The Influence of Subjective and Objective Working Knowledge on Attitude Strength

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Kan, Matthew
Attitude Strength , Message Elaboration , Working Knowledge
Many researchers have typically treated subjective and objective measures of working knowledge as alternative operationalizations of working knowledge. Some researchers have argued that these measures should not treated interchangeably and that one measure is better than the other. However, See, Petty, and Fabrigar (2014) have recently proposed a dual-construct perspective, where they argued that subjective and objective measures of attitudinal properties, including working knowledge, reflect distinct but equally important processes that influence attitude strength. If these two measures reflect different processes, then they should have unique effects related to attitudinal consequences (e.g., message elaboration). Following this logic, we hypothesized that these two measures of working knowledge are not alternative operationalizations of the same construct and that both types of working knowledge have unique effects associated with message elaboration. We conducted two experiments to test these two hypotheses, where we measured participants’ subjective knowledge, objective knowledge, and initial attitudes towards an attitude object and presented participants with a persuasive message about the object. In the first study, we used an anti-nuclear power message as the persuasive message. In the second study, we used a pro-legalization of marijuana message as the persuasive message. Subsequently, we used argument quality effects on post-message attitudes to gauge message elaboration. In both studies, the correlations between subjective and objective were modest, which suggested that subjective and objective measures of working knowledge were not redundant of each other. In addition, both types of knowledge produced significant effects associated with message elaboration, even when controlling for each other. Overall, the two studies supported the dual-construct perspective.
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