The effects of learned helplessness on the processing of a persuasive message
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The current study examines the effects of exposure to unsolvable problems on the processing of a persuasive message. Participants exposed to either unsolvable failure or no-feedback tasks were presented with one of four versions of an advertisement about a hair shampoo and rated their attitude towards this product. Two aspects of the message were manipulated: the quality of arguments (strong, weak) and the attractiveness of the communicator (attractive, non-attractive). In addition, participants rated their anxiety and the frequency of off-task thoughts during the experiment. Attitude towards the target product of participants in the failure condition was less affected by the argument’s quality and more influenced by communicator attractiveness than the attitude of participants in the no-feedback condition. Participants exposed to failures reported more anxiety and task-related worries than those exposed to no-feedback, and these ratings were found to mediate the effects of failure on the processing of a persuasive message. Results were discussed in terms of Learned Helplessness theories and the Elaboration Likelihood Model.
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