An examination of the relationships among dogmatism, cognitive and behavioral changes, and persuasive communications within the context of a dental health program

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1969

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Abstract

The purpose of the present investigation was to examine the concept of dogmatism within the context of a large scale field research effort involving persuasive communications. Five different messages were used; each advocated adoption of a certain technique of dental hygiene. In addition, two of the messages emphasized different degrees of fear-arousing content, a third message emphasized positive consequences of adoption, a fourth emphasized elaborate instructions, and the fifth message was limited to a description of the dental hygiene technique. All messages were presented in the context of ongoing dental health training programs in the 7th and Sth grade classes in a school district near Houston, Texas. Dependent variables of interest included measures of situational anxiety, intention to behave, self-reports of behavior, a chemical indicator of behavior, information retained, evaluation of the message content, and evaluation of the speaker presenting the message. Three hundred and ninety-four 7th and 8th graders were pretested, exposed to one of the five messages, tested immediately following the message, again five days later and a final time six weeks after having heard the message. Nine specific hypotheses were made explicit: 1. Males will score higher than females on the Dogmatism Scale. 2. The present sample will yield a higher dogmatism score than is generally reported with the 7th graders being more dogmatic than the 8th graders. 3. Dogmatism will not be related to the self reports of situational anxiety aroused by the messages. 4. There will be a positive correlation between dogmatism and both the 1-E and Social Approval measures. 5. High dogmatic Ss will recall the recommendation more accurately than will the mid and low dogmatic Ss. 6. The communicator and the message will be rated more negatively by high dogmatic Ss exposed to the fear condition than by the high dogmatic Ss exposed to the positive condition. 7. The positive correlation between evaluation of content and evaluation of communicator will be higher in the high dogmatic as compared to the middle and low dogmatic groups. 8. High dogmatic subjects will conform (as evidenced by cleanliness of mouth, reported behavior and intention to behave) more than will mid and low dogmatic subjects. 9. Differences in conformity between high and low dogmatic subjects will be largest in the positive condition, followed by the higher and lower fear messages and finally, the elaborated recommendations and recommendations only conditions. Only hypothesis 3 was fully supported by analysis of the data. It was suggested that future research involving dogmatism might profitably consider adapting the measure to make it more suitable for predicting reactions to less unique information than has been the case in the past.

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Keywords

Dogmatism, Teeth, Care and hygiene

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