<h4>If you have two ideas, A and B, and you are trying to persuade your reader to accept B, should you position it first or second? Usually first, if you have strong information.</h4>

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Many people will say second because of the often-heard notion that people remember the last thing they read. However, that is only true under limited circumstances. More important to persuasion is whether the audience is interested in the content of your message.

People tend to process information in one of two ways. If the message is relevant to them (because they care or because the outcome will directly affect them), then they are engaged. They will read the message closely, study the points, consider the message in the context of their own experiences, and form an opinion based on that information. Social psychology research shows that these  “motivated” readers or listeners will pay less attention to information they encounter further down in the message (idea B).

People who are not interested in the message, either because they do not see it as relevant or because they are simply apathetic, will not pay close attention to the opening few paragraphs. They skim it casually until something piques their curiosity or grabs their attention further down in the message, prompting them to read it more closely. In that case, this “unmotivated” group is more likely to recall the last information.

Aside from the cognitive factor of how people process persuasive messages, another factor is time. Today’s reader is less patient and is less likely to read a long message, so if you have a strong proposal, make your point early.