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Automatic responses, target resistance, and the adaptation of compliance-seeking requests

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Based upon politeness theory and a cognitive rules perspective, it is argued that anticipated resistance to a persuasive message should effect compliance-seeking message behavior. Using controlled interviews to elicit persuasive messages, results indicate that persuaders used a greater number of strategies when confronting a positively predisposed target who refused to comply. Beyond an initial opening gambit, negative sanctions were employed more extensively against positively predisposed targets. Overall, a pattern of compliance-gaining behaviors involving a gradual shift to negative sanctions was observed. The findings are explained in light of current perspectives on information processing, possibly shedding light on past failures to find evidence of strategic adaptation based on situational factors.

Keywords: adaptation; compliance-gaining; compliance-resisting; interpersonal communication; persuasion

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03637750128067

Affiliations: Speech Communication at Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas 76129

Publication date: December 1, 2001

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