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Social cognitive processes and attitudes toward legal actions: Does receiving information affect community sentiment?

Description: Voters influence laws, often without being fully informed. Justice Thurgood Marshall proposed that, if American citizens were fully informed of the goals and consequences of the death penalty, they would not support its use. The present studies demonstrated --this principle applied to laws other than the death penalty, specifically, laws regulating the behavior of pregnant women (e.g., drug use, cesarean section). Four studies expanded existing attitude change research and determined whether support for such laws was related to: 1) "first thoughts" about the laws; 2) information received about the laws; 3) valence of information; and 4) source of information (i.e., self, peers, researcher). In the first experiment, receiving information produced more negative attitudes than a no-information, control group, perhaps because most participants' first thoughts about the laws concerned the health of the fetus (rather than the mother's rights). The second study confirmed this through factor analysis of responses to a thought-listing task and determined that type of first thought (e.g., about the fetus, mother) predicted attitude. In a third study, a mixed method design, attitudes changed based on the type of information (e.g., negative, positive) given by the researcher, though a fourth study indicated that attitudes did not change after debate with peers. Finally, Need for Cognition and Legal Authoritarianism related to support for the laws. Results have implications for community sentiment research, policy regarding the health and behavior of pregnant women, and psychology research on social cognitive processes and attitude theory.

Suggested Citation:
Reichert, J. & Miller, M. K. (2017). Social cognitive processes and attitudes toward legal actions: Does receiving information affect community sentiment? [Electronic Version]. Applied Psychology in Criminal Justice, 13(1), 70-95.

Keywords: Marshall hypothesis, attitude change, information processing, women's health, health policy

Date: May 18, 2017 | File Size: 376.31 Kb | Downloads: 3

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