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CURRENT RESEARCH IN SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY Volume 8, Number 3 Submitted: March 6, 2002 First Revision: May 23, 2002 Accepted: October 6, 2002 Publication date: October 9, 2002 ATTITUDE CHANGE: THE CASE OF ATTITUDES TOWARDS THE "GREEN CARD" IN GERMANY And Floral Ursula Piontkowski Ina Knocks Julia Rottmann Pia Thiemann University of Munster ABSTRACT THE SLEEPER EFFECT IS A DELAYED INCREASE IN ATTITUDE CHANGE WHEN A MESSAGE IS PROVIDED BY A NON-CREDIBLE OR BIASED SOURCE. IN AN EXPERIMENT, WE EXAMINED THE INFLUENCE OF A BIASED SOURCE ON THE LONG-LASTING IMPACT OF ARGUMENTS AGAINST THE IMPLEMENTATION OF A "GREEN CARD" FOR SKILLED EMPLOYEES IN ERMANY. EXTENDING PREVIOUS STUDIES ON THE SLEEPER EFFECT, WE VARIED THE COMPLEXITY OF THE SOURCE INFORMATION. WE HYPOTHESIZED A DECREASED SLEEPER EFFECT WHEN SOURCE INFORMATION WAS COMPLEX, WHEREAS WE EXPECTED THE USUAL SLEEPER EFFECT WHEN SOURCE INFORMATION WAS SHORT AND EASY. UNEXPECTEDLY, WE FOUND AN ATTITUDE CHANGE IMMEDIATELY AFTER PARTICIPANTS HAD READ THE ARGUMENTS THAT WAS NOT AFFECTED BY THE SOURCE INFORMATION.
HOWEVER, WHEN THE ATTITUDES WERE MEASURED AGAIN AFTER SIX WEEKS, A RELATIVE SLEEPER EFFECT OCCURRED. THE RESULTS ARE INTERPRETED IN THE LIGHT OF MECHANISMS TO REDUCE DISSONANCE. [ 39 ] [ 40 ] Numerous representatives from politics and the media agree that the debate about German immigration policies played a pivotal role in state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia in 2000. The discussion was dominated by the question of whether the government and domestic industries should recruit highly skilled experts from foreign countries in order to address a labor shortage in specific areas (e. g. , internet technologies) and thereby strengthen the German economy. The debate culminated in an ad campaign by the Christian Democratic Party that used the slogan "Children instead of Indians" ("Kinder statt Index") to emphasize its view that Germans should support the education of their children rather than hire immigrant experts. However, this slogan was seized by the Republicans, a right wing party, who used it in an extensive campaign of their own.
Considering that arguments in this debate were provided by clearly biased communicators, it seems to be an interesting question whether the reasoning from such sources leads to attitude change and how enduring this attitude change is. We know from the considerable research on the "sleeper effect" that under certain circumstances messages from biased or non-credible sources may lead to delayed attitude change (absolute sleeper effect) or to a reduced decline of attitude change over time (relative sleeper effect) (e. g. , Gillig and Greenwald 1974; Grade, Cook, Hennig an, Flay, Alessis, and Halamaj 1978; Holland, Lumsdaine, and Sheffield 1949). Holland and Weiss (1951) argued that an unfavorable persuasion cue (e.
g. , a negative source) becomes dissociated from the message over time. Since sleeper effects were primarily observed when recipients were informed about the message source after reading the message, Pratkanis et al. (1988) suggested that the message itself and the discounting cue are regarded as two separate communications with opposite impact. Although the influence of these communications might be roughly equal immediately after the presentation, Pratkanis et al. assume that the decline of the influence of the latter communication is faster over time. To support their explanation, they refer to findings that prior received communications decay somewhat more slowly than subsequent communications (Miller and Campbell 1959). A point that was not of main interest in previous research pertains to the length and complexity of information about the communicator.
In most studies, specifications about the communicator or the message source were very short. Considering the various explanations offered, the question arises whether a sleeper effect may be observed when specifications about the communicator are extensive and complex. It seems plausible that extensive information about the communicator is stored better in memory and is therefore easier to retrieve when recipients process the given information deliberately. If we follow the explanation of Pratkanis et al. (1988) that the sleeper effect is based on a differential decay of information in memory, we should expect a decreased sleeper effect for extensive source information. [ 40 ] [ 41 ] Kruglanski and Thompson (1999; cf. Kruglanski, Thompson, and Spiegel 1999) already demonstrated the relevance of the complexity of information about the message source. In contrast to the widely held assumption of two-process models that source characteristics and message arguments have a different impact on attitudes if participants process the given information heuristically or systematically (e.
g. , Early and Chain 1993; Petty and Cacioppo 1986), Kruglanski and Thompson regard source characteristics and message arguments as functionally equivalent in the persuasion process. They assume that the length or extent of such information will interact with contextual factors that are known to promote cognitive elaboration, and that in past research have differentially moderated the persuasive impact of different information types when information type has been confounded with information length. Supporting this assumption, they showed in a series of experiments that participants who were motivated and able to systematically process the given information were more likely to be convinced by an expert than an inexpert source when the source information was long, but not when the source information was short. Thus, in the case of systematic processing, the impact of source characteristics on persuasion depends on the complexity of information about the source.
Therefore, we assumed that, in addition to variables highlighted in previous research, the complexity of information about the communicator would have an influence on the stability of attitude change. In keeping with the reasoning presented above, we expected a sleeper effect for participants who are able and motivated to process the given information systematically if information about a biased communicator is simple, but not if it is complex. We tested these predictions in an experiment with German students. Inspired by the debate about the green card, we had participants read a short article that included arguments against the implementation of the green card for foreign experts.
Once they had read the piece, participants were given either no description of the message source, a short description, or a long description. With the exception of the control condition, the source was clearly biased in its view. The attitude of the participants was measured twice. Once immediately after they had read the arguments and the author note, the second time six weeks later. A fourth group of participants received no arguments and no information about a source. They were merely asked about their attitude toward the green card.
We assumed that the attitude change would be stronger immediately after the reading of the article in participants who were not informed about the communicator as compared to participants who were informed about the biased source. Furthermore, we expected a sleeper effect for participants who received a short author note. Six weeks after the reception of the message, its persuasive influence should be strongest for those participants who had received a short author note at the first measurement. Since complex information should be better represented in memory, we expected no sleeper effect for participants who had received an extensive author note. [ 41 ] [ 42 ] METHOD Procedure and Participants Participants were 69 students of the University of M? nster. In their regular courses, they were asked to participate in a survey about the implementation of the green card in Germany.
At the time of the first measurement, they were randomly assigned to one of the three experimental conditions or the control group. With the exception of the control group, all participants received a booklet. The booklet included all materials, instructions, and questionnaires. First, participants read an introduction to the topic.
They were informed that Germany was experiencing a shortage of trained workers in the IT market and that there was a current debate over whether experts from countries outside the European Union should be hired for a fixed period of five years. Afterwards, participants read the message that included arguments against the implementation of the green card in Germany. In two conditions, participants then received a short or a long description of the communicator. Finally, all participants answered a questionnaire which, aside from the manipulation check, included the attitude measure. Participants who received information about the communicator were also asked whether they believed the communicator to be biased on the topic under discussion. Six weeks after the first measurement, the courses were visited again by different experimenters, who were allegedly recruiting participants for a survey unrelated to the first study.
Participants now answered a questionnaire about several different topics, which also included an assessment of their attitude towards the green card. Participants in the control group answered the questions relevant for the attitude measure only at the first measurement. To identify the participants at both times of measurement, we used a code that was generated by personal data of the participants. After the second measurement, all participants were debriefed about the goals of the present study.
Materials Message Participants received an article that contained numerous arguments against the implementation of the green card in Germany, arguments that were not clearly attributable to a specific political party. For example, one argument maintained that there were projected shortages of highly trained experts in various fields, and that it was important for the country to educate its own people to resolve the problem in the long run. Furthermore, the author argued that it would not be reasonable to recruit the elite from countries with a low level of education to begin with. To assure that all participants read the article carefully, they were asked to list three arguments specified by the author. [ 42 ] [ 43 ] Communicator The article was identified as an excerpt from the newspaper "M? nyheter Anzeige r. " The author was identified as the executive director of an advertising agency responsible for an election campaign by the Christian Democrats. Furthermore, it was stated that this agency also created advertisements for an Austrian right wing party.
This information was completely fictitious. However, it would guarantee that participants perceived the communicator as biased on the topic of immigration. The information about the communicator was varied according to its length and complexity. The short version contained 46 words. The long and detailed version contained 202 words.
Altogether, the short and long version provided a similar description of the communicator, but the long version included more details (e. g. , concrete examples for political activities). Dependent Measures Communicator Credibility Participants indicated on a 9 -point scale (1 = disagree; 9 = agree) whether they agreed with the following statement: "The author is not biased against the topic. " Low values indicate that the author was perceived as biased. The measure was only applied when participants received an author note. Attitude Measure At both times of measurement, participants answered the same questions about the introduction of the green card in Germany. They indicated on a 9 -point scale (1 = disagree; 9 = agree) their agreement with the following items: "The implementation of the green card benefits Germany as a place for doing business; "The need for experts should be covered by qualified German labor; "First of all, the implementation of the green card has disadvantages; "The immediate employment of foreign specialists is a reasonable step. " In consideration of the item poles, the item scores were averaged (first measurement: Cronbach Alpha = . 87; second measurement: Cronbach Alpha: . 89).
High values on this scale indicate a favorable opinion towards the implementation of the green card in Germany. [ 43 ] [ 44 ] RESULTS Communicator Bias Participants who received the long version of the author...
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Research essay sample on Green Card Attitude Change