Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Dr. Michael Minor
Dr. Salma Ghanem
Dr. Jose A. Pagan
This dissertation is motivated by fundamental questions about source effects in persuasive communications: Do receiver attributes influence perceptions about the source and about the object of the message? Do source and object cues influence receiver perceptions about the source? Do source and object cues influence receiver perceptions about the object of the message?
Traditional conceptions of receiver responses to a source have focused on character trait inferences. Of these character trait inferences, the literature on source credibility appears to converge on two categories: source expertise and source trustworthiness. A more recent stream of research has grown around the concept of homophily, a term coined by Lazarsfeld and Merton (1954) to refer to the tendency of individuals to associate with others similar to themselves.
This dissertation conceptualizes as social traits those source attributes associated with receiver perceptions of similarity between themselves and sources. This study tested whether inferences about the social and character traits of a source are separately significant predictors of overall assessments by receivers.
The study was conducted in central Chile. Respondents were classified according to socioeconomic background and asked to answer questions about their impressions of a recorded promotional message. Each of the 450 respondents in the study heard only one of six recorded messages. Individual messages promoted one of two products and were recorded in one of three local accents, corresponding to the socioeconomically differentiated neighborhoods in the community.
The results of the study imply affirmative answers to each of the basic questions guiding this research. Both social and character trait inferences are found to be significant predictors of overall assessments of source credibility. Of the traditional character traits, expertise is found to play a conditional rather than a permanent role in receiver evaluations of a message. Signals of source-receiver similarity, at least with respect to accent, may elicit unfavorable assessments from lower status receivers.
University of Texas-Pan American