Three experiments examined the sequence of cognitive processes that mediate the impact of a persuasive message on behavioral decisions. When participants could concentrate on the message content, they first estimated the likelihood of each behavioral outcome described in the message and then evaluated its desirability. They later used these outcome-specific beliefs and evaluations to compute an overall attitude toward the behavior, which influenced their behavioral intentions and their actual behavioral decisions. When participants were distracted from thinking carefully about the message content, they were likely to use the message-relevant affect they were experiencing as a basis for their attitudes toward the behavior; these attitudes influenced their estimates of the likelihood and desirability of the behavior's outcomes. Giving participants more time to think about the implications of the message eliminated the effects of distraction on the impact of argument strength and decreased the influence of the affect they were experiencing.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology