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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2005 May;88(5):749-69.

Attitude importance and the accumulation of attitude-relevant knowledge in memory.

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Survey Research Laboratory, Department of Public Administration, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60607, USA.


People who attach personal importance to an attitude are especially knowledgeable about the attitude object. This article tests an explanation for this relation: that importance causes the accumulation of knowledge by inspiring selective exposure to and selective elaboration of relevant information. Nine studies showed that (a) after watching televised debates between presidential candidates, viewers were better able to remember the statements made on policy issues on which they had more personally important attitudes; (b) importance motivated selective exposure and selective elaboration: Greater personal importance was associated with better memory for relevant information encountered under controlled laboratory conditions, and manipulations eliminating opportunities for selective exposure and selective elaboration eliminated the importance-memory accuracy relation; and (c) people do not use perceptions of their knowledge volume to infer how important an attitude is to them, but importance does cause knowledge accumulation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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