Implications of Effort Put into Forming an Attitude for Resistance to Attitude Change

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The Ohio State University

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Many researchers have studied elaboration, which is the extent to which people effortfully think about attitude-relevant information. Despite being effortful, many effects of elaboration, such as resistance of change, have largely been attributed to cognitive changes that accompany elaboration or to perceptions of elaboration rather than to the effort itself. Yet, it seems that effort itself could contribute to a person's resistance to give up that attitude. In the current case, effort can be described as the amount of work put into obtaining information and forming an attitude about it. One hundred seventy-three Ohio State University students were brought into the lab where they were asked to read an article and form an attitude about the target policy in the message. While the participants were reading this article, they were randomly assigned to also have a secondary task or not. This secondary task involved simultaneously monitoring a string of letters played at a relatively slow rate over headphones while attempting to read the article. The intent was for the secondary task to make participants put forth additional effort to receive and use the available information. The participants were then asked questions on their attitude toward the policy, how much they thought about the information and how difficult it was to obtain that information. Finally, the participants read an article that took an opposing point of view and then reported their attitude again following that opposing message. The data show that there was no significant difference in change in belief between the two secondary task conditions, but measures of perceived effort did predict resistance to change above and beyond perceptions of elaboration. Further studies will have to be designed with a more refined operationalization of variables, such as incorporating other ways to induce effort. For example, this could include the use of distracting visual stimuli. This study provides insight into why putting more cognitive effort into a task motivates someone to stick with it.



elaboration, effort, resistance to change, attitude change, attitudes