Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Kaplan, Martin F.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Persuasion (Psychology); Self-evaluation


A confusing array of relationships has been found between generalized self-esteem and persuasion. It was hypothesized that the recipient's confidence in his attitudinal position would be a better predictor of individual differences in persuasion than would general self-esteem, particularly when the confidence considered was specific to the topic of the persuasive communication. Predictions were derived from an information integration analysis of the attitude change process. One hundred and forty four undergraduates, half high in general self-esteem and half low, either received false feedback, or no feedback, on the adequacy of their responses to multiple choice information tests. Feedback was designed to vary Ss focal confidence in their "informedness" on the topic of the information test; in the feedback conditions focal confidence was either raised or lowered. Further, the information test, and consequently the manipulated confidence, was either relevant or irrelevant to the topic of the subsequent persuasive, attempt. Subjects then read a persuasive communication on health care. Dependent measures included: a measure of the Ss' actual knowledge on the topics involved, Ss' reported confidence in his knowledge of the topic, an embedded attitude measure, and retention measures for the persuasive communication. It was predicted that Ss with raised focal confidence would be persuaded significantly less than confidence lowered Ss, This relationship was predicted to obtain regardless of chronic self-esteem level, but only when the focal confidence was manipulated for a topic relevant to the persuasive communication. Analysis of the manipulation effects on reported confidence supported the effectiveness of the manipulation. However, the confidence manipulation failed to affect persuasion, thereby disconfirming the hypotheses. This failure was attributed to several factors which may have increased error variance. A composite attitude score based on only mildly correlated attitude items, and significant deviations in reported confidence from the expected effects of the confidence manipulation were two such factors. When a response defined measure of focal confidence was employed as an independent variable in a post-hoc analysis, the predicted effects of confidence were found. That is, high focal confidence Ss were significantly less persuaded than low focal confidence Ss, and only when the confidence was relevant to the persuasive communication. This relation held across self-esteem levels. No effects of self-esteem on persuasion were obtained in the study, however an interaction of sex of £ and self-esteem level on persuasion made acceptance of the null tentative. Post-hoc analysis provided support for the hypotheses. However, the confidence manipulation did not have the hypothesized effects. Theoretical discussion suggested that the manipulation rather than directly affecting the weight of the initial attitude, affected the confidence in the belief components of that attitude. Weight of the initial attitude, it was concluded is more complexly determined than by the strength of belief in the correctness of one's knowledge about the topic alone. Additional factors involved in the weighting process were explored.


Includes bibliographical references.||Includes illustrations.


ix, 89 pages




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