It's commonly assumed that people who know a lot about a topic are difficult to influence. This is sometimes, but not always, true.
People who have access to a lot of knowledge about an issue--called working knowledge--can critically evaluate new information. They recognize strengths and weaknesses in others' arguments. They might be especially persuaded by the strong arguments in a message (Wood & Kallgren, 1988; Wood, Kallgren, & Preisler, 1985). Thus, working knowledge is an informational component of attitude strength. It represents how much information people have available to them to critically evaluate a persuasive message and other new information.
Knowledge alone doesn't motivate people to protect their own views. People respond defensively when they have strong emotional reactions on an issue (e.g., a personally threatening message) or are protecting their attitudes for other reasons, such as a strong public commitment (Biek, Wood, & Chaiken, 1996; Wood, Rhodes & Biek, 1995).
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Biek, M., Wood, W., & Chaiken, S. (1996). Knowledge, affect, and bias: Objective and motivated processing of persuasive messages. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 547-556. [request paper]
Wood, W., Rhodes, N. D., & Biek, M. (1995). Working knowledge and attitude strength: An information-processing analysis. In R. Petty & J. Krosnick (Eds.), Attitude strength: Antecedents and consequences (pp. 283-313). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Wood, W., & Kallgren, C. A. III. (1988). Communicator attributes and persuasion: A function of access to attitude-relevant information. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 14, 172-182. [request paper]
Kallgren, C. A., III, & Wood, W. (1986). Access to attitude-relevant information in memory as a determinant of attitude-behavior consistency. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 22, 328-338. [request paper]
Wood, W., Kallgren, C., & Preisler, R. M. (1985). Access to attitude-relevant information in memory as a determinant of persuasion: The role of message attributes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 21, 73-85. [request paper]
Wood, W. (1982). The retrieval of attitude-relevant information from memory: Effects on susceptibility to persuasion and on intrinsic motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42, 798-810. [request paper]