Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

James, William Homer||Lotsof, Erwin

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Attitude (Psychology); Human behavior; Prestige


Social Learning Theory, developed by J. B. Rotter, has brought emphasis to the role of situational variables in the determination of behavior; for it deals primarily with the observable behavior of any individual, his expectancies for reinforcements resulting from the behavior, and the value of those reinforcements, as well as the socio-psychological situation. Such a theory leads naturally to the investigation of behaviors which arise directly from social situations and influences. The present study adopted the Social Learning Theory framework for the study of two variables — prestige and the Internal-External personality dimension — in a change of attitude attempt. Previous research has provided evidence of the importance of attributes of the communicator in persuasion and attitude change. While dealing directly with prestige as a speaker variable, earlier investigators have defined the variable and designed their research specifically to deal with trustworthiness, expertness, or other aspects of the terra. To determine representatives of various levels of prestige without such narrowing of the definition of the term, the present investigation made use of pilot studies to ascertain the relative prestige of various professional positions. The Internal-External personality dimension was developed within Social Learning Theory and a scale developed by James identifies the degree to which an individual interprets reinforcements as resulting from his own behavior or from forces beyond his control. Other studies led to the expectation that Externally-oriented subjects would be more influenced by a persuasive attempt and would be more responsive to manipulation of prestige. Two weeks after administration of the James IE Scale and an attitude questionnaire developed to tap feelings about methods of racial integration, all subjects except a control group listened to a tape-recorded speech advocating active support of and participation in integration attempts. With one group the speech was attributed to a U.S. Ambassador (High Prestige); with another, to the president of a manufacturing firm (Low Prestige); with the third, to an unidentified member of a symposium (Neutral Prestige). An equivalent form of the attitude questionnaire was then given to all subjects including the control group. Although the prestige variation proved significant in an analysis of covariance, the prestige levels were not ordered in the predicted direction. Both Internal-External and sex differences were found to exist on the first questionnaire; groups formed on these variables did not appear to respond differently to the persuasive attempt on the prestige variation. The degree of initial agreement or disagreement was found to be significant with respect to the persuasive attempt and to interact with other variables. The results of this study offer a number of potentially significant observations with respect to future research. The type of prestige suggestion used and the interaction with the integration issue of the Internal-External dimension and sex differences appear to offer particularly interesting potentialities for research problems.


Includes bibliographical references.


iii, 88 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type