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Do lay people prepare both sides of an argument? The effects of confidence, forewarning, and expected interaction on seeking out counter-attitudinal information.


Debaters consider it axiomatic that in order to argue effectively people must research all sides of an issue. In fact, studies suggest that persuasive messages presenting two sides of an issue are more effective than messages only presenting one side of an argument (Allen, 1991; O'Keefe, 1999). Although debaters are trained in effective ways to research and present all sides of an issue (Kuhn, 2005), lay arguers are not (typically) formally trained in such methods (Kuhn, 1991). Even worse, selective exposure research suggests that lay arguers might not want to search out counter-attitudinal information. People often purposely avoid information that they disagree with or that distresses them (Turner, Rimal, Morrison & Kim, 2006). This is unfortunate; information that is clearly biased in favor of one's own initial attitude can be risky. At best, searching out only pro-attitudinal information leaves individuals uninformed; at worst, it leaves people unaware of potential dangers, warnings, or salient information about a given issue (Jonas, Schulz-Hardt, Frey, & Thelen, 2001). Moreover, biased information search processes, such as selective exposure, lead to belief maintenance whether the position is justified on the basis of the existing information or not (Jonas et al., 2001).

The focus of this experiment is to examine the conditions under which people are likely to examine information that is counter-attitudinal. Participants were led to believe that they would be either writing an argumentative piece to the editor of a school newspaper or that they would be arguing (i.e., debating) with another participant face to face. Prior to the interaction or letter writing, participants were allowed to read and study articles (as many as they chose) that represented either side of the issue. Our central interest is in the factors precluding individuals' decision to examine information inconsistent with their opinion.


According to Zillmann and Bryant (1985), selective exposure is the decision to avoid information that is inharmonious with one's own views or to only expose oneself to information consistent with one's pre-established viewpoints. Selective exposure to information was first investigated by Feather (1963) in a study regarding exposure to either consistent or inconsistent (what he termed dissonant or consonant) lung cancer information by smokers and non-smokers. Feather's data indicated that smokers were more interested in information about smoking than were non-smokers. Brock (1965) conducted a similar study whereby half of the participants were instructed to indicate their message preferences, and the other half were instructed that they would actually be reading the selected messages. Their results revealed that when participants believed they would be reading the information, they chose consonant information, whereas this selective exposure effect did not emerge when participants did not think they would have to actually read the message. Also, Sweeney and Gruber (1984) presented evidence showing that interest and attention to the Watergate hearings were highest among McGovern supporters and lowest among Nixon's supporters. Cappella, Turow and Jamieson's (1996) data revealed that 70 percent of Limbaugh's listeners were conservative. These aforementioned studies each provide evidence as to when people will selectively avoid information, but we extend this rationale to when people will selectively expose themselves to information prior to developing an argument.

With regard to understanding the strategies of lay (i.e., informal) arguers, Kuhn's work has been seminal (Kuhn, Shaw, & Felton, 1997; Kuhn & Udell, 2003; Kuhn, Weinstock, & Flaton, 1994). Kuhn and her colleagues have established that, generally speaking, lay people are unsophisticated in their arguing skills. Kuhn's (1991) study of lay people's ability to develop a case for their theories underlying their thinking indicated that some argumentation skills, like counter-arguing, are not likely to be performed. Felton and Kuhn's (2001) study of teenagers' dialogue about capital punishment showed that teens focused on supporting their own arguments and avoided addressing the arguments of their opponent. But these studies do not illuminate why people avoid counter-attitudinal information.

According to Atkin (1985) exposure to information is based on a cost-benefit analysis on the part of the receiver. Content is selected when the receiver perceives that the reward value of the message outweighs the costs of receiving the message. Exposing oneself to messages has inherent cost factors including time and mental effort. In addition, there are psychological costs such as guilty feelings or irritation from discrepant (i.e., inconsistent with pre-established attitude) messages. Therefore, people must perceive that the benefits gained from the message outweigh these negative feelings. In fact, if the costs outweigh the benefits, people might engage in passive avoidance of counter-attitudinal information (Zuwerink-Jacks & Cameron, 2003).

There are several factors motivating information seeking (Turner et al., 2006). These motivations serve as potential benefits message receivers gain from exposure (Atkin, 1985). Learning is a one such motivation. Studies have indicated that people self-report that they watch certain television programs (e.g., news) because of the informational value (Rubin, 1981). So, if individuals perceive that their need to learn information outweighs the costs of looking into discrepant information, they will be more likely to seek out counter-attitudinal information. A second motivation, according to Atkin, is communication. People will acquire information to build a repertoire of conversational material (Rubin, 1981, 1983). A final motivation for selective exposure is reinforcement. People seek out information to reinforce their opinions. In other words, if people believe they have much to learn and that learning another side of an argument will facilitate communication, they will be more likely to look at the opposing side of an issue. If the need to reinforce one's own side, perhaps because one lacks confidence in one's own knowledge, is more pertinent then the motivation to look at counter-attitudinal information will decrease. We expand on these ideas subsequently.

Atkin's (1985) ideas on motivation underscore the observation that motivation serves as a critical variable in much of the research in persuasion. Borrowing from dual processing models (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993; Petty, Cacioppo, & Goldman, 1981), we posit that when people are motivated to seek out counter-attitudinal information, they will be more likely to do so (1). Dual process models posit that the likelihood of receivers processing information systematically versus heuristically depends upon their motivation (and ability); when people lack either, the likelihood of systematic processing decreases (Chaiken, 1980; Eagly & Chaiken, 1993). Similarly, we propose that lay arguers must also be motivated to seek out another point of view on a topic, especially a view they disagree with. If people are sufficiently motivated to seek out counter-attitudinal information they will be more likely to do so (holding ability constant).


As previously mentioned, individuals often seek information to reinforce their current cognitions. This motivation is exacerbated in certain conditions. For example, people will seek reinforcing information when they have a securely held belief. In such cases, they might find agreeable messages comforting. Also, if people are genuinely uncertain or unconfident about the correctness of their beliefs or attitudes they will seek information that validates them (Atkin, 1985; Berkowitz, 1968; Freedman & Sears, 1965). Canon (1964) found that self-confidence moderates the selective exposure effect. A number of conclusions can be drawn from this research. It is argued here that confidence and expected interaction will interact to impact selective exposure of counter-attitudinal information.

Confidence and Expected Interaction

Lay arguers tend to engage in arguing in social situations. When individuals anticipate a social encounter, communicative and functional goals are particularly salient. Expected interaction regards knowing that in the future one will interact with, and exchange information with, another individual. Clarke and James (1967) argued that the anticipated use for information interacts with self-esteem to affect the need to seek confirming information. Clarke and James' participants prepared for either a debate or an informal discussion. The findings showed that the type of situation interacted with the participants' self-esteem: In the informal discussion condition, people with a high self-esteem sought more supportive information. However, in the debate condition participants with low self-esteem, relative to those with high self-esteem, asked for more supportive information. The researchers concluded that individuals with a low self-esteem predicted that they would only make a "modest contribution" (p. 243) and therefore were not compelled to prepare. High selfesteem participants, however, may have planned to be actively involved in the conversation and gathered information to bolster their participation. But in the debate condition, participants with a low self-esteem could not avoid participating in the interaction and consequently "their lack of confidence would lead them to prefer reinforcing information" (p. 243). Participants with a high self-esteem, on the contrary, may have wanted to enhance their status in the debate by showing a level of expertise in the opposing viewpoints and would thus choose to read opposing viewpoints, because the information may serve as a comfort to them (see Festinger, 1957; McGinnies, Welling, & O'Neal, 1978).

Frey and Wicklund (1978) posited that "sometimes dissonant information is more useful than consonant information; thus we have a third factor that would interfere with [selective exposure] effects" (p. 133). Accordingly, whether or not people expect to interact will impact the selective exposure process depending on their level of confidence (Canon, 1964; Freedman, 1965; Freedman & Sears, 1965; Frey, 1982; Latane, 1959; Oliver, 2002). Confidence is an individual-level variable that can be observed, manipulated, and measured (Wood & Quinn, 2003). Canon (1964) found that confident participants sought discrepant information only when they perceived such information to be useful, as would be the case in debate preparations (Lowin, 1969). Theoretically, the perceived utility of the information may lower perceived dissonance because individuals have a rationale for why they sought out the dissonant information (i.e., to prepare to win the debate). Therefore, we predict:

HI: Expected interaction and confidence will interact to affect selective exposure. When participants are confident in their own arguments and expect to interact with another person they will seek out more counter-attitudinal information (H 1 a) than in the other experimental conditions. When people lack confidence in their arguments and expect to interact with another person, they will seek out more pro-attitudinal information (H1b) than in the other experimental conditions.

This prediction, however, supposes that individuals know the attitude of the person they are going to be engaging in an interaction with--a defining characteristic of a debate; but, not always the case in lay arguments.


Forewarning, providing participants a warning about an upcoming activity or message (Dean, Austin, & Watts, 1971), is also likely to interact with anticipated interaction and confidence level. Researchers have defined forewarning in various ways. Dean, Austin, and Watts (1971) relied on Papageorgis' (1967) recommendation to reduce the concept of forewarning into two main ideas--warning and persuasion context. A warning is specified as a prior announcement of a topic given during the experiment while persuasion context indicated not only a prior announcement, but also that the announcement deals with persuasion (Chen, Reardon, Rea, & Moore, 1992).

Zuwerink Jacks and Devine (2000) proposed that forewarning motivates people to engage in anticipatory counter-arguing. Both Petty and Cacioppo (1979) and Chen et al.'s (1992) findings are consistent with the notion that, with high-involvement issues, forewarning arouses negative cognitive responses. Hence, research suggests that forewarning leads to resistance to persuasion due to the greater opportunity to counter-argue and bolster one's opinion (Dean et al., 1971).

H2: Anticipated interaction, confidence and forewarning will interact to affect selective exposure. When confident people anticipate interacting with a person of opposing views (i.e., they are forewarned), they will be more likely to choose counter-attitudinal information than participants in all other experimental conditions. It should be noted that we do not expect any main effects of the independent variables.

For example, expecting interaction will only matter when an individual feels strongly about his/her current beliefs. Additionally, being forewarned by itself should not affect selective exposure to counter-attitudinal information. Only when people are confident in their arguments and are aware that they are expected to interact with someone with opposite views should they be more likely to seek out counter-attitudinal information. Because seeking out counter-attitudinal information is rare, we also wanted to provide a conservative estimate of information seeking. Along with our straight forward measures of number of pro- and counter-attitudinal materials, we examined the discrepancy between the number of counter-attitudinal topics chosen and the number of pro-attitudinal topics chosen. A person choosing an equal amount of both kinds of information would have a score of zero. As the discrepancy increases, the number of counter-attitudinal topics that had been chosen increases. This way, we can provide a measure of counter-attitudinal information seeking that controls for pro-attitudinal information.



Participants consisted of 159 undergraduate communication students from a large Eastern university. Sixty-eight percent of participants were female (n = 109), with a mean age of 19.78 (SD = 1.70). There were 42 freshmen (26.4%), 43 sophomores (27.0%), 35 junior students (22.0%), and 34 senior students (21.4%) in the sample. Among the participants, 63.5% were Caucasian (n = 101), 10.7% were African American (n = 17), 9.4% were Asian (n = 15), 3.1% were Hispanic (n = 5), and 10.3% were from other ethnic backgrounds (e.g., Middle Eastern).

To estimate the power of the main effects and interaction effects, we assume a moderate effect size (f = .25) with [alpha] = .05 and a total N = 160 with equal cell sizes. Each independent variable has two levels and the degrees of freedom for main effects, two-way interaction, and the three-way interaction all equal to 1, which yield the same power estimate of .87 based on Cohen's power table (Cohen, 1988).

Design and Procedure

A 2 (confidence: low, high) X 2 (expected interaction: expected, not expected) X 2 (forewarning: forewarning, no forewarning) independent groups experiment was conducted.

Participants were instructed to register for a time slot in a communication laboratory, and they were assigned to the study in groups of 2 or 3. Once they arrived at the laboratory, the experimenter (E) greeted the participants (Ps) and ensured that they did not know each other. This was employed as a control for prior attitudinal knowledge of the paired participant.

Experimental Inductions

Participants were seated in separate laboratory rooms and told, "This is a study on communication and opinions. We are interested in the kinds of opinions people have and how they communicate them with others [or for no expected interaction condition: communicate via letter writing]. The person with the best arguments in this study will win a $50 gift certificate. Just to make sure we can find you after the study's completion will you please fill out this form (E hands out contact sheet)." (2)

In the expected interaction condition, the E said, "Today you will be engaging in a discussion with each other, but first I need you to fill out a short questionnaire (participants receive pre-attitude survey)." In the no expected interaction condition, E said, "Today you will be writing a letter to the editor of the Diamondback (the University's student newspaper) concerning your opinions, but first I need you to fill out a short questionnaire."

In all conditions, four topics were listed in the pre-attitudinal survey: a) students need more parking on campus, b) tuition should be lowered, c) the university should hire more professors, and d) the university should shut down the Greek system. Participants indicated their (dichotomous) attitude toward each of the four topics by circling "agree" or "disagree." We wanted to control for interest and involvement in the issue and thought it important that participants believed they would be arguing/writing about a topic they personally cared about. So after indicating their attitudes towards each topic, participants were instructed to rank order all four topics from 1 to 4, where 1 meant "I care about this topic most," and 4 meant "I care about this topic least."

Next, the E re-entered the lab room stating, "Thank you for filling out these forms (E collects consent form and short questionnaire and looks to see what the participants selected as their number two ranked issue). Oh, good, I see that you are interested in this issue (pointing to topic). That's great because the participant in the next room (or the editor of the Diamondback) is also interested in that topic." To induce forewarning, the E then says (pretending to look at the other participant's information), "Oh, it looks like he/she doesn't agree with you, however. That works out really well." In the no forewarning condition this was not stated. E then says to P, "In a few minutes, I'm going to put you guys together to have a discussion. [Or in the letter condition, "In a few minutes, I'm going to take you into the computer lab next door to write your letter."] I'll give you a few minutes to write down some points or arguments to prepare for the discussion [letter]. You can write your arguments down on this piece of paper."

Next, the E gave the P a sheet to write his/her arguments. In the high confidence condition, the sheet had 4 bullets on it, implying that 4 arguments would be sufficient (see Petty, Brinol, & Tormala, 2002). In the low confidence condition, the P received a sheet with 10 blank bullet points. The Ps were then given a few minutes to list their arguments. Upon returning to the lab, the E further induced confidence by saying (in the high confidence condition), "Wow, these are really great arguments. You really know a lot about this topic. You're really prepared. Well, the other person is still preparing. We want to give you the same opportunity to prepare further." In the low confidence condition the E says, "Oh (in a surprised tone). This isn't quite what we were expecting. Your arguments are fairly common ... maybe you can come up with something better. Well, the other person is still preparing. We want to give you the same opportunity to prepare further." (3)

In both conditions the E continued, "We have a list of articles available on your topic (provides article list sheet). Go ahead and put a check next to the articles that you would like for your preparation." The P was provided with three pro-attitudinal topics and 3 counter-attitudinal topics to examine (Appendix). The E waited while the P made his/her selections on the article sheet, and then said, "You know what, to tell you the truth, I think we are running out of some of these articles. Why don't you just rank order the ones you have selected? I will try to get your top choices for you (E looks over the sheet and pretends to copy down which articles the participant chose onto a clipboard). You know, I have always been interested in why people pick the articles that they do. Would you mind writing down why you chose these articles? You can just write it down on this sheet. Also, while I am gone, please fill out this short questionnaire (the post-test) I'll be right back (leaves the room)." Finally, all Ps were fully debriefed.

Measurement of Selective Exposure

These predictions rely on a valid measure of selective exposure. Although some past studies offered participants either pro-attitudinal information or counter-attitudinal information; realistically, people have the capacity and potential to examine both types of information (Frey, 1981) and multiple forms of information (Freedman & Sears, 1963; for exceptions see Jonas et al., 2001; Knobloch, Carpentier, & Zillmann, 2003). Other studies provided multiple topics for selection, but only recorded the number of topics chosen (Freedman & Sears, 1963), or recorded the rank ordering of topics (Mills, Aronson, & Robinson, 1959; Mills & Ross, 1964; Rosen, 1961). We measure selective exposure as the number of counter-attitudinal options, top choice in options, and the discrepancy between the number of counter-and the number of pro-attitudinal choices.

Measures (4)

Confidence induction check A 5-item, 7-point Likert-type scale (e.g., "I am confident that I will look smart when I make my case," "I am not confident that I can argue this case well" [reverse coded]) was used to measure participants' confidence level (1 means strongly disagreeing and 7 means strongly agreeing with the statement; M = 4.55, SD = 0.21). The Cronbach's alpha for the confidence induction check was .80. LISREL 8.70 (Joreskog & Sorbom, 2004) was used to conduct confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) on the scale. The result strongly supported a one-factor structure, [chi square](5, N = 159) = 4.53, p > .05; NFI = 0.99; CFI = 1.00; RMSEA = 0.00; 90% confidence interval for RMSEA was (0.00, 0.11). The average of the five items was used in the further analyses.

Selective exposure. Participants were provided with a list of six article titles on the second most important topic they preferred in the pre-attitudinal survey. Three of those articles were consistent with participants' attitude and the other three indicated opposite points of view. The number of articles supporting participants' attitudes (M = 2.13, SD = 0.77) and the number of articles conflicting with the participants' attitudes (M = 1.00, SD = 0.98) were recorded. Additionally, the discrepancy between counter-and pro-attitudinal choices was entered as another dependent variable (M = -1.19, SD = 1.32). Furthermore, participants' rank ordering of the articles was investigated for their primary choice. This variable was dummy coded (1 indicating participants chose a pro article as his/her primary choice and 2 meaning participants chose an inconsistent article as their primary choice). Overall, participants chose consistent information as their top choice 77.4% of the time (n = 123) and 19.6% of participants chose inconsistent information as their primary choice (n = 30).


Induction Checks

Confidence. The average of the 5-item confidence scale was used to check whether the manipulation successfully induced different levels of confidence. The induction was successful, F(1, 153) = 4.32, p < .05, [[eta].sup.2] = 0.04. Participants in the high confidence condition were more confident in their arguments (M = 4.69, SD = 1.02) than individuals in the low confidence condition (M = 4.32, SD = 1.18).

Expected interaction. To check the expected interaction induction, participants were asked at the end of experiment whether they would be engaging in a discussion with others or whether they would be writing a letter to the editor of a campus newspaper. The manipulation of expected interaction was also successful, F(1, 152) = 112.64, p < .05, [[eta].sup.2] = 0.43.

Hypothesis Testing

Hypothesis 1 predicted a two-way interaction between expected interaction and confidence on selective exposure. Hypothesis 2 predicted a three-way interaction among all independent variables (i.e., expected interaction, confidence, and forewarning) on selective exposure.

First, the number of counter-attitudinal articles was examined as a function of the independent variables using an ANOVA. Counter to the first hypothesis, confidence and expected interaction did not elicit a statistically significant interaction effect, F(1, 150) = .53, p = .47. And these data are not consistent with the predicted 3-way interaction, F(l, 150) = 0.00, p = 1.00 (see Table 1 for all means and standard deviations for each condition). However, these data are consistent with an interaction between confidence and forewarning, F(1, 150) = 4.95, p < .05, [[eta].sup.2] = .03, on the number of counter-attitudinal articles chosen. Specifically, confident participants who were not forewarned chose fewer counter-attitudinal articles (M = 0.70, SD = .16) than confident but forewarned participants (M = 1.14, SD = .15). Also, unconfident participants who were not forewarned (M = 1.09, SD = .17) chose more counter-attitudinal articles than unconfident and forewarned participants (M = .83, SD = .17). No other interactions emerged. It should also be noted that there were no statistically significant main effects for any of the independent variables. Figure 1 pictures the two-way interaction effect between confidence and forewarning on participants' choice of counter-attitudinal information.

Next, the number of pro-attitudinal articles was examined as the dependent variable with expected interaction, forewarning, and confidence as independent variable in an ANOVA. Again, no significant main effect emerged, P(1, 150) = 1.26, p = .26 for confidence; F(1, 150) = .02, p = .90 for forewarning; or F(1, 150) = .20, p = .66 for expected interaction. Confidence did not interact with forewarning to influence participants' choice of pro-attitudinal articles, F(1, 150) = 1.13, p = .29. However, the interaction between confidence and expected interaction was statistically significant, F(1, 150) = 7.96, p < .01, [[eta].sup.2] = 0.05. Expected interaction and forewarning did not interact with each other, F(1, 150) = .01, p = .91. The three-way interaction was not significant either, F(1, 150) = 3.48, p = .06.

In addition, we examined the discrepancy between the number of counter-attitudinal topics chosen and the number of pro-attitudinal topics chosen. A person choosing an equal amount of both kinds of information would have a score of zero. As the discrepancy increases, the number of counter-attitudinal topics chosen increases. Again, there was a lack of a statistically significant two-way interaction between confidence and expected interaction, F(1, 150) = 1.15, p = .29. No three-way interaction was found either, F(1, 150) = 1.13, p = .29. Yet, once more confidence and forewarning interacted to affect the discrepancy between counter- and pro-attitudinal topics, F(1, 150) = 5.08, p < .05, [[eta].sup.2] = .03. In particular, confident participants who were forewarned chose more counter-attitudinal topics, controlling for the number of pro-attitudinal topics they chose (M = -.86, SD = 0.20) as compared to the other groups (see Table 2 for all means and standard deviations).

Although the choice of counter-attitudinal articles suggested that participants exposed themselves to information incongruent with their attitudes when they were confident in their arguments and were forewarned as to the other's opinion, we also wanted to examine the top choice of each participant. Given that this dependent variable was dummy coded (1 = pro-attitudinal topic, 2 = counter-attitudinal topic) into a dichotomous dependent variable we employed logistic regression. Unfortunately, given that only 30 participants chose a counter-attitudinal topic as their top choice, none of the effects were statistically significant. This reveals that although confidence and forewarning do impact the desire to examine counter-attitudinal information, overwhelmingly people still want to see their own opinions in print first and foremost.



Scholars have long argued that people selectively expose themselves to pro-attitudinal information to avoid cognitive dissonance (among other reasons). We argued that there may be contexts when people will seek out counter-attitudinal information. These data provide evidence for different selectivity behavior depending upon the interaction between confidence and forewarning. The results indicated that the confident forewarned participants chose more counter-attitudinal articles than those confident participants who were not forewarned. These results are consistent with the findings of Freedman and Sears (1965) and Canon (1964). Nonetheless, we must note that nearly every participant's top choice in information was pro-attitudinal, revealing the robustness of the selective exposure effect.

We argued that forewarned and confident individuals have communicative and instrumental goals in their information seeking behaviors. It is likely that they desired to explore the opposing points to prepare arguments against the opposition, regardless of whether they would meet that person face to face or not. Thus, it could be that selection of counter-attitudinal information serves to enhance prior opinions. Given their level of confidence, such persons are not concerned that seeking out "the other side" will cause dissonance. Clarke and James (1967) argued that an "individual is likely to be interested in 'the other side' about important issues, and the individual also realizes he is less vulnerable to discrepant material about issues on which he is well-informed" (p. 238). Thus, preparing counter-arguments would make their own arguments more convincing and persuasive. Lowin (1967) posited that

An individual who has a stake in maintaining a belief structure may choose to deliberately approach dissonant information in order to try to refute that information. The successful refutation of a dissonant cognition is probably as functional for belief-system stability as is its avoidance. (p. 1)

However, when lay arguers are not forewarned, gathering opposing information appears unnecessary. In fact, it might be that people assume that others think like they do; therefore, in the absence of forewarning they might have believed they would communicate with someone they agreed with. We do not have sufficient data to substantiate this position, however.

We are surprised that expected interaction failed to interact with other independent variables to influence individuals' choice of information. One possible explanation is that individuals might have different definitions of expected interaction. We proposed that when people meet face to face they are more likely to want to be prepared given that they will have to address the person directly. However, people might also regard writing a letter to the editor as another form of interaction, given that the editor is a real person and the Diamondback newspaper is widely read by other students. If this is the case, then participants would want their opinion to be as well-rounded as when addressing people face to face. Thus, in the future, researchers need to consider other definitions/manipulations of expected interaction.

Our confidence induction did result in the expected differences, but it is also the case that we did not truly have a low confidence group. Our low confidence induction still had a mean confidence level above the scale mid-point. It might be the case that when studying communication majors, stronger inductions have to be used to lower their confidence in their ability to develop persuasive arguments. Future studies will also have to take this into consideration.

It should be noted that findings such as these would only be observed in studies where participants are allowed to choose multiple kinds of information. This operationalization is ecologically valid given that when people are truly preparing for a debate or interaction they have an arsenal of information before them. Given that our data indicate that people choose pro-attitudinal information as their top choice, if scholars only allow one choice they will find data confirming selective exposure.


We argued that the understanding of selective exposure--especially exposure to opinions inconsistent with one's own--is critical. Communication scholars must understand the circumstances under which people will expose themselves to "the other side." We encourage scholars to continue studies of this ilk in other contexts, such as campaign communication. If scholars and practitioners are developing persuasive messages, in any form, that opposing audiences will never see, then of what use are they? Certainly, belief maintenance is an important area of persuasion, but we must also focus on attitude change. Although examination of change is possible within the borders of a controlled experiment, it is more difficult to assess in the field. This study reveals that there are times that people will examine information that is inconsistent with their own views--but only after they brush up on their own opinion. (5)



1. It is about time! Why students need more parking.

2. Parking on campus: An analysis of the problem.

3. Why parking at the University of Maryland stinks

4. Quit whining, Terrapins: The parking problem is not so bad.

5. Walking is wonderful-no more parking lots needed

6. A word from the provost: We can't afford more parking, and we do not need more parking


1. Why tuition needs to be lowered now!

2. Tuition increases: The BIG problem at the University of Maryland

3. Why tuition at the University of Maryland stinks

4. Quit whining, Terrapins: The tuition here is not that expensive

5. Maryland is worth the money-why the tuition hikes are warranted

6. A word from the provost: Why the tuition has to be raised


1. There are not enough classes-because there are not enough faculty

2. Why Maryland needs more professors

3. Why the faculty shortage at the University of Maryland stinks

4. No more professors needed: The answers to your questions

5. Maryland's abundance of faculty: A note

6. Faculty-why Maryland is lucky to have so many


1. How fraternities and sororities hurt the campus

2. Fraternities and sororities: The bane of Maryland's existence

3. Why the Greek system at the University of Maryland stinks

4. The Greek system: An honored tradition

5. How fraternities and sororities add to the University of Maryland

6. Fraternities and sororities: Why we love them


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(1) This study is not a test of the ELM or the HSM. It is understood that the ELM as well as the HSM were not developed with information seeking in mind as the dependent variable. We are simply laying out the rationale for factors that might motivate people to look for counter-attitudinal information.

(2) Participants were told that the one who made the best arguments in this study would be awarded with a $50 gift-certificate. However, arguments were not examined by researchers in terms of their quality. Instead, after the study was completed, all participants were entered into a raffle for the $50 gift-certificate. This was addressed when the participants were debriefed.

(3) To manipulate confidence, we followed the rationale from Canon's (1964) study with changes that fitted our script of making arguments. In Canon's study, he had participants read a case, answer the problem presented and then a feedback was given to them corresponding to their answers by stating as "Your answer to case number was (correct, incorrect) as judged by the business experts who developed this case" (p. 87). The same procedures went on for three cases. In high confidence level, participants were offered the feedback suggesting that their answers were correct and many others gave the same answer like they did; in low confidence level, participants were told that their answers were incorrect and many others gave answers unlike they did.

(4) It should also be mentioned that we recognize that argumentativeness is a potential covariate in the study for the reason that if participants particularly enjoy argumentation and they are confident in their arguments, they may be more likely to choose counter-attitudinal information and it might be difficult to induce different confidence level among those participants. We measured and controlled for argumentativeness even though it did not play a major role in our theorizing. Argumentativeness was measured by a 20-item Likert type scale adapted from DeVito (1986). The average of the scale was calculated for the analysis of covariance (M = 4.52, SD = 0.88, [alpha] = .92). The correlation between argumentativeness and confidence was significant (r = .44, p < .01) However, the data indicated that argumentativeness is not a significant factor; therefore, we do not present the ANCOVA results here.

(5) Statistically the manipulation of confidence was significant, F(1, 153) = 4.32, p < .05, although the effect size was not large ([[eta].sub.2] = 0.03). The authors realized the effect size was small and were cautious when interpreting the results because the influence of the manipulation on the dependent measures was mediated by the manipulation check. When the effect size for the manipulation check is small, a type II error is more likely to happen. However, the study found significant interactions between confidence and forewarning, even with a small effect size of confidence manipulation. Furthermore, just because an effect size is small does not necessarily mean that the findings are not important (Rosenthal, 1990). Rosenthal gave an example involving a medicine test. The effect size of the correlation between using aspirin and prevention of heart attacks was only .03 but this information is important in terms of helping people's lives.

Monique Mitchell Turner (Ph.D., Michigan State University, 1999) is an associate professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Maryland. Shuo Yao (Ph.D., 2009, University of Maryland) is an assistant professor in the School of Communication at Radford University. Ryanne Baker, Jodi Goodman, and Stephanie A. Materese all received their Masters Degree at the University of Maryland in 2005. A previous version of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association, Boston, November 2005. Please send correspondence to the first author at

                                      Low confidence

                                 NEI (a)               EI

                            NF (b)        F        NF       F
Number of counter
  attitudinal articles
  chosen                  M     0.89     0.86     1.29     0.81
                          SD    0.23     0.21     0.24     0.21
                          n     18       21       17       21
Discrepancy (c)           M    -1.00    -1.38    -1.12    -1.48
                          SD    0.31     0.29     0.32     0.29
                          n     18       21       17       21

                                       High confidence

                                   NEI                 EI

                                NF       F        NF       F
Number of counter
  attitudinal articles
  chosen                  M     0.61     1.27     0.79     1.00
                          SD    0.23     0.21     0.23     0.21
                          n     18       22       19       22
Discrepancy (c)           M    -1.83    -0.82    -1.05    -0.91
                          SD    0.31     0.28     0.3      0.28
                          n     18       22       18       22

Note: (a.) NEI = no expected interaction; EI = expected interaction.

(b.) NF = no forewarning; F = forewarning.

(c.) Discrepancy = the difference between the number of
counter-attitudinal articles chosen and the number of pro-attitudinal
articles chosen.


Source                      df    F        [eta]      p

                            Between subjects

Confidence (C)              1     0.08      .001     .78
Expected interaction (E)    1     0.18      .001     .67
Forewarn (F)                1     0.33      .002     .57
C x E                       1     0.53      .003     .47
C x F                       1     4.95 *    .03      .03
E x F                       1     2.10      .01      .15
C x E x F                   1     0.00      .000    1.00
error                      150   (0.95)

Note. Value enclosed in parentheses represents mean square errors.

* p < .05.


                         Low confidence

                    Forewarning    Forewarning
Discrepancy (a)
M                      -1.06          -1.43
SD                      0.22           0.20
n                       35             42

                          High confidence

                    Forewarning    Forewarning
Discrepancy (a)
M                      -1.44          -0.86
SD                      0.22           0.20
n                       37             44

Note: (a.) Discrepancy = the difference between the number of
counter-attitudinal articles chosen and the number of pro-attitudinal
articles chosen.
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Author:Turner, Monique Mitchell; Yao, Shuo; Baker, Ryanne; Goodman, Jodi; Materese, Stephanie A.
Publication:Argumentation and Advocacy
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2010
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