Part 1 of a Series on Persuasion
Faced with an adversary who is doing something we do not like, or who is not doing something we wish to have done, persuasion can be an invaluable tool. Though "power" is generally considered to be coercion or force, persuasion can be powerful too, as is evidenced by the common saying, "the power of persuasion."
Social-interest theorists tend to define persuasion as a form of social influence:
Influence investigates the causes of human change -- whether that change is a behavior, an attitude, or a belief. Inducing a change in behavior is called compliance. Inducing a change in attitude is called persuasion. Inducing a change in belief is called either education or propaganda -- depending on your perspective.
Rhodes is using the term "influence" in a way similar to my use of the word "power," "the capacity to bring about change." From his viewpoint, it is important to identify what is being changed, i.e., behavior, attitude, or belief. In this series of essays (Theories of Change, Understanding Power, Coercive Power, Exchange Power, Integrative Power, and Persuasion), the important distinction is on the "how" of the change.
Sometimes, social-influence scholars include under the term "persuasion" the concept of inducements, which tend to better fit my definition of exchange power or even coercive power, rather than persuasive power. At other times, efforts focused on behavioral change may be left out. In those cases, the writer is concerned only with efforts to change attitudes, not with efforts to change behaviors. Some of the most useful research on persuasion can be found in the social-influence literature, but the key term may be used somewhat differently in that literature from the way in which it is used here.
Here I use "persuasion" to mean the form of power that relies exclusively on symbols (such as words) to influence another to change. That change may affect beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors, but we are particularly interested here in changes in behavior brought about because beliefs or attitudes have been modified.
 Rhodes, Kelton. "Introduction to Influence" Accessed March 27, 2003, http://www.workingpsychology.com/evryinfl.html.
By Máire Dugan