On This Day … 16 April

People (Deaths)

  • 1961 – Carl Hovland, American psychologist and academic (b. 1912).

Carl Hovland

Carl Iver Hovland (12 June 1912 to 16 April 1961) was a psychologist working primarily at Yale University and for the US Army during World War II who studied attitude change and persuasion. He first reported the sleeper effect after studying the effects of the Frank Capra’s propaganda film Why We Fight on soldiers in the Army. In later studies on this subject, Hovland collaborated with Irving Janis who would later become famous for his theory of groupthink. Hovland also developed social judgment theory of attitude change. Carl Hovland thought that the ability of someone to resist persuasion by a certain group depended on your degree of belonging to the group.

With the advent of government propaganda in support of the United States’ participation in World War II, the artefacts worth investigating helped with increase of persuasive communication with intent to affect behaviour, attitude, and values. These artefacts had a remarkable amount of money invested into them, however, were they effective? This concept of effectiveness and affecting change within individuals, interpersonal relations, and persuasion are exactly what Hovland was interested in. Carl Hovland’s contributions to the field of communications were three-fold. First, he emphasized micro-level analysis, next he was interested in all facets of interpersonal communication, and finally he revolutionised persuasive research.

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