Recipients' Knowledge and Persuasion

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).

Electronic versions are provided as a professional courtesy to individuals in the spirit of sharing academic work for noncommercial purposes. Copyright for these papers and all associated rights continue to reside with the copyright holders, as noted in each paper.

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]

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