Indirect argumentation: The role of perceived intentions in persuasion and decision-making

Christopher R Roland, Purdue University


The current project aimed to explore effects of indirect arguments on perceived communicator intention and choice behavior. Whereas direct arguments suggest and argue in favor of a choice alternative (e.g., “Pick alternative X because it has attribute Y”), indirect arguments stress the importance of a specific object cue or attribute without explicitly suggesting a specific action or choice alternative (e.g., “Attribute Y is important”). Two studies were conducted to test if argument strategy (direct vs. indirect) affects perceived communicator intentions and if indirect arguments can be more persuasive than direct arguments under certain conditions. As expected, message receivers perceived less communicator intention to persuade when receiving indirect than when receiving direct arguments. This effect persisted even when receivers were given a forewarning that the communicator has an intent to persuade (Study 1); the effect was attenuated when the communicator had a vested interest in the advocated choice (Study 2). Moreover, indirect arguments were more persuasive than direct arguments in Study 1.




Reimer, Purdue University.

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