Forewarned is Forearmed?

Does warning people that they will be influenced really forearm them? In a meta-analytic synthesis of the literature, we found that warnings do make people defensive (Wood & Quinn, 2003), but that defensiveness can lead to resistance to the influence attempt or, paradoxically, to agreement. It all depends on what is being attacked by the warning.

When a warning threatens people's attitudes, people respond by defending their opinions. They cognitively bolster their own views and resist the appeal. However, when a warning threatens people's self-images, especially their image as someone who is certain of their opinions and not easily influenced, people respond by defending their self-concepts. They defend the self in a paradoxical way. They pre-emptively shift their attitudes before the appeal is delivered, and thereby avoid being gullible and having to change to the message.


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Quinn, J. M., & Wood, W. (2004). Forewarnings of influence appeals: Inducing resistance and acceptance. In E. S. Knowles and J. A. Linn (Eds.), Resistance and Persuasion (pp. 193-214). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. [request paper]

Wood, W., & Quinn, J. M. (2003). Forewarned and forearmed? Two meta-analytic syntheses of forewarnings of influence appeals. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 119-138. [request paper]

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