When contradictions foster persuasion: An attributional perspective

When contradictions foster persuasion: An attributional perspective

By
Taly Reich, Zakary Tormala
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
2013, Vol. 9, Issue 3, Pages 426–439

Conventional wisdom and past research suggest that contradicting oneself, or changing one's stated opinion, should undermine one's persuasiveness. In contrast to this view, we propose that under specifiable conditions contradicting oneself might offer a persuasive advantage. Across a series of experiments, we find evidence for this contradiction effect and explore its mechanism and boundaries. In particular, we show that contradictions can prompt attributional processing geared toward understanding why a shift in opinion has occurred. When strong arguments are provided, they foster favorable attributions (e.g., the source thought more about the issue and/or gathered new information), which result in increased persuasive impact. When weak arguments are provided, they induce less favorable attributions, which in turn dampen or even reverse the effect. Furthermore, consistent with an attributional perspective, we find that contradictions introduce a persuasive advantage only when they come from a single source and only when trust in that source is high.