UBC Theses and Dissertations
The effects of inoculation, distraction and sensory deprivation on attitude change and counterarguing Tetlock, Philip Eyrikson
There is impressively consistent empirical support for the hypotheses that distraction and sensory deprivation increase responsiveness to persuasive inputs. The primary purpose of the two experiments reported here was to investigate whether distraction and sensory deprivation also increase the persuasive impact of attacks on cultural truisms, and the manner in which prior provision of counterarguments in the form of a refutational inoculation message interacts with these treatments. The effects of the independent variables were assessed by dependent measures of four theoretically distinct but related aspects of the attitude change process: comprehension, message belief acceptance, attitude change and cognitive reactions r— to the persuasive message. A total of one hundred subjects served in the two experiments. In the first experiment, the effects of three levels of distraction (no distraction, low effort distraction, high effort distraction) and of the presence or absence of refutational inoculation were examined. Contrary to previous research, distraction had no effect on any of the dependent measures; refutational inoculation, consistent with previous research, reduced message belief acceptance, increased pro-truism attitudes and increased counterarguments against the message. In the second experiment, the effects of three levels of sensory deprivation (0, 1 hour, 23 hours) and of the presence or absence of refutational inoculation were examined. Again contrary to previous research, sensory deprivation had no effect on any of the dependent measures; consistent with previous research, refutational inoculation reduced message belief acceptance, increased pro-truism attitudes and increased counterargument production. The implications of these results for competing explanations of distraction and sensory deprivation effects were discussed. The cognitive dissonance interpretation of the effects of distraction and the information need interpretation of the effects of sensory deprivation appear unable to account for the failure of these manipulations to increase persuasion. These findings are more in accord with the counterargument disruption interpretation. In addition, the counterarguing process appears to represent an important aspect of the general effects of the refutational inoculation message. Further research, using the same procedures of the present study, but a non-cultural truism as the attitude topic, is required to test the counterargument disruption interpretation more rigorously.
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