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Influence of Message Sidedness, Pictures, and Need for Cognition on Beliefs and Behavior: The Terri Schiavo Case


Michael Czuchry, Department of Psychology, Texas Lutheran University, 1000 West Court Street, Seguin, TX 78155. E-mail:


The Terri Schiavo case received intense national and international media coverage. The current investigation examined students' beliefs on whether or not Terri's feeding tube should have been removed, as well as attitudes and behavior. Students either received a persuasive message that came from the husband's perspective or the parents' perspective, crossed with a picture that either suggested Terri was interactive vs. one that suggested she was not. The results indicate that beliefs were altered by the perspective that students received, even after intense media coverage had presumably “hardened” attitudes. Students with low or high need for cognition were also influenced by pictures that either matched or mismatched the perspective they received.