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Unformatted text preview: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1984, Vol. 46, No. 1, 69-81 Copyright 1984 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. The Effects of Involvement on Responses to Argument Quantity and Quality: Central and Peripheral Routes to Persuasion Richard E. Petty University of Missouri-Columbia John T. Cacioppo University of Iowa A pilot study and an experiment were conducted to test the view that the number of arguments in a message could affect agreement with a communication by serving as a simple acceptance cue when personal involvement was low but could affect agreement by enhancing issue-relevant thinking when personal involvement was high. In addition to manipulating the personal relevance of the communication topic in each study, both the number and the quality of the arguments in the message were-varied. In the pilot study, when the issue was of low relevance, subjects showed more agreement in response to a message containing six arguments (3 strong and 3 weak) than to messages containing either three strong or three weak arguments. Under high involvement, however, the six-argument message did not increase agreement over the message containing only three strong arguments. In the full experiment, subjects received either three or nine arguments that were either all cogent or all specious under conditions of either high or low involvement. The manipulation of argument number had a greater impact under low than under high involvement, but the manipulation of argument quality had a greater impact under high than under low involvement. Together, the studies indicated that in- creasing the number of arguments in a message could affect persuasion whether or not the actual content of the arguments was scrutinized. Persuasion is defined by the presentation of persuasive arguments, and the accumulated research in social psychology has generally supported the view that increasing the number of arguments in a message enhances its per- suasive impact (e.g., Eagly & Warren, 1976; Maddux & Rogers, 1980; Norman, 1976). Previous analyses of this effect have suggested that increasing the number of arguments in a message enhances persuasion by giving people more information to think about. More spe- cifically, people are postulated to generate fa- vorable issue-relevant thoughts in response to cogent issue-relevant arguments, and the more Portions of this article were presented at a symposium during the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, August 1982, in Washington, DC. The authors would like to thank Kathy Morris, Rob Greene, and Nancy Stabler for their considerable help in conducting and coding the research reported here, and Alice Eagly and Shelly Chaiken for their comments on an earlier draft of this article....
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