Investigating Multiple Roles of Vocal Confidence in Persuasion
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Although persuasion often occurs via oral communication, it remains a comparatively understudied area. This research tested the hypothesis that changes in three properties of voice influence perceptions of speaker confidence, which in turn differentially affects attitudes according to different underlying psychological processes that the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM, Petty & Cacioppo, 1984), suggests should emerge under different levels of thought. Experiment 1 was a 2 (Elaboration: high vs. low) x 2 (Vocal speed: increased speed vs. decreased speed) x 2 (Vocal intonation: falling intonation vs. rising intonation) between participants factorial design. Vocal speed and vocal intonation influenced perceptions of speaker confidence as predicted. In line with the ELM, under high elaboration, confidence biased thought favorability, which in turn influenced attitudes. Under low elaboration, confidence did not bias thoughts but rather directly influenced attitudes as a peripheral cue. Experiment 2 used a similar design as Experiment 1 but focused on vocal pitch. Results confirmed pitch influenced perceptions of confidence as predicted. Importantly, we also replicated the bias and cue processes found in Experiment 1. Experiment 3 investigated the process by which a broader spectrum of speech rate influenced persuasion under moderate elaboration. In a 2 (Argument quality: strong vs. weak) x 4 (Vocal speed: extremely slow vs. moderately slow vs. moderately fast vs. extremely fast) between participants factorial design, results confirmed the hypothesized non-linear relationship between speech rate and perceptions of confidence. In line with the ELM, speech rate influenced persuasion based on the amount of processing. Experiment 4 investigated the effects of a broader spectrum of vocal intonation on persuasion under moderate elaboration and used a similar design as Experiment 3. Results indicated a partial success of our vocal intonation manipulation. No evidence was found to support the hypothesized mechanism. These studies show that changes in several different properties of voice can influence the extent to which others perceive them as confident. Importantly, evidence suggests different vocal properties influence persuasion by the same bias and cue processes under high and low thought. Evidence also suggests that under moderate thought, speech rate influences persuasion based on the amount of processing.