Alice H. Eagly University of Massachusetts-Amherst*
The idea that people differ in their cognitive responses to persuasive communications has such a ring of obvious truth to it that it scarcely needs documentation. A simple proof could be obtained in many ways. One could ask a number of people for their reactions to a particular persuasive communication. Despite an identical stimulus situation established by receiving the same message from the same communicator under the same conditions, each person's response would probably be unique and would differ in at least some respect from those of all the others. For, example, people no doubt would agree with the communication to differing extents, and they would react differently to the communicator. Individuals might also differ in their responses to arguments the message contains, with some analyzing and reacting to each argument and others reacting mainly to the communicator or to the communication's overall point rather than to the argumentation. Thus, both agreement with the communication and cognitive responses such as counterarguing and evaluation of the communicator might differ among individuals.
It is hardly surprising that reactions to communications are often highly variable, because individuals differ in the prior experiences they have had in relationship to topics, communicators, and social contexts in which influence is exerted. Differing experiences lay the groundwork for differing responses in the present.
Researchers who study persuasion often attempt to take into account differences in recipients' past experience by examining predispositions that, they bring with them to the communication situation. Such researchers may regard____________________