Social Influence and Selective Exposure to Information.
AMERICAN UNIV WASHINGTON D C DEPT OF PSYCHOLOGY
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The experiment investigated the relationships among similarity of attitudes, extent and direction of group influence and preferences for alternative messages on a controversial issue. Instructions to the subject stipulated the attitudinal composition of a simulated group. The extent of consensus characterizing listening behavior was manipulated by the experimenters using a modified Crutchfield apparatus. The subjects, all of whom were known to favor legalized abortion, were given the choice of listening to a pro-abortion or an anti-abortion message. We predicted, and found, that subjects were more inclined to listen to a counterattitudinal message if subjects with compatible attitudes also appeared to be listening to that message. In groups with incompatible or unknown attitudes, listening preferences of the subjects assumed different and somewhat unpredictable patterns.