A Shortcut to Successful Influence: The ACE Method

Persuasion research indicates that verbal and rational (as opposed to emotional) human influence appeals focus heavily on appropriateness, consistency and effectiveness of proposed ideas and actions.


Appropriateness appeals, based on social norms, address whether a way of thinking, speaking or acting is right or wrong in a particular group, organization or culture (e.g., “That’s not how things are done here” or “Everyone does this.  You should too”).   

Consistency appeals, derived from desire for balance or consistency across behaviors, address whether a way of thinking, speaking or acting fits with prior ones or one’s self-perception (e.g., “You’ve never done that before” or “This is so much like you”).  

Effectiveness appeals, useful because human action is often goal-driven, address whether a way of thinking, speaking or acting is likely to work given the goals at hand (e.g., “That will never get you what you want” or “You’ll certainly have my attention”).

This division of influence appeals into three categories is known as the ACE Method of persuasion.  It’s a useful shortcut for developing positions that are likely to resonate with the person or persons you wish to influence.  It does not account for all forms of persuasive activity.  Attractiveness, source credibility, humor, charisma and many other factors enter into both appeals and outcomes of persuasion.  Even attractiveness of a persuasion source, though, can be seen as influential because the person being persuaded identifies with the attractive person (consistency) or would like to please him or her (effectiveness).

Skill in assessing what matters most among the three ACE Method persuasion categories, at a particular point in time for a person or persons, is critical in making good use of it.  Sometimes this requires observing others over time or, when that’s not possible, asking questions that assess priorities.

Research and much anecdotal evidence have shown that young people, for example, are often influenced by the perceptions of their peers.  While they may not admit that their actions are guided by such considerations, often what they consider important is not so much being effective (e.g., doing homework before going out), but rather appropriate (e.g., spending more time with friends).

Certainly, many young people also consider what is effective or consistent when deciding a course of action.  The challenge in such cases is to determine which form of effectiveness or consistency matters most.  A young person may decide delaying homework is more effective in terms of making and keeping friends.

Marketers often use appropriateness, consistency and effectiveness considerations in developing advertisements.  Auto ads focus on what others would think of us were we to purchase a particular model, consistency with self-image or desired self-image, and/or effectiveness of purchase, perhaps in terms of handling, gas mileage, or cost.

The ACE Method is useful in narrowing down likely interests before formulating an appeal even in everyday conversation.

Here is a simple example that demonstrates how a shift in appeal types after assessing priorities can work in conversation:

Alan:  Let’s see that new movie tonight.

Mark:  Can’t do it tonight.

Alan:  You never miss a chance to see a thriller. (Consistency Appeal)

Mark:  I know, but tomorrow the final report is due at work.

Alan:  You’ve been at that all day.  If you see the movie and clear your brain, the report will turn out much better. (Effectiveness Appeal)

Mark:  You may have a point.

In this conversation, Alan didn't use an appropriateness appeal (e.g., “Everyone will be there tonight”).  He may have determined that Mark is not influenced by such appeals, especially when facing a work deadline.

The next time you’re formulating a persuasive message, consider whether appropriateness, consistency or effectiveness is likely to be most useful.  It just might cut down on a lot of guesswork.

Photo from Shutterstock.com

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less
Videos
  • Oumuamua, a quarter-mile long asteroid tumbling through space, is Hawaiian for "scout", or "the first of many".
  • It was given this name because it came from another solar system.
  • Some claimed 'Oumuamua was an alien technology, but there's no actual evidence for that.

Banned books: 10 of the most-challenged books in America

America isn't immune to attempts to remove books from libraries and schools, here are ten frequent targets and why you ought to go check them out.

Nazis burn books on a huge bonfire of 'anti-German' literature in the Opernplatz, Berlin. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Culture & Religion
  • Even in America, books are frequently challenged and removed from schools and public libraries.
  • Every year, the American Library Association puts on Banned Books Week to draw attention to this fact.
  • Some of the books they include on their list of most frequently challenged are some of the greatest, most beloved, and entertaining books there are.
Keep reading Show less
Big Think
Sponsored by Lumina Foundation

Upvote the video, or videos, you want to win.

As you vote, keep in mind that we are looking for a winner with the most engaging social venture pitch - an idea you would want to invest in. And note: We'll only count upvotes (not downvotes).

Keep reading Show less