Effectiveness of Persuasive Attacks on Perceptions of Blame and Offensiveness for a Sexual Assault on a College Campus

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University of Alabama Libraries

Benoit and Dorries (1996) identified strategies known as kategoria, or persuasive attacks, used to initiate attacks against a person or organization that has engaged in wrongdoing, affording researchers a framework for empirical analysis. There are two categories of strategies: increase responsibility and increase offensiveness. Based on a review of previous research, an empirical investigation of persuasive attacks has not yet been undertaken. Therefore, the present study empirically tests the effects of two types of persuasive messages through an experiment investigating sexual assault allegations on a college campus. The overarching goal is to understand the impact of persuasive attacks against different actors (university, suspect, and victim) present in media articles on perceptions of responsibility and/or offensiveness of a transgression. The study utilized an experimental design, a 3 (target of attack: university, suspect, victim) x 3 (type of persuasive attack: increase responsibility, increase offensiveness, increase responsibility and offensiveness) x 2 (gender of victim) between-subject factorial design. Findings indicated that presence of persuasive attacks to increase responsibility are effective when the target of the attack was the university or victim, but not when the target was the suspect. Additionally, the presence of persuasive attacks to increase offensiveness were effective against the university, but not against the suspect or the victim. Demographic analysis suggested that respondent gender, income level, education level, and age are all significant predictors of university and suspect responsibility levels; however, age was not a significant predictor of victim responsibility levels. Findings also indicated that even though there was not a statistically significant difference in suspect responsibility levels, the suspect was perceived as having a high level of responsibility regardless of whether a persuasive attack was present. Findings also suggested there was no statistically significant difference whether the victim was male or female. There was a statistically significant finding that implied a significant interaction between attack type and attack target influencing levels of university responsibility, but only when the target of the attack is the university or victim. Finally, findings suggest that there is a small negative correlation between perceived responsibility of the suspect and the perceived responsibility of the victim; if the victim was viewed as more responsible, the suspect was viewed as less responsible.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Image repair, kategoria, media effects, persuasion