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In a study of the inoculation effect, McGuire and Papageorgis (1961) exposed
persuasion by stronger
participants to an attack on their belief that brushing their teeth prevented tooth decay.
arguments later.
Obviously, everybody believes that brushing your teeth is bene¬cial. This is a cultural
truism, something we all accept without thinking or questioning. Therefore, we may
not have any defenses in place if someone challenges those truisms.
Participants in one group heard an attack on the tooth-brushing truism. A second
group received a supportive defense that reinforced the concept that brushing your
teeth is good for you. A third group was inoculated, ¬rst hearing a mild attack on the
truism and then hearing a defense of tooth brushing. A fourth group, the control group,
received no messages. Of the three groups who heard a message, the “inoculated” group
was most likely to believe tooth brushing was bene¬cial (Figure 6.4). In fact, people
Social Psychology
196




Figure 6.4 The
inoculation effect. A
persuasive attack on a
truism caused a decrease in
the belief of the validity of
the truism unless participants
were ¬rst “inoculated”
with a weakened form of
the persuasive message
before receiving the attack
message.
Based on data from McGuire and Papageorgis
(1961).




in the inoculated group, who were given a mild rebuttal of the truism, were more likely
to believe in the bene¬ts of tooth brushing than were the people who heard only a sup-
portive defense of the truism.
Why does inoculation work? The study just reviewed suggests that inoculation
motivates people to generate their own counterarguments and makes them more likely
to believe the persuaderʼs side of the issue. In this case, forewarned is truly forearmed.
Inoculation also appears to operate by increasing attitude accessibility, or the ease with
which a person can call an attitude to mind (Pfau et al, 2003). According to Pfau et al.,
inoculation works by making an attitude more accessible, which increases the strength
of that attitude and its resistance to change.

The Role of Discrepancy
Another aspect of the audience a persuader has to consider is their preexisting attitudes
in relation to the message the persuader wants to convey. For instance, imagine you are
going to deliver a pro-choice message to a roomful of people with strong attitudes against
abortion. Obviously, your message will be very different from the preexisting attitudes of
your audience. This is a high-discrepancy situation. On the other hand, if you are trying
to convince a roomful of pro-choice individuals, your message will not be very differ-
ent from preexisting attitudes. This is an example of low discrepancy. In either of these
cases, you would not expect much persuasion. In the ¬rst case, your message is too dis-
crepant from the one your audience already holds; they will reject your message without
giving it much thought. In the second case, you are basically saying what your audience
already believes, so there wonʼt be much persuasive effect or attitude change. Generally,
a moderate amount of discrepancy produces the greatest amount of change.
Discrepancy interacts with the characteristics of the communicator. A highly credible
communicator can induce change even when a highly discrepant message”one we
ordinarily would reject or that contradicts a stereotype”is delivered. In one study,
researchers found that Scottish participants had de¬nite stereotypes of male hairdressers
and of “skinheads” (Macrae, Shepherd, & Milne, 1992). Male hairdressers were
Chapter 6 Persuasion and Attitude Change 197

perceived as meek, and skinheads were perceived as aggressive. However, a report from
a psychiatrist that stated the contrary”that a particular hairdresser was aggressive or a
skinhead was meek”altered the participantsʼ opinions of those two groups. Of course,
a credible communicator cannot say just anything and expect people to believe it. An
effective communicator must be aware of the audienceʼs likely perception of the message.
Clarence Darrow carefully staked out a position he knew the judge would not reject. He
didnʼt argue that the death penalty should be abolished, because he knew that the judge
would not accept that position. Rather, he argued that the penalty was not appropriate
in this speci¬c case because of the defendantsʼ ages and their mental state:
And, I submit, Your Honor, that by every law of humanity, by every law of justice. . . .
Your Honor should say that because of the condition of these boysʼ minds, it would be
monstrous to visit upon them the vengeance that is asked by the State. (Weinberg, 1957,
p. 163)
In other words, even highly credible communicators have to keep in mind how
discrepant their message is from the audienceʼs views. For communicators with lower
credibility, a moderate amount of discrepancy works best.

Social Judgment Theory How does discrepancy work? Sherif suggested that audience
members make social judgments about the difference between the communicatorʼs
position and their own attitude on an issue (Sherif & Hovland, 1961; Sherif, Sherif,
social judgment theory
& Nebergall, 1965). This social judgment theory argues that the degree of personal
An attitude theory suggesting
involvement in an issue determines how the target will evaluate an attempt at
that the degree of personal
persuasion.
involvement with an issue
Sherif suggested that an individualʼs perception of a message falls into one of three
determines how a target of
judgment categories, or latitudes. The latitude of acceptance is the set of positions the persuasion will judge an
audience would ¬nd acceptable. The latitude of rejection is the set of arguments the attempt at persuasion.
audience would not accept. The latitude of noncommitment is a neutral zone falling
latitude of acceptance
between the other two and including positions audience members do not accept or reject In social judgment theory,
but will consider. the region of an attitude into
The breadth of the latitudes is affected by how strongly the person feels about the which messages that one will
accept fall.
issue, how ego-involved he or she is. As Figure 6.5 shows, as involvement increases, the
latitudes of acceptance and noncommitment narrow, but the latitude of rejection increases latitude of rejection In
(Eagly & Telaak, 1972). In other words, the more important an issue is, the less likely you social judgment theory, the
region of an attitude into
are to accept a persuasive message unless it is similar to your position. Only messages
which messages that one will
that fall within your latitude of acceptance, or perhaps within your latitude of noncom-
reject fall.
mitment, will have a chance of persuading you. As importance of an issue increases, the
latitude of
number of acceptable arguments decreases. Sherif measured the attitudes of Republicans
noncommitment In social
and Democrats in a presidential election and found that very committed Republicans
judgment theory, the region
and very committed Democrats rejected almost all of the other sideʼs arguments (Sherif
of an attitude into which
et al., 1965). However, voters who were less extreme in their commitment were open
messages that one will neither
to persuasion. Moderates of both parties usually accepted as many arguments from the accept nor reject fall.
opposition as they rejected. Therefore, as Darrow knew, a persuasive message must fall
at least within the audienceʼs latitude of noncommitment to be accepted.

The Problem of Multiple Audiences
On January 23, 1968, the USS Pueblo was stationed in international waters off the cost
of North Korea. The Pueblo was a “spy ship” and was gathering intelligence about
North Korea. On the morning of January 23, a North Korean subchaser S0-1 approached
Social Psychology
198




Figure 6.5 The effect
of involvement with an
issue on the size of the
latitudes of rejection and
acceptance in social
judgment theory. High
involvement leads to an
increased latitude of
rejection and a related
decreased latitude of
acceptance.




the Pueblo at high speed. At the same time three North Korean torpedo boats were
approaching. Eventually, the North Korean ships ¬red upon the Pueblo and eventually
boarded her. One member of the Pueblo crew was killed and 82 were taken prisoner
and held in North Korea. While in captivity, the crew members were beaten, tortured,
and starved. The North Koreans wanted them to confess that they were actually in
North Korean waters running the spy operation. Propaganda photographs were taken
of the crew and were widely distributed. Movies were taken of the crew in staged situa-
tions that made crew members appear as though they were cooperating. Some members
of the crew decided to send a message home indicating that they were being forced to
say and do things. In one example of this, some crew members clearly displayed the
“Hawaiian good luck sign” (a.k.a., the ¬nger) against their faces or against their legs.
Captain Bucher read statements using a monotone voice so that he sounded drugged.
The dilemma facing the crew of the Pueblo was to send two messages to two dif-
ferent audiences. On the one hand, they had to placate their captors by appearing to
cooperate. On the other hand, they wanted to communicate to the American public and
their families and friends that they did not subscribe to what they were being forced to
multiple audience do and say. This is the multiple audience problem”how to send different meanings
problem In persuasion, in the same message to diverse audiences (Fleming, Darley, Hilton, & Kojetin, 1990;
the problem that arises when Van Boven, Kruger, Savitsky, & Gilovich, 2000).
a communicator directs
How do people manage these dif¬cult situations? Researchers interested in this
the same message at two
question had communicators send messages to audiences composed of friends and
different audiences, wishing
strangers (Fleming et al., 1990). The communicators were motivated to send a message
to communicate different
meanings to each. that would convey the truth to their friends but deceive the strangers. Participants in this
experiment were quite accurate at ¬guring out when their friends were lying. Strangers
were not so accurate. Recall the fundamental attribution error and the correspondence
bias from Chapter 3: We tend to believe that people mean what they say. In general, we
are not very good at detecting lies (Ekman, 1985).
Chapter 6 Persuasion and Attitude Change 199

Friends also were able to pick up on the communicatorʼs hidden message, because
they shared some common knowledge. For example, one communicator said she was
going to go to Wales, a country her friends knew she loved, and was going to do her
shopping for the trip in a department store her friends knew she hated. The message
was clear to those in the know: She is lying. The department store reference was a
private key that close friends understood. This is the way communicators can convey
different meanings in the same message. They use special, private keys that only one
audience understands. We often see private keys used in political ads, especially those
ads aimed at evoking stereotypes and emotional responses.
Another instance of the multiple-audience problem is when you have to maintain
different personas to different people at the same time. For example, if your boss and
a potential dating partner are attending a party you are attending, you probably want
to project a “professional” persona to your boss and a more “fun-loving” persona to
your dating interest. Can we pull this off? Can we, in fact, maintain vastly different
personas at the same time and be successful in communicating them to the appropriate
target, while concealing the other persona from the person we donʼt want to see it? The
answer appears to be that we can.
In one experiment, Van Boven, Kruger, Savitsky, and Gilovich (2000) had partici-
pants project a “party animal” persona to one observer during an interaction session.
The same participant then projected a “serious studious” persona to a second observer.
In a third interaction session, the participant interacted with both observers simulta-
neously. The task facing the participant was to maintain the correct persona with the
correct observer at the same time. The results showed that the participants were quite
successful at the task. In fact, the participants tended to be overcon¬dent in their ability
to successfully project the two personas to the appropriate observers.


The Cognitive Approach to Persuasion
You may have noted that in the Yale model of persuasion the audience seems to be
nothing more than a target for messages. People just sit there and take it, either accept-
ing the message or not. Cognitive response approaches, on the other hand, emphasize
the active participation of the audience (Greenwald, 1968). The cognitive approach
looks at why people react to a message the way they do, why they say that a message
is interesting or that a communicator is biased.
Cognitively oriented social psychologists emphasize that a persuasive communica-
tion may trigger a number of related experiences, memories, feelings, and thoughts that
individuals use to process the message. Therefore, both what a person thinks about when
she hears the persuasive message and how the person applies those thoughts, feelings,
and memories to analyzing the message are critical. We now turn to the individualʼs
elaboration likelihood
cognitive response to the persuasive message.
model (ELM) A cognitive
model of persuasion
The Elaboration Likelihood Model suggesting that a target™s
attention, involvement,
One well-known cognitive response model is the elaboration likelihood model (ELM).
distraction, motivation,
This model, ¬rst proposed by Petty and Cacioppo (1986), makes clear that audiences are
self-esteem, education, and
not just passive receptacles but are actively involved in the persuasion process. Their
intelligence all in¬‚uence
attention, involvement, distraction, motivation, self-esteem, education, and intelligence central and/or peripheral
determine the success of persuasive appeals. The elaboration likelihood model owes a processing of a persuasive
lot to the Yale model, incorporating much of the Yale research on the important roles message.
Social Psychology
200

of communicator and message. But its primary emphasis is on the role of the audience,
especially their emotions and motivations. According to ELM, two routes to persuasion
exist: a central processing route and a peripheral processing route. Persuasion may be
achieved via either of these routes.

Central Route Processing
central route processing Central route processing involves elaboration of the message by the listener. This
In the ELM, information may type of processing usually occurs when the person ¬nds the message personally rel-
be processed by effortful, evant and has preexisting ideas and beliefs about the topic. The individual uses these
controlled mechanisms
ideas and beliefs to create a context for the message, expanding and elaborating on the
involving attention to and
new information. Because the message is relevant, the person is motivated to listen to
understanding and careful
it carefully and process it in an effortful manner.
processing of the content of a
persuasive message. A juror listening to evidence that she understands and ¬nds interesting, for example,
will generate a number of ideas and responses. As she assimilates the message, she will
compare it to what she already knows and believes. In the Leopold and Loeb trial, Judge
Caverly may have elaborated on Darrowʼs argument for life imprisonment by recalling
that in the Chicago courts, no one had been sentenced to death after voluntarily entering
a guilty plea, and no one as young as the defendants had ever been hanged.
Elaboration of a message does not always lead to acceptance, however. If the message
does not make sense or does not ¬t the personʼs knowledge and beliefs, elaboration may
lead to rejection. For example, Judge Caverly might have focused on the brutal and
indifferent attitude that Leopold and Loeb displayed toward Bobby Franks. If Darrow
had not put together a coherent argument that ¬t the evidence, the judge probably would
have rejected his argument. But the story Darrow told was coherent. By emphasizing
the “diseased minds” of his clients, enhanced by the suggestion that they probably were

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