Persuasion, manipulation and seduction

The vast majority of communication involves attempts to influence in one way or another. It is done verbally and non-verbally; consciously and unconsciously; honestly and even intentionally deceitfully. Some people may be swayed with reason and logic or by emotions, fear, and character. There is no doubt that the power to persuade and manipulate is an advantageous and powerful tool for anyone regardless of how they wish to use it.
However, beyond simple persuasion there are other acts of influence that are just as powerful. The three terms, persuasion, manipulation, and seduction are often used interchangeably when describing influential behavior. However, there are subtle but distinct differences between these three concepts. While using anyone of these methods could yield the same result for the influencer, there are clear differences in the way they are implimented.

Persuasion is the act of influencing others through communication without any form of duress or outside pressure involved that would force influence. Persuasion is an honest approach to influence.
Manipulation occurs when the side being influenced is not aware of it. Our brain is setup to learn a vast amount of information, which is then executed unconsciously. There are certain stereotypes and other forms of expectation and normalcy encoded in humans that make up their cultural programming (Codoban, 2006). The human brain is programmed over time to execute everyday decisions unconsciously based on the expected behavior of themselves and others.
      According to Saussure and Schultz (2005), authors of Manipulation and ideologies in the twentieth century: discourse, language, mind, “Manipulation takes place when a mindful person triggers an automatic response from an unaware person. , manipulation is different from persuasion in that it is a technique fueled by methods that would seek to not only influence, but to deceive. Manipulation, unlike persuasion, conceals its intentions.”
The art of seduction is similar to persuasion, as its intent to influence is known. What sets it apart, however, is the seducer is setup to be the object of desire that will complete the missing parts of audience so that they may be complete (Codoban, 2006). Seduction is also related to manipulation as is draws upon social programming and natural responses of people. As the term is used mostly in the relationships of sexual preference, there are many programmed and natural responses that take place when a seducer successfully makes themselves the object of another’s desire.
Sometimes the lines are blurred when influencing takes place. There are definite moral stigmas attached to influencing techniques. While persuasion has a broad implication of simple attempts of influence to any or all audiences, manipulation and seduction have specific stigmas of being immoral.
Manipulation has the power to be an effective technique for wrongdoing. Seduction can build sexual relationships based on false intentions. It is important to note here that much of our every day communication is spent influencing others or being influenced by others in one form or another.
                Persuasive devices are all around us and not all of them are as obvious as we may think they are. They can be very subtle. There are many ways in which people persuade others. Experts in communication work from a practically endless list of techniques, some new and some, which have been around for years. The techniques listed below are used every day by advertisers to persuade and convince you to buy their product, service or change your attitude. The techniques target audiences in distinctly different ways.

o    Testimonial- using words of an expert or famous person to persuade such as Derik Jeter in the Ford commercials.
o    Bandwagon- using social pressure to persuade people to purchase the product because 'everyone else is doing it'.
o    Repetition- idea is repeated over and over, like in that "Head On" commercial.
o    Transfer- using names or pictures of famous people but not direct quotes.
o    Free or Bargain- a speaker suggests that the public can get something for nothing or almost nothing.
o    Common Sense- trying to persuade using everyday sense of good or bad or right or wrong.
o    Emotional Words- words are used that make you feel strongly about an idea.
o    Reasoning- luring the reader by listing or explaining reasons or an idea.
o    Card Stacking- telling only one side of the story as if there were no opposing view or other consideration.
o    Exigency- creating the impression that action is required immediately or the opportunity will be lost forever.
o    Flag Waving- connecting a person, product, or course with undue patriotism
o    Innuendo- causing the audience to become wary or suspicious of the competition by hinting that negative info may be kept secret.
o    Name Calling- negative or derogatory words to create a distasteful association in the mind of the audience.
o    Plain Folks- using a person who represents the "typical" target of the ad to communicate the message that we are alike, and I use/buy/believe this so you should to. (
These techniques are at work every day in political debates, broadcast, print media, our courtrooms, streaming 24/7 from the world-wide web, in the classrooms of our universities, in business, on the sales floor, in public relations and in their most common and recognizable form, advertising. The choice is ultimately yours of how open and motivated you are to different influences and how you choose to influence and motivate others.


Codoban, A. (2006). From persuasion to manipulation and seduction. Retrieved November  10, 2011, from
Meyers-Levy, J., & Malaviya, P. (1999). Consumers’ Processing of Persuasive
Advertisements: An Integrative Framework of Persuasion Theories. Journal of Marketing.

MI: Cengage Learning.

Saussure, L., & Schulz, P. (2005). Manipulation and ideologies in the twentieth century:
discourse, language, mind. The Netherlands: John Benjamin’s Publishing Company.

Seiter, J. S., & Gass, R. H. (2004). Perspectives on persuasion, social influence, and
compliance gaining. Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing.

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