John T. Cacioppo University of Iowa
Richard E. Petty University of Missouri-Columbia
People are subjected to a nearly constant barrage of persuasive appeals. Prior to fully awakening, individuals are exposed to radio announcers proclaiming the merits of various wares, television newsprograms that are all too frequently interrupted by flashy exhibitions of products, packages adorned with appeals regarding their contents, newspapers replete with announcements of seemingly never-ending sales, and billboards designed to change how you feel toward items ranging from toothpaste to political candidates. Apparently, people's exposure to persuasive appeals does not lessen as the day continues, either. Recent estimates place the average American as the target of over 1500 persuasive appeals per day from national advertisers alone ( Will, 1982).
Given the costs involved in designing, testing, and producing effective communications, and the fact that the vast majority of the target audience is not exposed to any single presentation of an appeal, repeated presentations of persuasive communications are commonplace. In this chapter, we consider the cognitive and attitudinal effects of repeatedly presenting either the same or similar persuasive communications to individuals over a short period of time. There are several suppositions underlying our analysis that should be stated at the outset. First, given people's limited capacity for processing information and the deluge of persuasive communications to which people are exposed daily, we have assumed that people have neither the capability nor