Innervation Principle Of

NEURON/NEURAL/NERVE THEORY; WUNDT'S THEORIES/DOCTRINES/PRINCIPLES.

INOCULATION THEORY. The American social psychologist William James McGuire (1925- ) formulated this theory of resistance to persuasion based on the premise that most ordinary beliefs and attitudes are relatively resistant to change due to having been exposed to repeated mild cognitive/attitude "attacks" in one's everyday environment. The reasoning in inoculation theory is similar to that in a biological context where an individual who has been raised in a sterile and germfree environment (and who appears on the "surface" to be healthy) is, in fact, highly vulnerable to infection because she or he has not had the opportunity to develop chemical and biological defenses (such as antibodies) to ward off diseases (cf., Meichenbaum, 1985). Thus, in this context, an injection or "chemical inoculation" is used to provide biological resistance to diseases. So too, in psychological and social contexts, if the attitudes and beliefs (especially those regarding "personal-cultural truisms" - such as "early to bed, early to rise, makes one healthy, wealthy, and wise") of the individual have never been challenged (i.e., beliefs and attitudes exist in a vacuum or "sterile" environment), and there have not been any opportunities to develop defensive arguments, the person's resistance to persuasion and attitude-change may, similarly, be increased by a process of "cognitive inoculation." Inoculation theory proposes that exposing the person to relatively weak "attacking" arguments (against certain of her attitudes/beliefs, along with rebuttals that are externally or internally generated) acts as an inoculation to strengthen the individual against stronger and more persuasive attacks concerning those attitudes/beliefs in the future. Also, inoculation theory indicates that the person so exposed/inoculated generally becomes more resistant to persuasion in the future even when the newer "attacking" argu ments are different from those that were presented in the inoculation process. In his experiments, McGuire developed two types of "defense messages": the "supportive defense" - positive reassuring information supporting one's belief; and "refutational defense" - presentation of arguments against a belief/truism and then extensively refuting those arguments. McGuire found that the "supportive defense" increased the participant's belief in the given truism, whereas the "refutational defense" left the belief unchanged. However, when a message attacking the given truism was presented, it was found that the "supportive defense" gave much less resistance than the "refuta-tional defense." The supposedly stronger attitude induced by the "supportive defense" was, in fact, more vulnerable to attack. McGuire labeled this paradoxical pattern the paper tiger effect and interpreted it in terms of a "motivation-practice" theoretical framework; cf., Far-kas & Anderson (1976) who discovered that the seeming paradox of the paper tiger effect vanishes when viewed from the perspective of information integration theory, and suggest that there is no need to invoke the motivational concepts of belief threat and refutational practice employed in inoculation theory. See also INFECTION THEORY/EFFECT; INFORMATION INTEGRATION THEORY; PERSUASION/INFLUENCE THEORIES. REFERENCES

McGuire, W. J. (1961). The effectiveness of supportive and refutational defenses in immunizing and restoring beliefs against persuasion. Sociometry, 24, 184-197.

McGuire, W. J. (1964). Inducing resistance to persuasion: Some contemporary approaches. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology. New York: Academic Press.

Farkas, A. J., & Anderson, N. H. (1976). Integration theory and inoculation theory as explanations of the "paper tiger effect." Journal of Social Psychology, 98, 253-268. Meichenbaum, D. (1985). Stress inoculation training. New York: Pergamon.

INSTANCE/EPISODE/EXEMPLAR THEORY. See TRANSFER OF TRAINING, THORNDIKE'S THEORY OF.

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