Discrepant communication, contrast and attitude change
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This study examines the mediating role of contrast in reducing the persuasive impact of a discrepant communication that falls in one's latitude of rejection. The experiment utilizes a 2X2 design to study the effects of two levels of contrast manipulation (reduced and regular) and two positions of contrast measurement ("after" and "before" attitude assessment) on attitudes toward abortion, of 80 members of a Pro-Life group. Subjects were randomly assigned to the experimental conditions by group administration of four different questionnaires, each incorporating a different experimental treatment. Manipulation check showed that the manipulation of contrast was very weak. The other independent variable of contrast-measurement position did not reveal any reactivity to jeopardize the internal validity of the study. Internal analysis revealed that contrast manipulation, though not at all successful for male subjects in the sample, was strongly effective for female subjects. Consequently when the judgmental and attitudinal responses of females were analaysed by means of analyses of variance, contrast reduction was found to shift the attitudinal position in the advocated direction, to widen latitudes of acceptance and noncommitment, and to narrow the latitude of rejection as predicted. However, path anaylses based on regressions validated the impact of reduced constrast on latitudes of non-commitment and rejection only. The overall pattern of results clearly confirms the basic assumptions of Sheriff and Hovland's social judgment theory that the extent of contrast elicited by a discrepant communication determines how much attitude change takes place following exposure to communication.