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Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2017 Dec 1;12(12):1902-1915. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsx126.

The persuasion network is modulated by drug-use risk and predicts anti-drug message effectiveness.

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School of Communication, Cognitive Communication Science Lab, The Ohio State University, OH 43210, USA.
Department of Communication, Media Neuroscience Lab, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA.
Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University, 637718, Singapore.


While a persuasion network has been proposed, little is known about how network connections between brain regions contribute to attitude change. Two possible mechanisms have been advanced. One hypothesis predicts that attitude change results from increased connectivity between structures implicated in affective and executive processing in response to increases in argument strength. A second functional perspective suggests that highly arousing messages reduce connectivity between structures implicated in the encoding of sensory information, which disrupts message processing and thereby inhibits attitude change. However, persuasion is a multi-determined construct that results from both message features and audience characteristics. Therefore, persuasive messages should lead to specific functional connectivity patterns among a priori defined structures within the persuasion network. The present study exposed 28 subjects to anti-drug public service announcements where arousal, argument strength, and subject drug-use risk were systematically varied. Psychophysiological interaction analyses provide support for the affective-executive hypothesis but not for the encoding-disruption hypothesis. Secondary analyses show that video-level connectivity patterns among structures within the persuasion network predict audience responses in independent samples (one college-aged, one nationally representative). We propose that persuasion neuroscience research is best advanced by considering network-level effects while accounting for interactions between message features and target audience characteristics.


elaboration likelihood model; fMRI; functional connectivity; persuasion; public service announcements

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