Counterattitudinal Advocacy on a Matter of Prejudice: Effects of Distraction, Commitment, and Personal Importance1


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    The authors thank Hope Seib, Patricia Pearson, and Christy Murphy for their assistance in this study. The authors also thank an anonymous reviewer for especially insightful and helpful suggestions.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Donna Eisenstadt or Michael R. Leippe, Department of Psychology, St. Louis University, 35 ll Laclede Avenue, Shannon Hall, St. Louis, MO 63103. E-mail: or


White students were asked to advocate a tuition policy beneficial to Blacks at either high or low personal cost. Advocates wrote an essay while undistracted or distracted, or only committed to writing it. More attitude change occurred when the policy was personally costly (important) and advocates were undistracted. Distraction may disrupt the dominant covert cognitive response, which is normally favorable to a freely agreed-to advocacy. This makes anti-advocacy thoughts more likely and the advocacy seem weaker, especially when the advocacy involves conflicted racial beliefs whose contemplation under load activates negative stereotypes. Some participants wrote essays that defied their agreement to endorse the policy, and distraction enhanced their attitude change. In this case, distraction presumably disrupted an anti-advocacy dominant cognitive response. Thought listings supported these interpretations. Finally, commitment alone led to attitude change. Coun-terattitudinal advocacy fosters attitude change in prejudice-relevant domains if conditions support advocacy-favorable thoughts during advocacy.