Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Natalie Shook


Four studies investigated the effects of attitude extremity and political ideology on the degree and direction of changes in issue attitudes following the presentation of mixed evidence. Based upon previous work, it was predicted that those holding relatively more extreme attitudes would resist changing those views when presented with a mixture of supporting and opposing statements and would potentially adopt more extreme evaluative positions – a phenomenon known as attitude polarization (Lord, Ross, & Lepper, 1979). Evaluative entrenchment or intensification was also expected among more politically conservative participants, based upon prior work describing cognitive rigidity and resistance to change as more characteristic of the political right than left (e.g., Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, & Sulloway, 2003). An interaction of attitude extremity and political ideology was also hypothesized, such that liberal individuals with moderate attitudes were expected to demonstrate the least propensity to polarize. Participants’ attitudes regarding abortion rights (Study 1), gun control (Study 2), tax increases (Study 3), and environmental preservation (Study 4) were assessed before and after reading statements that both opposed and supported the issue. Political ideology was also assessed, along with several individual difference factors. Across all four studies, attitude extremity significantly predicted evaluative change, although the pattern of that effect varied. Political ideology did not emerge consistently as a predictor of attitude change; however, significant interactive effects of extremity and ideology were found. In addition, several individual difference factors (i.e., gender, need for cognition, issue importance) were found to moderate the effects of the primary predictors on attitude change, and some divergent result patterns were found when comparing data from a college and non-college sample in Study 4. Taken together, these studies provide evidence that attitude extremity and political ideology influence the degree and direction of evaluative change following the presentation of mixed evidence. In addition, they identify other factors at work in effecting change versus resistance, thereby highlighting the multi-faceted and complex nature of persuasion in a political context.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2012

Included in

Psychology Commons