Monday, May 6, 2013

Strategies and Tactics for the Affective Domain

Supporting Theory Base: Motivational Theory and Psychology

The Affective (Forgotten) Domain
One of the reasons I think we tend to avoid designing for the affective domain is a lack of tools. There are extensive strategies and tactics to design for the cognitive domain but few for the affective domain.  In this post I hope to change that.

The Key to Success
 As humans we have 3 universal social goals: to understand our world in order to be able to function successfully within it “to be accurate”; the need for positive human companionship, to be affiliated, and to have a positive view of ourselves viz. a positive self-concept.  These needs are affected by circumstances that can be manipulated to engender our perception that a need can be met or maintained; Influence.

The Three Inate Social Goals
Influence – What Works

To paraphrase Cialdini (1), We live in an extraordinarily complicated stimulus filed environment. It is easily the most rapidly moving and complex environment that has ever existed. As instructional designers, this presents us with a challenge of equal magnitude; capturing and keeping our learners focused on our content.

There are parts of the human condition that we can use to our advantage. As a result of living in our complicated environment, we have developed automatic, stereotyped behaviors to deal with it. We need shortcuts, because in many cases it is the most efficient form of behaving or it is simply necessary. Knowing of and how to activate these automated behaviors yields the tactics to influence the behaviors desired by our affective objectives.

Strategies (Categories) for affecting influence from Cialdini plus One:

In his book Cialdini categories six area that leverage influence in our decisions, they are:  Liking, Social Proof, Consistency, Scarcity, Authority, and Reciprocity.  I add a seventh category – self efficacy.  Self-efficacy has a direct bearing on choice. Without the belief that I have power to influence life’s outcomes it would negate choice; therefore removing the instructor’s ability to influence. 

A brief description of the categories of influence by Cialdini:

  • Liking. It's much easier to influence someone who likes you. Successful influencers try to flatter and uncover similarities in order to build attraction.

  • Social proof. People like to follow one another, so influencers imply the herd is moving the same way.

  • Consistency. Most people prefer to keep their word. If people make a commitment, particularly if it's out loud or in writing, they are much more likely to keep it. Influencers should try to gain verbal or written commitments.

  • Scarcity. Even when companies have warehouses full of a product, they still advertise using time-limited offers that emphasizes scarcity. People want what they can't have, or at least what might be running short.

  • Authority. People are strongly influenced by experts. Successful influencers flaunt their knowledge to establish their expertise.

  • Reciprocity. Give something to get something. When people feel indebted to you they are more likely to agree to what you want. This feeling could arise from something as simple as a compliment.

  • Self-Efficacy. Is the measure of one's own ability to complete tasks and reach goals. Self-efficacy affects every area of human endeavor. By determining the beliefs a person holds regarding his or her power to affect situations, it strongly influences both the power a person actually has to face challenges competently and the choices a person is most likely to make.

Each of these strategies can be associated with one of the innate human social goals as illustrated in the graphic below and each strategy has associated tactics for implementing a strategy.

Association of Strategies to Social Goals

Instructional Design Application
Just like any instructional goal or objective before you can effectively implement your learning strategy, you must first have the learner’s attention and the topic must have relevance to the learner. The other fundamental is to know your learners: know their world. This means both understanding why they do what they do-and why they might be resistant to your ideas-as well as understanding what really matters to them.

One difference about this domain is the role of the instructor.  It is no longer to teach but to persuade. For this domain I tend to shy away from the behavioral based ADDIE model and lean more to a cognitive model like Dick and Carey’s (2) based on Gagne’s (3) cognitively grounded learning theory.

There seems to be a natural fit between how Gagne’s develops objectives for what he refers to as the learning outcome “attitude” and this domain.   The learned capability verb for this learning outcome is “chooses”.  Since there is a freedom related to the desired outcome it is no longer a case of “the student will…”   Success is focused on the instructor in being able to influence the learners to choose the desired behavior.

Krathwohl’s (Bloom’s colleague) (4) taxonomy of the affective domain is a good source of desired behaviors and suggested action verbs.  The levels include: receiving, responding, valuing, organization, and characterization by a value or value set.  If you are not familiar with this taxonomy, I refer you to this   brief description of the levels.

Example objective from the Organization level: [Situation] When designing a course, chooses [Learned Capability Verb] to integrate [Action] affective domain objectives [Object].

Affective Domain and Influencing Strategies

Since Krathwohl’s taxonomy consists of levels of behaviors associated with choice.  Therefore there is a relationship to the levels and the strategies that influence choice.  By matching the taxonomy’s action verbs to the behavioral outcomes of the influencing strategies a scheme can be constructed.

For example: Objectives from Krathwohl’s Valuing level (the behavior of willingness to be perceived by others as valuing certain ideas, materials, or phenomena) connects  with the strategy of Social Proof; in which people like to follow one another.

IMHO, for Krathwohl’s first levels, receiving and responding, design implications may be addressed via the introduction phase of a learning event and I recommend the work of Keller (5) for strategies and motivational tactics for this area.

To address the remaining levels of the taxonomy, I offer the table below to match the categories of the affective domain to the categories of social influence.

Taxonomy Categories to Social Influence


Tactics are the methods that are implemented to achieve a strategy. Choosing a tactic for the affective is pretty much the same as choosing a method for the cognitive domain.  You need to take into consideration: your audience, the objective, the learning environment, and the available resources required to support it etc., etc.   A table of suggested tactic is available at Cj’s Table of Influencing Tactics by Strategy.  The table is a compilation various tactics taken from the areas of behavioral psychology, social psychology and sales.

Design example:

Situation: A company is rolling out a new behavioral based safety (BBS) program. 

Affective objective: When entering into a discussion about the BBS program the supervisor chooses to support the program by explaining the positive benefits of reduced injuries and exposures.

Design Decision Factors:

  • Objective Action Verb = to support
  • Taxonomy level = Valuing
  • Available Strategies:  Liking, Scarcity, Social Proof.
  • Consider available tactics
Extracted from CJ's Table of Influencing Tactics by Strategy

Decision: Because the BBS has a successful history in similar industries there are multiple success stories available.


Prerequisite:  The learner has been exposed to the tenets and process of the proposed BBS Program.

Prepare a short story describing a before and after situation regarding a BBS program (written, oral, video).  After giving the audience time to digest the information, break the audience into two groups.  Have one group answer the following:  What kinds of problems do people have because they don’t have a BBS?  Have the other have of the group answer: What happens when you and I have a BBS.  Have the group share their collective answers with the whole group; followed by open discussion.

Evaluating Affective Objectives

Evaluation of affective objectives should take place outside the learning environment and allow for a reasonable period for the natural social influences to affect the learner; then use observation in the field to determine the transfer of the desired behaviors.

Closing Thought

There is inherent power that comes with the knowledge and skill to influence people. I am not going down the rabbit-hole of discussing the moral aspect of wielding such power; I will leave that up to you and social-media.

Best regards,



1. Cialdini, Robert B. (1993). Influence the psychology of persuasion. New York. N. Y. William Morrow and Company, INC.

2. Dick, W., & Carey, L. (1996). The systematic design of instruction (4th Ed.).  New York, NY: Harper Collins.

3. Gagne, R. M., & Driscoll, M. P. (1988). Essentials of Learning for Instruction, Second Edition. Englewood Cliff, NJ: Prentice Hall.

4.  Krathwohl, D.R., Bloom, B.S., and Masia, B.B. (1964). Taxonomy of educational objectives: Handbook II: Affective domain. New York: David McKay Co.

5. Keller, J. M. (1987). Development and use of the ARCS model of motivational design. Journal of Instructional Development, 10(3), 2-10.


1. Baron, Robert A. & Byrne Donn. (1987). Social Psychology, understanding human interaction. Fifth edition.  Newton, Massachusetts. Allyn and Bacon, INC.

2. Meisenhelder Hellon, M. (1997) Upward influence strategies: The effect of consistency and reciprocity approaches on supervisory compliance and performance evaluations.  Thesis: Department of Psychology University of Oregon.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this article. There's not much written that addresses how to approach affective learning goals, and this is well-thought-out. Much to digest.