Hovland’s Model

Carl Hovland, a prominent American social psychologist, left an indelible legacy in the field of social communication. His contributions to understanding how messages persuade and change attitudes have profoundly influenced communication theory and practice. 


During his career, he was closely associated with several renowned academic institutions, including Yale University, where he earned his doctorate in experimental psychology in 1936 and collaborated with the Psychology Laboratory. Additionally, during World War II, his work at Princeton University's Psychological Warfare Laboratory led him to research persuasion and propaganda, which significantly impacted communication theory. 


After the war, he continued his career at Yale University and later at the University of Chicago, where he continued to develop and refine his theories on persuasion and attitude change, influencing later generations of researchers in the field of communication.


Persuasive Communication Model


One of his most significant contributions was his focus on persuasion and changing attitudes. In their famous study on the effectiveness of persuasive messages during World War II, Hovland and his team demonstrated the importance of the content of the message, the source presenting it, and the receiving audience.


Additionally, he developed social learning theory, which postulates that attitudes are formed and changed through observation and interaction with others. This approach was revolutionary in its time and remains relevant in the study of how media and popular culture influence social attitudes and behaviors.


Another fundamental aspect of his work is his investigation into the credibility of the source. He demonstrated that persuasion is more effective when the source of the message is perceived as trustworthy and an expert on the topic. This finding remains crucial in the field of marketing, advertising and political communication for the success of persuasion.


Taken together, this research laid the foundation for the persuasive communication model that remains foundational in contemporary theory.


To this end, it was dedicated to the exhaustive study of the various components of the communication process, focusing on understanding the influence of each variable involved and oriented towards the analysis of the different stages that make up effective communication with the purpose of causing a change in attitudes of the receiver.


As a result, I developed a model, for which I identified and meticulously examined the key phases in this process, from the initial exposure to the message, through capturing the recipient's attention, understanding the communicated content, accepting the ideas presented, and the long-term retention of those ideas.


His detailed and systematic approach provided a deeper understanding of how persuasive messages can influence people's attitudes and behaviors, which has been fundamental to both theoretical and practical developments in the field of social communication.


Hovland's empirical research contributed to the development of experimental methodology in the field of social communication. His pioneering studies established rigorous standards for research in this area, promoting the use of controlled experimental designs to study the impact of persuasive messages on people's attitudes and behaviors.


Contemporary Relevance


Carl Hovland's ideas in the field of social communication remain significant in various areas, including marketing, advertising and political communication. Below are some of the ways his contributions continue to influence these fields:


Marketing and Advertising: His research on persuasion and attitude change has been instrumental in understanding how advertising and marketing messages can influence consumer perceptions and behaviors. Additionally, his emphasis on the importance of source credibility and message content impacted the creation of clear, relevant, and compelling persuasive messages for the target audience.


Political Communication: In the field of political communication, the persuasion model and its role in changing attitudes have been widely applied in electoral campaigns and political communication strategies. His research on the effectiveness of persuasive messages has influenced the design of political speeches and messages aimed at persuading voters and winning their support.


Social Networks and Digital Media: Social media platforms have amplified the spread of persuasive messages and created new opportunities to influence people's opinions and behaviors. Understanding the psychological principles underlying the persuasion process proposed in their model is crucial for the design of effective online communication strategies.


For all this, we can assume that rereading his work related to new digital media ecosystems offers new opportunities for reflection and practical application.




Carl Hovland carried out his work in a historical and academic context rich in change and opportunity. His association with prominent academic institutions and his participation in research projects of great social and political relevance contributed greatly to his legacy as a pioneer in the field of social communication.


Decades later, we can affirm that it has left an indelible mark in the field of social communication. His ideas and findings remain fundamental to our understanding of how messages persuade and change attitudes. Its legacy lives on in communication theory and practice, inspiring generations of researchers and practitioners to explore and apply its principles in diverse social and cultural contexts.


His focus on persuasion and attitude change has provided a strong theoretical foundation for understanding how persuasive messages can influence people's perceptions and behaviors in the contemporary era of technology-mediated communication.




Hovland, C; Lumsdaine, A and Sheffielf, F. (1965). Experiments on Mass Communication. New York: Science Editions. (Original version 1949). Hovland, C; Janis, I, & Kelley, H. (1966). Communication and Persuasion. New Haven: Yale University Press. (Original version 1953).


Hovland, C; MAndell, W; Campbell, E.H; Brock, T; Luchins, A.S; Cohen, A.R; McGuire, W.J; Janis, I.L; Feierabend, R.L and Anderson, N.H (1957) The order of presentation in persuasion. New Haven: Yale University Press.



Hovland, C; Janis, I; Field, P; Linton, H. Graham, E; Cohen, A; Rife, D; Abelson, R; Leser, G and King, B (1959) Personality and Persuasibility. New Haven: Yale University Press.

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