Perceived message effectiveness (PME) measures have been used in persuasive message pretesting to diagnose differences between messages in actual message effectiveness (AME). This practice has been underwritten by pointing to positive correlations between individuals’ PME and AME scores. This essay argues that such correlations do not–and cannot–show that messages’ relative standing on PME matches their relative standing on AME, and thus correlations between individuals’ PME and AME scores are irrelevant to the question of whether PME assessments accurately identify relatively more effective messages. Only correlations between messages’ PME and AME scores can indicate whether PME measures provide successful prediction of messages’ relative AME standing. But positive correlations between individuals’ PME and AME scores do suggest a possible repurposing of PME measures in formative research.
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