A study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin asserts that individuals are more inclined to be convinced in case they receive messages that support their previous beliefs. Even if individuals know the ulterior motives of other people, they motivate themselves to believe in them in order to maintain their self-integrity.
The researchers state that what motivates people to be persuaded is usually the ulterior motives of the people who attempt to persuade others. For example, think of politicians who always talk about their views and make big promises; they aim to persuade people to vote for them or any candidate from their political parties, even if they themselves have no belief in their own political speeches and promises.
In a study on the Brazilian presidential election held in 2018 and resulted in a victory for a far-right candidate, the participants were asked to complete a questionnaire about the newly elected president’s policies on economy. Then, they read an economist’s positive remarks about the economic policy of the president, and some of them were informed about the fact that this economist makes these remarks to get a job in government.
As a result of the survey, it was found that the participants did not take heed of the economist’s veiled interest of getting a job from the president if his remarks were in line with their own opinions. In other words, although they knew the economist’s ulterior motive, they trusted him more so long as his remarks supported their own opinions. On the other hand, the participants trusted him less in case his remarks did not support their own opinions.
In another study, participants who want to purchase a laptop (Lenovo) encountered a salesperson doing his best to sell in a role-playing experiment. The participants were able to detect the ulterior motives better in case the salesperson expressed no negative opinion against the laptop. But, likewise the case in the first study, the participants who knew the salesperson’s ulterior motive but liked the brand “Lenovo” expressed more confidence towards the salesperson than those who did not like it.
Again in another study, it was found that individuals believed in the remarks of a speaker having an ulterior motive to maintain their self-integrity in case the remarks supported their own views. The authors of the study asserted that the messages that are against the receivers’ views and related with ulterior motives are not only considered as a self-threat, but also increase the negative effect of the mismatched opinion on such an evaluation.
In conclusion, our results indicate that, in order to maintain self-integrity, the individuals ignore their knowledge suggesting that persuasion agents are not reliable. Though still being able to identify the speaker’s persuasive intention, they refrain from allowing this awareness to affect their assessment about the agent.”
“Recognizing and Trusting Persuasion Agents: Attitudes Bias Trustworthiness Judgments, but not Persuasion Detection” was carried out by Tito L. H. Grillo and Cristiane Pizzutti.