Is the Medium the Message? A Study of the Effects of Media, Communicator, and Message Characteristics on Attitude Change1


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    This research was supported in part by a University of North Carolina Research Council Grant and by a National Science Foundation Grant (GS-37062) awarded to S. Worchel and a Canada Council Doctoral Fellowship to V. Andreoli. Appreciation is extended to Phil Rieley, who so aptly portrayed the newscaster and political candidate on the tapes, and to John Keating, for his insightful comments on the manuscript.


The present study examined the interactive effects of type of media, communicator, and position of message on persuasiveness of the communication. Subjects received a communication over television, radio (audio tape), or written medium, which either agreed with a position they held or strongly disagreed with it. The communicator was either a newscaster or a candidate for political office. The results indicated that subjects felt the newscaster to be more trustworthy than the candidate. In line with previous research, there was no main effect of media on persuasiveness. However, media interacted with the other variables so that when the communication disagreed with the audience, television was the most persuasive medium with the newscaster but the least persuasive with the untrusted candidate. There was no effect for media when the message agreed with the audience. Further, the candidate taking a position congruent with the audience's was rated as more attractive but less trustworthy than a candidate taking the opposite position. It was suggested that television may be the most involving medium and that either a counterargument theory or reactance theory could explain why it was not effective with the candidate.