Cognitive Responses in Persuasion

By Richard E. Petty; Thomas M. Ostrom et al. | Go to book overview

12
Cognitive Responses to Mass Media Advocacy

Peter Wright Stanford University


INTRODUCTION

The previous chapters in this text have described in considerable detail the cognitive response approach to persuasion, and how this approach is useful in understanding the accumulated experiments on attitude change. In this chapter, we use the cognitive response approach to understand an applied problem-the persuasiveness of mass media advocacy attempts. McGuire ( 1979a) attributed the scarcity of theoretically interesting media effects research in the attitude change literature to the way the attitude change theories popular in social psychology had evolved. The cognitive response approach differs from traditional approaches in ways that make it potentially conducive to investigating media effects. The emphasis on active processing activities draws attention to the audience member's limited processing abilities and, consequently, to reception environment factors that inhibit the person's ability to generate thoughts. Cognitive response researchers have gravitated toward examining factors that can strain audience response opportunity more so than researchers stimulated by other theoretical models. Media differences may affect audience response activities largely by creating reception environments that differ significantly in the strain they place on audience response opportunities. Evidence on such effects is reviewed in this chapter. The cognitive response model also provides a natural theoretical bridge between persuasion theory and choice theory. Formal models of the choice process typically depict someone actively processing information during pre-choice deliberations (e.g., Coombs, Dawes, & Tversky, 1970; Newell & Simon, 1972), not simply referring back to already formed global

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