Matching Messages to Motives in Persuasion: A Functional Approach to Promoting Volunteerism1


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    This research and the preparation of this manuscript were supported by a grant from the Gannett Foundation to E. Gil Clary and Mark Snyder.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to E. Gil Clary, Department of Psychology, College of St. Catherine, St. Paul, MN 55105 or to Mark Snyder, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455.


This study examined a functional strategy for investigating audience responses to motivationally-based persuasive appeals. It was predicted that people exposed to advertisements informing them how they could satisfy personally relevant motivations through volunteering (i.e., functionally matched messages) would judge these ads to be more persuasive, more emotionally positive, and would report being more likely to volunteer than people exposed to advertisements unrelated to their personally relevant motivations (i.e., functionally mismatched messages). These predictions were confirmed in an experiment wherein participants whose attitudes toward volunteerism served a Social Adjustive, Value Expressive, Utilitarian, Knowledge, or Ego Defensive function viewed advertisements promoting volunteerism that either matched or mismatched their personally relevant motivations. Results confirmed predictions as participants responded more favorably to the functionally matched than mismatched messages. The implications of this research for understanding the mechanisms by which functionally matched messages exert persuasive influence and the ramifications of the research for the practice of volunteerism are discussed.