Persuasion is at the root of countless social exchanges in which one person or group is motivated to have another share its beliefs, desires, or behavioral intentions. Here, we report the first three functional magnetic resonance imaging studies to investigate the neurocognitive networks associated with feeling persuaded by an argument. In the first two studies, American and Korean participants, respectively, were exposed to a number of text-based persuasive messages. In both Study 1 and Study 2, feeling persuaded was associated with increased activity in posterior superior temporal sulcus bilaterally, temporal pole bilaterally, and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex. The findings suggest a discrete set of underlying mechanisms in the moment that the persuasion process occurs, and are strengthened by the fact that the results replicated across two diverse linguistic and cultural groups. Additionally, a third study using region-of-interest analyses demonstrated that neural activity in this network was also associated with persuasion when a sample of American participants viewed video-based messages. In sum, across three studies, including two different cultural groups and two types of media, persuasion was associated with a consistent network of regions in the brain. Activity in this network has been associated with social cognition and mentalizing and is consistent with models of persuasion that emphasize the importance of social cognitive processing in determining the efficacy of persuasive communication.
Published in Volume 22, Issue 11, pages 2447-2459