Perceived legitimacy of Supreme Court decisions: Three functions of source credibility

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Public reaction to a Supreme Court decision hinges, in part, on the level of diffuse support enjoyed by the Court prior to announcement of the ruling. Previous investigators have exchanged adamant claims concerning the legitimacy-conferring ability of the Supreme Court, yet these studies have consistently ignored theoretical explanations of the psychological determinants of a receiver's response to an authoritative edict. Examined from the context of a cognitive view of persuasion, the credibility of the Supreme Court as a message source should not be expected to have a simple positive effect on opinion. Instead, unique effects may result from the interaction of source credibility and other components of the process of persuasion. This paper reports the results of a series of experiments that demonstrate that the credibility of the Supreme Court can serve three unique persuasive functions: Source credibility can cue a simple positive response, prompt increased cognitive effort, and serve as evidence in support of a persuasive claim.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)363-384
Number of pages22
JournalPolitical Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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