Internalization of conflict and attitude change



In a 2 × 2 × 2 design, eighty smokers were exposed to an anti-smoking appeal attributed either to an expert source (superior status) or a minority source (inferior status). Subjects were either allowed or not to smoke during the experiment. In addition subjects had to memorize part of the appeal and a recall task either followed after reading the appeal (completed task) or not (uncompleted task). The results show that the expert source produces more attitude change than the minority when the tension induced by the source is weakened (either by the opportunity to smoke or task completion). In contrast the minority has more impact when subjects are not able to smoke or when the task is not completed, which is to say when the conflict has been internalized. An explanation of these effects is offered in terms of the more defensive forms of resistance involved with respect to sources of superior status compared to more assertive forms with respect to minorities.