The effects of prior information on attitude change
Arnold, William E., 1940-
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The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of prior information on attitude change. It was hypothesized that persons who have prior information regarding a given subject will change their opinion to a leaser extent after hearing a persuasive speech on the subject than persons who have no such information. A total of 210 students from the basic speech course at Northern Illinois University were used in the experiment. In order to evaluate the amount of prior information each student had on the topic selected for the study, a 30-question current events test was devised. Medical care in America was selected as the topic for this study. Seven questions about medical care were used to test this amount of prior information. To discover the amount of attitude change, a Likert-attitude scale was used. Each subject in the experimental group received the current events test, the first attitude questionnaire, an attitude questionnaire after the speech, and another attitude questionnaire six weeks after the speech. The control group subjects took the same tests, but they did not listen to the speech. The speech, which was 10 minutes in length, stressed the need for government assistance in a medical care program. To evaluate the data, a distribution free test of analysis of variance was employed. From the results obtained, two conclusions were drawn: 1. Persons who have no prior information on a given subject will not change their opinion to any greater extent after hearing a persuasive speech on that subject than persons who have such information. 2. The effect of a persuasive attempt is negated by a lapse of time without reinforcement of further persuasion.