Factors affecting the effectiveness of abstract versus concrete information


Pettus, C., & Diener, E. (1977). Factors affecting the effectiveness of abstract versus concrete information. The Journal of Social Psychology, 103(2), 233-242.


In a study of the differential weighting of concrete and abstract information the following hypotheses were made: (a) crimes described in detail would have greater impact upon decision making than crimes simply named, (b) information about persons would have greater impact than statistical data, and (c) information involving the local setting would have greater impact than information about events that occurred some distance away. With the use of 152 male and female undergraduates enrolled at an American midwestern university written information about crime was randomly presented in a 2 × 2 × 2 factorial design. After the reading of the information, all Ss responded to a questionnaire concerning their attitudes about crime. The effect of the detail manipulation was clearly demonstrated. Person versus statistical information seemed to interact with the details of the information in producing its effect. The effect of the distance manipulation produced results in the direction opposite to that predicted. The latter finding was explained in terms of desensitization to crime in the familiar setting. The findings, which revealed that there are several different components comprising concrete information, demonstrated that the details usually conveyed by concrete cases may be most responsible for the impact of concrete information.

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