What is it about?

Being able to craft effective and convincing messages is of key importance to many disciplines and societal goals—for example, doing so is essential when developing campaigns to promote public health (e.g., healthier lifestyles), environmental behaviors (e.g., reducing waste), and political engagement (e.g., voting). The current work integrates findings from over 700 studies on attitude and behavior change and shows that persuasive messages are most effective when they are designed to match people’s values and motivations than when they are not. This effect is known as “motivational matching”, and may include, for example, using other-focused appeals when communicating to people with collectivistic values, but self-focused appeals when communicating to people with individualistic values. The effect can also be leveraged by matching messages to situational factors, such as the dominant motivations tied to certain objects. For instance, objects like greeting cards are usually purchased for social motives and best promoted using social appeals (e.g., highlighting other people’s reactions), whereas objects like dishwashers are often purchased for utilitarian purposes and best promoted using functional appeals (e.g., highlighting their build quality). This review article not only supports the effectiveness of motivational matching, but finds that it is, on average, more effective than many other approaches to personalized persuasion and mass communication. Nevertheless, there is still variability in the effectiveness of the technique. Therefore, the article also proposes several principles that can help predict when motivational matching can be leveraged to obtain larger (versus smaller) benefits to persuasion.

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Why is it important?

Communicating in a convincing manner lies at the heart of effective campaigns and efforts to change people’s thoughts and behaviors in ways that contribute to societal welfare. This paper represents the largest review of personalized persuasion to date, integrating findings from over 700 studies. It showcases how persuasion can be bolstered by personalizing messages to match the motivations and values of people receiving them. This technique, known as “motivational matching”, is not only effective, but highly versatile and can be used to change people’s thoughts and behaviors across many domains, such as to change health, environment, prosocial, political, and consumer-related behaviors. Yet, not all applications of the technique have been equally successful. Consequently, the article further proposes principles for better understanding and using motivational matching. These principles can help guide researchers, interventionists, and marketers alike to better leverage motivational matching in their messaging endeavors.

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This page is a summary of: Appealing to motivation to change attitudes, intentions, and behavior: A systematic review and meta-analysis of 702 experimental tests of the effects of motivational message matching on persuasion., Psychological Bulletin, July 2022, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/bul0000377.
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