“Saying is believing”: Effects of message modification on memory and liking for the person described
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The present study examined whether modifying a message about a stimulus person to suit the listener has a lasting effect on the communicator's own recall and evaluation of this person. Subjects summarized information about a stimulus person who purportedly was either liked or disliked by the message recipient. The stimulus information contained descriptions that were constructed either to elicit both positive and negative labels (ambiguous information) or to elicit only positive or only negative labels (unambiguous information). After reading the stimulus information, half of the subjects actually wrote a message and the remaining subjects did not. Subjects who actually wrote a message included many more positive labels and details in their message when the message recipient liked (versus disliked) the stimulus person. They also later distorted their reproductions of the original stimulus information to be more evaluatively positive when the message recipient liked the stimulus person, with this distortion increasing over a 2-week period for the unambiguous information. The correlation between the evaluative distortion in subjects' messages and reproductions increased significantly over time, especially for the unambiguous information. There was also a significant correlation between the evaluative tone of subjects' messages and subjects' later evaluations of the stimulus person, with subjects' evaluations being more positive when the message recipient liked the stimulus person. In contrast, there were no significant reproduction or evaluation effects for those subjects who did not actually write a message. The potential consequences of following the rules for effective communication on communicators' later social judgments are discussed. © 1978.
author list (cited authors)
Higgins, E. T., & Rholes, W. S.