Translating Socioemotional Selectivity Theory Into Persuasive Communication: Conceptualizing and Operationalizing Emotionally-Meaningful Versus Knowledge-Related Appeals

Margot J. van der Goot, Nadine Bol, Julia C.M. van Weert



Socioemotional selectivity theory (SST) warrants the strong prediction that older adults respond more favorably to emotionally-meaningful versus knowledge-related appeals in persuasive messages, whereas younger adults lack this bias. However, potentially due to multivocality in conceptualizations and operationalizations of these appeals, previous studies found no uniform support for these age differences. Consequently, this article aims to provide a conceptualization and operationalization of emotionally-meaningful versus knowledge-related appeals that can be used in future research. The study consists of a conceptualization phase (literature review; expert meetings) and an operationalization phase (content analysis of persuasive messages). We developed a theoretically valid and reliable coding instrument, outlining three dimensions of emotionally-meaningful appeals (emotion regulation, optimizing the present, close social relationships) and three dimensions of knowledge-related appeals (knowledge acquisition, optimizing the future, novel social relationships). This instrument is intended to guide the selection and design of persuasive messages in effect studies that aim to test hypotheses derived from SST.




age differences, aging, emotional appeals, emotionally-meaningful appeals, knowledge-related appeals, life-span development, persuasive communication, rational appeals, socioemotional selectivity theory

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