Stages in the analysis of persuasive messages: The role of causal attributions and message comprehension

Wendy Wood*, Alice H. Eagly

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Describes a study with 400 female undergraduates in which an attribution analysis viewed opinion change as the outcome of a series of stages in message recipients' information processing. This processing was initiated by information about the communicator's background that led recipients to form an expectancy concerning what position the communicator would take in the message. The degree to which this premessage expectancy was confirmed or disconfirmed by the position the communicator took in the message then affected the outcome at each step of recipients' postmessage processing. In the 1st post-message step, disconfirmation of the expectancy led recipients to attribute the message primarily to the factual evidence associated with the issue, and confirmation led them to attribute it primarily to the communicator's background. Then, to the extent that recipients attributed the message to the factual evidence rather than to the communicator's background, they perceived the communicator as unbiased, a response that increased opinion change toward the message. In general, poor comprehension of message content lessened opinion change toward the message. (18 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)246-259
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1981
Externally publishedYes


  • comprehension of communicator's message, female college students
  • information on communicator's background, attribution &
  • opinion change &
  • premessage expectancy &

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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