Conceptual complexity, environment complexity, communication salience and attitude change


  • David Hewitt

    1. University of Nijmegen
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    • The author wishes to acknowledge his indebtedness to Brendan Gail Rule, chairman of his dissertation committee, for her guidance in this research.

  • This research is based on a dissertation presented to the faculty of the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.


Hypotheses derived from the Harvey, Hunt and Schroder personality organization system were tested in an attitude change situation. Female subjects selected for extremeness of conceptual structure and negative attitude toward women's equality were subjected to a sensory deprivation, a normal control or an overstimulation environment in which a high salience (HS) or a low salience (LS) communication was presented. The main prediction of a three-way interaction among conceptual structure, communication salience and environmental complexity received some support. Concrete individuals who received the HS communication showed significantly more change than those who received the LS communication. The expected reversal of this effect for abstract individuals was not found. The HS communication produced significantly greater change than the LS communication, and this difference was significantly related to environmental complexity. These findings were discussed in terms of McGuire's and Berlyne's respective proposals concerning comprehension-yielding, and arousal reduction.