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Techniques General persuasion > More methods > Altercasting

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Altercasting is a method of persuasion where a person is cast into another (alter) role where it is easier to persuade them or where they naturally act in desired ways.

There are two main types of altercasting:

  • Manded altercasting creates a new role and allocates the person to that role. This typically attributes skills or personality characteristics that the person would easily and naturally use when complying with the request.
  • Tact altercasting is acting in ways that push the person into accepting a particular role, such as parent or subordinate.

Processes that may be used in altercasting (in either type) include:

  • Structural distance: How close the alter role is to their normal position. If it is close, then they will more easily be altercasted in the role.
  • Evaluative distance: How superior the alter role is. Being offered a high status position means it is more likely to be accepted.
  • Emotional distance: The emotional connection between the alter role and the normal person. Altercasting will be more effective when there is alignment of feelings, needs and interests.
  • Support vs. support-seeking: Whether the alter person requires help (such as being in a child position) or is expected to offer help (such as being in a parent position).
  • Interdependence vs autonomy: The extent to which the other person is connected to the persuader by elements such as similar viewpoint, shared fate or common interests.
  • Degree of freedom allowed: The amount of freedom the other person has to choose their actions, for example whether they are directed or asked.


You're a good carpenter. Can you make me a window?

You look like a kind person. Can you sign our petition against animal cruelty?

Right. You make the coffee and I'll see who'll be there.

Ow, it hurts! Look, I'm bleeding.


Altercasting makes use of social role theory, whereby we tend to conform to social expectations, including taking different roles that are placed upon us. This is very similar to Althusser's interpellation, where much social interaction involves calling one another into roles. There is also a pattern whereby we tend to see ourselves through the eyes of others, such as in the looking-glass self, then act in alignment with this view. This again reflects our desire to be like other people or to conform to their expectations of us, so that we can belong to their social group and gain esteem and consequent status.

Advertisements often use this principle of showing you how you should act, either by directly addressing you or creating sympathetic characters with whom you empathize. In this way you are drawn into desired ways of acting, which of course involves buying and using the advertised products.

See also

Projective Identification, Interpellation, Social-Role Theory, Marwell and Schmitt's Compliance-gaining Strategies


Turner, M.M., Banas, J.A., Rains, S.A., Jang, S., Moore, J.L. and Morrison, D. (2010). The Effects of Altercasting and Counterattitudinal Behavior on Compliance: A Lost Letter Technique Investigation, Communication Reports, 23, 1, 1–13

Weinstein, E.A. and Deutschberger, P. (1963). Some Dimensions of Altercasting. Sociometry. 26, 4, 454–466

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