Locus of control and the effectiveness of persuasive communications: Changing dental health practices as measured by a chemical agent



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The present study look place within the context, of a more comprehensive natural setting research effort. The purpose of the present investigation was to measure the relationship between both general and dental related locus of control expectancies and the effects of emotional arousing communications on intentions, reported behavior, actual behavior, expressed anxiety, and information retention. The experimental procedure utilized a pretest-treatment-posttest design. The major pretest measurement was cleanliness of teeth which was assessed by a chemical in tablet form called a 'disclosing tablet' which, when chewed, stains red the areas of bacterial placque concentration on the teeth and can be considered index of actual toothbrushing behavior. Pretest measurements also included biographical data, reported dental hygiene practices, and expectancies of locus of control. Seventh and eighth grade students (n=394) from three junior high schools in the Houston area were employed as Ss. Ss were highly similar in socio-economic background the experimental conditions included a high and a low fear, positive, elaborated recommendation, and a recommendation only communications. Three posttest assessments were taken immediately, five Jays, and six weeks after the experimental treatments. All of the posttests included measures of information retention, intention to behave, as well as reported behavior and anxiety. Cleanliness of teeth measures were taken at the 5-day and 6-week posttests. It was hypothesized that internals would express less anxiety, more reported and actual behavior change, retain more information, and express more positive intentions to behave than externals. Externals were predicted to comply minimally with recommendations in the high fear condition and maximally in the low fear and positive conditions. On the basis of the measures of general and specific control expectancies, the results did not support the differential predictions made for internals and externals on intentions, expressed anxiety, reported behavior, or actual behavior. The data did suggest a strong information retention difference between both general and dental specific internals and externals that was in the predicted directions.



Locus of control, Dental hygiene