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AN INOCULATION APPROACH 1
Inoculation message helps to improve their resistance to counterattitudinal attitude attacks. However, the utility of inoculation theory in communication activities may ultimately depend on the impact of inoculation theory on initially opposed or neutral individuals. The proposed study uses inoculation theory to explore inoculation message, persuasion, and resistance to attack message. The purpose of this proposal is to adopt a quasi-experimental pretest post control group to explore possible messages (informed by interpolation theory) to impact college students’ (aged 18-24) attitudes about the thread and resistance to the opposite impact of binge drinking. This study will help gain insight into how inoculation message affects resistance to persuasion.
Keywords: Attitude Change; Inoculation; Persuasion; Resistance
Efficiency of An Inoculation Message on Resistance to Persuasion of Related Attitudes
College students are at an increasingly high risk of engaging in behavior that could negatively impact their immediate and long-term future. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (2021) reported a study conducted in 2019, stating that “52.5% of full-time college students ages eighteen to twenty-two drank alcohol in the past month, and 33.0% engaged in binge drinking in the past month.” The NIAAA (2021) defined binge drinking as the consumption of five drinks per male and four drinks per female on one occasion. While some college students do not meet the legal age for alcohol consumption, student drinking has been correlated to negative consequences including death, alcohol use disorder (AUD), academic struggles, assaults, and sexual assault (NIAAA, 2021). It is clear from these results that society has an obligation to discourage binge drinking. Persuasive messages—specifically those messages framed by inoculation theory—can be influential in discouraging such risky behavior.
The purpose of the current manuscript is to briefly review the communication research related to inoculation theory and the inoculation approach to persuasion before presenting a hypothesis that will form the foundation of an empirical quantitative experimental research study. We begin with a discussion of the inoculation approach to persuasion.
An Inoculation Approach to Persuasion
Inoculation theory was initially presented in 1961 by McGuire to study the persuasion process and will be used as the guiding theoretical framework in the current proposed study. A brief history and overview of the theory is presented below before discussing findings relevant to the proposed study.
William J. McGuire, a social psychologist, developed inoculation theory to explore changes in attitudes and beliefs. Inoculation theory stems from a biological metaphor explaining that exposure to a weakened dose of a virus helps build resistance to subsequent attacks (McGuire, 1964). Specifically, the theory posits that a persuasive message will elicit perception of threat that motivates an individual to protect their pre-existing attitude about the topic (Pfau et al., 1997). As such, successful pretreatments motivate individuals to form a defense against future attacks (McGuire, 1964). Individuals are required to have a vested interest in the topic at hand, or they will not accurately perceive a threat or feel motivated to defend their attitude. The inoculation message is also used to guide individuals in developing the defensive material to build a strong resistance (McGuire, 1964). Guiding the individual to defend their attitudes gives them practice in learning how to defend an attitude in the future, thus building resistance. Inoculation theory helps us understand how individuals perceive and build resistance to persuasive messages.
Rationale and Hypotheses
Inoculation has been shown to be successful in promoting resistance to persuasion in previous studies. Specifically, research has indicated that inoculation can foster resistance to persuasive attacks (Banas & Rains, 2010; Burgoon et al., 1995; McGuire, 1964; Pfau et al., 1997). As such, inoculation messages are useful in prompting individuals to build resistance to persuasion. Ivanov et al. (2017) reported that initial attitudes influenced reception of inoculation messages and resulted in varying levels of resistance to persuasion. While the study did not address perceived threat, it did successfully illustrate that inoculation theory can be influential in both the design of persuasive messages and the building of individual resistance to persuasive messages. Taken together, the previous literature review and rationale support the formal hypothesis stated below that tests an inoculation message focused on increasing individual perceptions of threat and ultimately, resistance to persuasion.
H1: Compared to participants not receiving an inoculation message, participants who receive
An inoculation message addressing the negative consequences of binge drinking, will report both increased perceptions of threat as well as resistance to binge drinking.
A quasi-experimental pretest-posttest control group was designed to test the hypothesis. The proposed study explores persuasive messages (informed by inoculation theory) to impact college students (aged 18-24) attitudes about the threat and resistance to the adverse impact of binge drinking. The next section provides details about participants, measures, and procedures.
Measures and Covariates
This study will focus on two variables: message type (independent variable) and negative student attitudes about binge drinking (dependent variable). For the purposes of this study, message type has two levels. The first level is inoculation messages. Set of inoculation messages from CDC to present the science of negative of drinking such as harm of drinking to body organs and hidden dangers of drinking. These inoculation messages as strength of messages are influential in building resistance to persuasion. The second level is control message. There is no control message in experiment. The depended variable is the attitude of participants. After participants receive the inoculation message, do they change their attitude about drinking? According to the experiment, the result will show the efficiency of inoculation message.
First，Treatment group and control group will take survey. After that, treatment group will receive the inoculation message. The control group will receive the support message. And then, both groups will take the same survey again. Third, both group will receive attack messages. Finally, both groups will take the same survey.
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