Attitude Inoculation: Definition, Explanation & Examples

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  • 0:07 Resisting Persuasion
  • 1:08 What Is Attitude Inoculation?
  • 2:13 William McGuire's Experiment
  • 4:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Erin Long-Crowell

Erin has an M.Ed in adult education and a BS in psychology and a BS in management systems.

Every day, other people try to persuade us into changing our attitudes and behavior. In this lesson, we discuss a couple of ways to resist persuasion - using attitude inoculation, in particular. We define attitude inoculation and explain how it can prevent attitude change in spite of persuasion efforts.

Resisting Persuasion

We have discussed several ways in which others can change our attitudes and even our behavior. As it frequently occurs without our knowledge, it can be scary to think about how easy it can be to manipulate us. The good news is that there are ways for us to resist persuasion. Several studies have found that simply being aware of the possibility of an upcoming attempt at persuasion makes us less susceptible to that attempt.

For example, one reason that product placement in a TV show or movie works is because people do not realize that someone is trying to influence them. If we are aware of the use of product placement as advertisement, we are likely to avoid attitude change as a result of this awareness. An even more effective method of resisting persuasion that expands upon simple awareness of persuasion techniques is attitude inoculation - the subject of this lesson.

What Is Attitude Inoculation?

Attitude inoculation is a technique used to make people immune to attempts to change their attitude by first exposing them to small arguments against their position. It is so named because it works just like medical inoculation, which exposes a person's body to a weak version of a virus. The weakened virus triggers the production of antibodies in response, but it is not strong enough to overwhelm the body's resistance. Later, when exposed to the full virus, the body knows what to expect and is better able to resist than it would have been before the inoculation.

Attitude inoculation, then, exposes a person to a weak logical argument that is contrary to their preexisting attitude. This triggers the creation of counterarguments in response. Later, when exposed to a strong persuasion technique that attempts to change their preexisting attitude through logic, the individual already has arguments to use in defense.

William McGuire's Experiment

For example, imagine you are the parent of a young boy and want to do everything you can to help him resist the peer pressure to smoke that he may encounter one day. One thing you could do to help is to facilitate attitude inoculation. By role-playing some actual scenarios your son may face, you could help him devise strategies to resist the pressure to smoke. As a matter of fact, real research conducted in junior high and high schools have shown that using attitude inoculation dramatically reduces rates of teenage smoking.

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