Asch proposed that contextual information changes how people interpret objects under evaluation. This paper extended his insight by merging range-frequency theory and the linear discrepancy model into a two-step model of social influence. In the first step, people interpret a message's advocated position differently with knowledge of how other people interpreted the message than without this knowledge. In the second step, peoples' interpretations influence how their attitudes change toward the message's recommendations. A two-step model was proposed: (a) knowing what bias other people thought a newspaper article presents affected how participants perceive the extremity of this article's advocated position, and (b) participants' interpretations influenced how they changed their attitudes toward the article's topic. The results from this first experiment were consistent with the two-step model. A second experiment shows that the degree of ambiguity in a message can increase or inhibit this effect. Together, these studies provide insight into how public opinions may serve as contextual influences on people's perceptions of the issues at hand and their responses to them.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Language and Linguistics