An examination of persuasive financial communications

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Winchel, Jennifer Lynn, 1973-

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In this dissertation, I provide two essays that examine how parties in the financial communication process attempt to persuade other market participants. In the first essay, I provide a thought piece in which I accomplish two objectives. First, I explain how the financial communications process involves persuasion, which is defined as “any effort to modify an individual’s evaluations of people, objects or issues by the presentation of a message” (Petty and Cacioppo 1986, p. 25). The parties on which I focus are corporate managers, information intermediaries (hereafter, sell-side analysts), and investors. I describe the typical communications among the three dyads represented by these groups (e.g., managers-analysts, analysts- investors, etc.), and argue that it involves persuasion. Second, I introduce one persuasion theory--the persuasion knowledge model (PKM)--and explain how it can increase our understanding of the financial communications process. The PKM outlines additional factors beyond those suggested by economic theory--such as, topic knowledge, persuasion knowledge, and recipient (provider) knowledge--that influence the selection of and reaction to persuasion strategies in financial communications. In the second essay, I use two experiments to investigate one dyad--e.g., analysts-investors--in the communications process. Within these experiments, I examine one persuasion strategy that sell-side analysts might use to persuade investors. I test the hypothesis that including some negative argumentation in a favorable analyst report (e.g., two-sided argumentation) acts as a credibility enhancer and augments investor response to the positive arguments included in the report. I also examine whether this effect depends on how investors view one- and two-sided reports: separately or simultaneously. Experimental results show that two-sided argumentation influences credibility only when one- and two-sided reports are viewed simultaneously. Further, this credibility effect is moderated by the strength of the positive arguments, as credibility is enhanced only when the arguments are weak. In contrast, when one- and two-sided reports are viewed independently, two-sided argumentation does not enhance credibility. Rather, argument strength alone determines credibility, as well as the likelihood of investment. These results suggest that, under certain conditions, sell-side analysts can use attributes of accounting argumentation to enhance the credibility of their favorable research and generate trade.