A tactic for persuading people by forcing them in a social role, so that they will be inclined to behave according to that role.

History and orientation

Although the term altercasting is used quite frequently, it is not a very well-known or elaborated theory of persuasion.

Core assumptions

When a person accepts a certain social role, a number of social pressures are brought to bear to insure that the role is enacted. The social environment expects the person to behave in a manner that is consistent with the role; the role also provides the person with selective exposure to information consistent with the role.

Altercasting means that we ‘force’ an audience to accept a particular role that make them behave in the way we want them to behave.

There are two basic forms of altercasting:

  • Manded altercasting means that we ‘tell’ people who they are (or are supposed to be) by making an existing role salient (‘You as a Christian should....’), by placing others in a particular role (‘You as a young ambitious person should ....’), by attributing a new identity or role to someone, or by asking people to play a role.
  • Tact altercasting means that we put ourselves as senders in a role that ‘evokes’ a natural counter-role for the other. Some common role sets are for instance expert-unknowing public, fool - normal, helper - dependent, scapegoat - sinners, etc.

Altercasting is a powerful tactic because

  • the social role is a basic unit in people’s everyday condition;
  • presenting oneself in a social role that can be used to cast the alter (tact altercasting) is relatively easy
  • constructing roles that trap others in a course of action is also relatively easy;
  • people often accept easily the social roles offered to them.

Conceptual model

Not applicable

Favorite methods


Scope and application

The tactic is frequently used in advertising and health promotion


To be added


Pratkanis, A. R. (2000). Altercasting as an influence tactic. In D. J. Terry & M. A. Hagg (Eds.), Attitudes, behaviour and social context: the role of norms and group membership (pp. 201-226). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum Ass.