Priming skepticism: Unintended consequences of one-sided persuasion knowledge access

Mathew S. Isaac*, Kent Grayson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Scholars have historically assumed that consumers' persuasion knowledge is invariably linked to skepticism about advertising and marketing. As a result, studies have often used skepticism-focused stimuli to prompt persuasion knowledge access. However, as originally conceptualized, persuasion knowledge also includes an understanding of persuasion tactics that are trusted and believed, which suggests that accessing persuasion knowledge does not necessarily make consumers more skeptical. In this paper, we propose that, for at least some persuasion knowledge research questions, skepticism-focused interventions may be too “one-sided” because they bias participants to consider only the skeptical side of persuasion knowledge. The purpose of the present research is to test whether the “one-sided” persuasion knowledge interventions that are used in persuasion knowledge research encourage skepticism more than balanced interventions that focus consumers on the negative and positive motives that may underlie persuasive communication. Across three experiments with three distinct subject pools and over 2,500 participants, we demonstrate that one-sided versus balanced manipulations of persuasion knowledge can have differential effects on consumer skepticism. This is an important finding because skepticism-focused operationalizations are frequently employed in persuasion knowledge research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)466-478
Number of pages13
JournalPsychology and Marketing
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • advertising literacy
  • advertising skepticism
  • credibility
  • persuasion knowledge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Marketing


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