Master Advocate

It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels. – Saint Augustine

Vanity has always been one of my preferred vices—a fact, deducible, by reading just about any of my blog posts.

However, such self-directed idolatry is done tongue-in-cheek. In truth, I recognize I’m a relatively average, not particularly smart (nor particularly stupid) individual with one adept skillset: consistently writing blog posts for three years.

Which is probably just a reflection of that vanity vice I mentioned earlier.

However, today I intend to express some sincere boastfulness. That is, as of last Thursday, I have officially received my master’s degree. That’s right. It’s now, Jacob D. Teeny, M.A. when you refer to me. Or Master Teeny. Or Your Highness and All Mighty One, Lord of the Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches.

So for today’s “psychophilosophy,” I’m going to summarize the research that earned me this degree (rather than have you read the 97 page document).

Although the field of persuasion research knows a lot about that factors that make a message most influential, the field has largely ignored what makes someone deliver persuasive communication in the first place.

An image I use in nearly all of my powerpoint presentations on advocacy.

An image I use in nearly all of my powerpoint presentations on advocacy.

That is, when and why do people try to convince you of their beliefs?

Thus, the focus of my research is on advocacy, or understanding the motivations and context which encourages people to try to convince others of their opinions. But because this kind of research is some of the first on this topic, I and my adviser began with a simple division in advocacy: proactive versus reactive advocacy.

Proactive advocacy is when, of your own accord, you go out to try to convince others of your beliefs. Reactive advocacy is when someone first asks you for your opinion on a topic, and then you try to convince them of it.

For example, you may really like this book you’re reading, so you spontaneously go up to friends to try to convince them to read it (proactive advocacy). Or, maybe if someone first asks you for a recommendation, then you try to convince them (reactive advocacy).

What my research found was that if you believe you like this book because you have a lot of positive emotions/feelings underlying it (e.g. it made you feel excited!), you’re more likely to engage in proactive advocacy. However, if you really like this book because you have a lot of positive thoughts/reasons underlying it (e.g. you found it philosophically engaging), you’re more likely to engage in reactive advocacy.

What’s interesting is that having the underlying emotions doesn’t lead to increased reactive advocacy (only proactive), whereas having the underlying reasons will only lead to reactive (not proactive) advocacy.

Furthermore, we can (and I did) “trick” participants into thinking they have either emotions or thoughts underlying their preference and that was enough to get them to engage in the respective type of advocacy.

Now, how does one make a 97 page document out of that? Well, remember how I said I wasn’t a particularly smart guy? Yeah, I had to stick in a lot of big words and winding sentences to make sure my review committee didn’t figure that out for themselves.



Teeny, J. & Petty, R. (2015). Perceived affect and cognition on two types of advocacy. (Unpublished Master’s Thesis). The Ohio State Univeristy, Columbus, OH.

Author: jdt

Jake writes weekly posts every Wednesday on the intersection of psychology and philosophy. To learn more about him, or to propose a topic you'd like him to cover, go to

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