A source’s apparent likeability and physical attractiveness may also function as a persuasive cue, particularly when individuals do not expend significant
Echoing credibility 69 cognitive effort to evaluate a message’s claims.11 Professional athletes and Hollywood celebrities, for example, are generally treated more favorably overall, perceived to be highly likeable, and are often attractive individuals. Their mere presence in communications may readily affect peripheral persuasion.12 An iconic example of the persuasive force of athlete endorsements is the mid-1970s Miller Lite “Tastes great, less filling” TV campaign. At the time, market research indicated that male consumers were simply not interested in purchasing low-carbohydrate beers such as Miller Lite because they were perceived to be for women, watered down, and lacking in taste. Undeterred, the Miller Brewing Company recruited former athletes, as well as well-known sports executives and game officials to plug the beer on air. NFL veterans such as Dick Butkus, Bubba Smith, and Matt Snell expressed to football fans that low-calorie beers were full of flavor, while demonstrating how Miller Lite was enjoyed by sports legends. Profits increased nearly fivefold in coming years as the athlete-centered advertisements helped boost earnings from $6 million to $29 million.13
In conjunction with the appeal of celebrity, attractive people are also often deemed more intelligent and skilled, which can augment Messenger Credibility.14 Furthermore, added to likeability fueled by celebrity status and attractiveness, it is evident that individuals also tend to be much more amenable to those who give them compliments and who express even the most incidental similarities to themselves; including shared names, the same birthdates, or similar styles of clothing.15 The practice of emphasizing communicator-audience commonalities approximates aspects of the classic propaganda technique known as Plain Folks (Table 2.1), which involves a persuader’s attempts to “win our confidence by appearing to be people like ourselves - ‘just plain folk among the neighbors.’ ”16 The expression of shared values also acts in this fashion, as does the use of common cultural symbols. For instance, conveying similar cultural values as those cherished by a certain group, or displaying a country’s flag on products, can act as peripheral cues for various communities.17 The attractiveness and positive emotional feelings affiliated with a familiar object, such as a flag or a religious symbol, can be transferred to, or conflated with, another object, person, or idea. Such attractiveness acts as a peripheral cue because its persuasiveness may “even occur outside of conscious awareness.”18 Spotlighting common values also harnesses identity-protective-cognition, as it validates that a messenger shares certain cultural worldviews and foundational moral values. With all this in mind, the utilization of celebrity status, audience flattery, the Plain Folks device, the focus on important religious-cultural symbols, as well as shared cultural values are considered to be appeals to Source Attraction. This includes cases in which a communicator stresses any potential commonalities between themselves and a targeted audience. The rates of recurrence of Source Cues in media produced by each Darwin-skeptic and proevolutionist organization are showcased in Figure 3.1.
Figure 3.1 Recurrence Rates of Source Cues in Evolution Wars Media
As we move forward in exploring the nature of such Source Cues in Evolution Wars communications, it should first be noted that discrete statements in such media frequently articulate multiple persuasive cues simultaneously. Consider the following query, for example, which is taken from an Institute for Creation Research article intended to persuade audiences of the Book of Genesis’ factual historicity: “So why would thousands of highly-trained scientists not only believe Genesis to be reliable history, but base their scientific research on the details and implications of that history?”19 In addition to being a rhetorical question (Chapter 4), this sentence’s allusion to an apparent multitude of trained creationist scientists conducting research concurrently expresses aspects of both Source Cues, discussed in this chapter, as well as Social Consensus (Chapter 6). Since message variables can exist synchronously in this way, they cannot be examined in total isolation from one another. As a result, some persuasive cues displaying fewer than 0.400 occurrences per 1000 words will occasionally be discussed when they coexist alongside more plentifully occurring variables. Likewise, the persuasive
Echoing credibility 71 cue known as Message Repetition, which appears at significant rates only in Answers in Genesis media, will also be discussed throughout this chapter. This, owing to the fact that often cases of repetition in AiG’s Answers magazine intersect with locutions of Source Cues.