HOW POLICY PERCEPTIONS ARE DERIVED FROM SPEAKER CHARACTERISTICS

Restricted (Penn State Only)
Author:
Geiger, Austin Nathaniel
Graduate Program:
Psychology
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
May 04, 2018
Committee Members:
  • Janet Kay Swim, Dissertation Advisor
  • Janet Kay Swim, Committee Chair
  • Melvin Michael Mark, Committee Member
  • Jonathan Emdin Cook, Committee Member
  • Lee Ahern, Outside Member
Keywords:
  • environmental communication
  • policy support
  • source credibility
  • shared motives
Abstract:
The proposed research seeks to examine how individuals’ impressions of a message source can influence support for a policy advocated by the source through perceived characteristics of the messenger transferring to perceived characteristics of the policy. Specifically, I propose and test a model in which perceptions of targets’ expertise, caring (the degree to which the target would be expected to care about the perceiver), and shared motives with the perceiver will predict perceptions of the policy’s likelihood of being successful, likelihood of benefiting the perceiver, and likelihood of advancing the perceiver’s values. These three characteristics, in turn, will influence the perceiver’s support for the policy. I conducted two studies to test this hypothesis in the context of support for policies to address climate change: a correlational study where each of the above variables were measured, and a 2x2x2 experimental study where the message source’s characteristics are manipulated along the three dimensions listed above. Perceived characteristics of and support for the policy were then assessed. Results were inconsistent across the two studies. In Study 1, both expertise and value similarity predicted policy support through the anticipated mediators. In Study 2, in contrast, caring and value similarity predicted policy support but did not do so via the hypothesized mediators. Supplemental analyses revealed further nuances. The results of these two studies provide a foray into developing a better understanding of the psychological processes by which source characteristics influence persuasion.