We study how feelings contribute to persuasiveness of source characteristics. Specifically, we focus on perceived similarity between sender and receiver of a communication message and argue that similarity enables higher self/other merging of the message recipient with the message source, which is turn yields to higher subjective value, or a “feels right” experience, driven from processing that message. This sensation of “feeling right” towards the message is then incorporated into judgment about the target of the message in an inferential manner – increasing message persuasiveness. This means that this feeling will only be used if people consider feelings to be relevant for the judgment at hand and also people will be influenced more by it in situations were use of feelings is naturally higher (e.g., decision made for the present vs. future, more probable vs. less probable outcomes). Moreover, if people do not have the cognitive resources to assess lack of relevance of feelings for the situation at hand, even in situations where feelings are naturally irrelevant, they will by default, incorporate the “feels right” sensation into the judgment of the target of the message.
We will show that our framework enables us to make predictions that could not have been made using prior knowledge on the persuasion topic. In 7 experiments we demonstrate that a similar source is more persuasive in situations where previous research has demonstrated more ground in use of feelings: if people 1) are instructed or primed to use their feelings compared to their logic, 2) have experiential motives, compared to functional motives, 3) are making a decision for the near future versus the distant future, 4) see the target of the communication message as more immediate and reachable, than less immediate (i.e., high vs. low probability of winning the target in a lottery), and 5) do not have sufficient cognitive resources to realize that use of feelings is irrelevant for the situation at hand. We also show that participants’ self-reported “feels right” experience towards the message mediates the persuasiveness of a similar source and this mediation is higher in conditions where we expect our participants to use their feelings more.
We believe our finding can be of importance to the persuasion literature by providing a framework that enables researchers to put forward further hypotheses regarding conditions under which perceived similarity and other source characteristics enhance message persuasiveness.