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If you can recognize when you're being persuaded, it's a lot easier to make sure your opinions are actually your own.

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Every day, you are bombarded with ads, salespeople, or friends trying to persuade you to do something, like watch a new show on Netflix or try out a new diet. Those messages don't always convince you, but sometimes they do — and you might not even realize it's happening.

Dozens of factors can cause you to agree or disagree with a message, and a lot of them have to do with how you respond to persuasion in the first place. But if you can recognize when you're being persuaded, it's a lot easier to stop and make sure your opinions are actually your own. A lot of researchers who study persuasion think about it in terms of what's called the Elaboration Likelihood Model, or ELM, which divides your response to persuasion into two main categories:.

There's the central route, where you thoughtfully consider a message, or the peripheral route, where you make a decision using quick judgements or gut feelings. Most of the time, you end up using the peripheral route — like when you're watching a commercial and decide the actor playing a doctor knows what she's talking about because she's wearing a white coat. Obviously, it's good to think critically about some things, but we don't have time to do that for everything, so both routes are important and useful.

It helps to recognize which route you're taking, though, so you can decide whether it's worth stopping to think critically about whatever someone's trying to convince you of. A few things can affect which route you take. Some are personality traits, like what's known as the need for cognition, which describes how much people like to think about things.

People with a higher need for cognition tend to pay close attention to arguments, while people with a low need prefer to make decisions based on quick cues, like how credible someone seems. One experiment in 1986 showed that people with a high need are more likely to take the central route, while those with a low need tend to take the peripheral route. In the study, researchers presented a few hundred university students with strong and weak arguments for raising the school's tuition.

They found that strong arguments were more persuasive than weak ones, but especially when students had a high need for cognition. You'll also be more likely to use the central route if a topic is important to you. If you're obsessed with good TV and someone says they've found the best show ever, you might spend hours looking at its cinematography and writing before you decide you agree with them.

But if you just want something to binge watch, you might not care about all that. If a TV-loving friend says Game of Thrones is the best thing they've ever seen, that might be enough to convince you… especially if you hear it over and over and over again, every Sunday night. I gave up.

I finally watched Game of Thrones. Are you happy? The situation is also important.

Even if you love the topic, you're more likely to use the peripheral route if you're distracted or don't have much time to think. Other factors are less straightforward, which is where persuasion gets complicated. For example, feeling an emotion can persuade you in a bunch of different ways depending on the situation.

An emotion could be critical evidence, like if you're trying to figure out if a comedy movie is good. If you felt happy while watching it, that's a pretty good reason to decide that you liked it. Other times, your emotions can influence your opinions without you actively thinking about it.

If you feel good watching a commercial, for example, you'll probably feel good about the product, too. Emotions can also affect how you think and how much you think about something. If you're in a positive mood, you might not think as deeply about what you're hearing.

So the same emotion can persuade you in different ways, depending on the context. But they can also make you more vulnerable to being convinced of something without thinking critically about it. The credibility and source of the message also play a big part.

A 2016 study found that people who read a product review were more likely to think negatively about the product if they knew the review was sponsored. That's probably because, if we know someone was paid to say good things, it's harder for us to trust that the message is true, so we'll think more critically about it. We're also more likely to think harder about arguments if the message comes from someone in the minority opinion.

In an experiment in Spain, students read a message that supported making green the official school color. When the message said the majority of students supported the idea, it didn't much matter whether the arguments for it were good or bad. The reader already thought it was probably a good idea.

But if it was a minority opinion, they only tended to think it was a good idea if it had good arguments. Meaning that if you see lots of people sharing something on Facebook, for example, you might not think as critically about whether the content itself is actually making a good point. But if only one friend shares that opinion, the argument starts to matter more.

So, there are a lot of different things that can affect whether a commercial or person will persuade you. None of them are guaranteed to work, though — especially if you realize what's happening. Your mind is your own, and when you recognize that you're in a situation where you're more likely to be convinced of something, you can decide whether it's worth taking a little bit of time to think about it.

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