Persuasive communication is one of the most widely practiced types of communication, but you may not even know you’re doing it. You use persuasion every day, even when you’re trying to convince yourself to go to the gym. But how to define persuasion in psychology depends entirely on the size of the message’s audience.

How to Define Persuasion in Psychology

To define persuasion in psychology, students must assess the types of communication according to their intent. Persuasive communication can be written, visual, verbal or any combination of these forms, and it is designed to sway a person’s beliefs or actions. In other words, it is communication that convinces you to do or think something that you might not think otherwise.

Elements that define persuasion in psychology include the use of symbolic words, images or sounds. It also must transmit a message. But the key element that will define persuasion in psychology is if that message intends to deliberately influence its audience.

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Intrapersonal Persuasive Communication

Intrapersonal communication involves reflective thinking or internal vocalization. Persuasive intrapersonal communication happens when you try to convince yourself to do something. If you’ve ever been on the edge of a diving board and tried to persuade yourself to jump, you were practicing persuasive intrapersonal communication. Another time you may have used persuasive intrapersonal communication is if you were dealing with a stressful situation and used self-talk to calm yourself down.

Interpersonal Persuasive Communication

Interpersonal communication is communication between two people who already possess a close bond. Persuasive interpersonal communication involves the use of persuasive techniques between these people. Have you ever begged your mother to let you stay out late? Guess what. You were practicing persuasive interpersonal communication.

Since persuasive interpersonal communication occurs between two people, it can use more elements of composition than intrapersonal communication. Persuasive interpersonal communication can include persuasive reading and visuals as well as conversational speech.

Group Persuasive Communication

Group communication occurs between individuals who may not have a close, established bond. This type of communication also happens in a larger setting where more than two people are present. Persuasive group communication most often involves one or more people trying to convince a group of something. You may have experienced persuasive group communication while working on a group project in class or trying to decide what to do with friends on a Friday night.

The main difference between persuasive interpersonal communication and persuasive group communication is the number of people involved. Like persuasive interpersonal communication, persuasive group communication makes use of many combinations of audio, visual and verbal techniques to convince its audience. Persuasive group communication can include persuasive reading and limited presentation techniques as well as conversational speech.

Persuasive Public and Mass Communication

Public communication focuses on the person delivering the message. The messenger may be performing, possibly giving a speech in front of a live audience. For example, a lawyer giving her closing argument would be practicing persuasive public communication.

Mass communication is public communication that is transmitted through media to a larger audience. Wide distribution of persuasive reading materials, advertisements, newscasts and radio programs all fall into the category of persuasive mass communication.

About the Author

Rebecca Renner is a teacher and freelance writer from Daytona Beach, Florida. Her byline has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Magazine, Glamour and elsewhere.