The effect of message discrepancy and source beliefs : evidence from a non-weird sample in a real-world political context
Date of Issue2015
Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information
The present research examines the effects of message discrepancy and existing source beliefs on elaboration and belief certainty. Unlike most studies, which examined young adults from Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic (WEIRD) populations, it focuses on non-Western, rural, less-educated, older adults. Two studies were conducted. Using a survey with mostly open-ended questions, Study One identified two elaboration strategies: a positive test and a negative test. When a message was congruent with existing issue beliefs (i.e., low message discrepancy) or when existing source beliefs were positive, most participants used a positive test: they decided whether to believe the news based on whether they had information to support it. When a message was incongruent with existing issue beliefs (i.e., high message discrepancy) or existing source beliefs were negative, most participants used a negative test: they decided whether to believe the news based on whether they had information that contradicted it. Using a non-laboratory experiment, Study Two tested and provided support for the hypotheses derived from Study One. Message discrepancy and existing source beliefs exerted independent effects on the type of test, which in turn predicted belief certainty. Message discrepancy did not predict the amount of elaboration, but existing source beliefs did. Positive existing source beliefs led to more elaboration but this effect did not depend on the level of involvement and message discrepancy as reported by previous studies (Clark, Wegener, Habashi, & Evans, 2012; Tormala, Brinol, & Petty, 2007). Interestingly, Study Two shows that when message discrepancy was low but existing source beliefs were negative, participants changed their issue beliefs as opposed to changing their beliefs about the source. The present research offers insights about the mechanism behind belief revision and belief preservation and provides clues about how to change political beliefs.
Nanyang Technological University