Engineering public consensus based on voluntary participation in public discussion is a useful, albeit difficult, method to resolve social conflicts. Active participation such as group discussions, public hearings, task force teams and committees for conflict resolution, is more effective in changing attitudes and behaviors than are negative strategies. Even with its importance, the effects and efficiency of positive communication strategies have been underestimated and underutilized by public relations practitioners. This study tried to examine the effects of positive communication strategies on attitude changes by focusing on simulated civic forum. Civic forum may be a useful strategy for public relations practitioners to get public understanding and acceptance about social conflict issues.” This study’s purpose was to devise an effective way to establish group consensus for social conflicts, from the perspective of self persuasion through role playing. This study examined the effects of self persuasion on social conflict resolution by focusing on counter-attitudinal advocacy participation. An experiment with a 3 (influence technique: no influence, passive exposure and role-playing) x 2 (levels of initial attitude salience: low and high) x 2 (issue importance: low and high) mixed ANOVA design with random assignment was planned. The results indicated that participation in the simulated civic forum (that is, role-playing technique) was a more effective persuasion tool for attitude change than was merely informed of the messages and no influence. Regardless of the issue, participation in the simulated civic forum where subjects were asked to think about the issue from their own perspective and that of the opposites and they were asked to suggest alternatives for conflict resolution, showed more attitude changes in levels of knowledge, understanding, acknowledgement and acceptance. Meanwhile, attitude change was greater when exposed to an issue with low importance than to an issue with high importance. This result provided a useful tip for motivating opinion leaders or an aware public to be involved in role-playing strategies such as used in this study.
Key words: Role playing, self persuasion, consensus building, public relations.
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