Motivated Resistance to Counterattitudinal Arguments: The effects of affirmation, argument strength and attitude importance
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In this study we explored some of the factors associated with biased processing of attitude-relevant information. We were particularly interested in the possibility that a self-affirmation, by reducing self-evaluative concerns, might increase participants' willingness to impartially evaluate information that conflicts with their current views. We examined students' reactions to arguments about increasing tuition as a function of four factors: attitude importance, argument strength, the congruence of arguments with existing attitudes, and our experimental manipulation of affirmation. We found that affirmation reduced biased evaluation only for participants who rated the issue as important. We also found that affirmation dramatically impacted the perception of argument strength. Stronger counterattitudinal arguments were rejected by non-affirmed participants, who did not distinguish them from weak arguments, presumably because of the esteem threat posed by a strong ideological challenge. Affirmed participants, though, evaluated strong counterattitudinal arguments more positively.