twitter

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  • Given the unique nature of interpersonal interactions via microblogging sites (such as Twitter), it has become clear that a new generation of political candidates will need to appeal to a new generation of voters by way of an entirely new mechanism: Social networking sites (SNS’s). In order to address the question of which types of emotional appeals are most effective in persuading voters on platforms such as Twitter, the present study utilizes three topically similar arguments, with different types of emotional appeals. Participants (N = 463) were given either a fear-inducing, hope-inducing, or emotionally neutral message, in either the format of a tweet, or the format of an informational campaign mailer (2x3 design). They were then asked about the hypothetical candidate who was credited with the message either on the tweet, or on the postcard that they viewed. While no significant effect was found of visual SNS cues (Twitter format or control) on argument effectiveness, the fear-inducing condition resulted in a more positive image of the candidate, and greater persuasive force. However, when controlling for participant-identified experience of fear this trend reverses, and moderating variables such as party affiliation indicate that co-partisanship may drive how emotional appeals are experienced within the context of each specific argument. Key Words: Social media, political psychology, heuristic-systematic model, Yale model, message characteristics, audience characteristics, source characteristics, Twitter, SNS, fear, information processing.
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