This research systematically investigates the sleeper effect, a counterintuitive phenomenon in which attitudes toward a persuasive message increase in favourableness over time despite the presence of discounting information. The sleeper effect has rarely been researched since criticisms in the 1970s and 1980s concerning relevance and difficulty in demonstrating the effect. Shifts in the consumer environment, however, merit a re-examination of the effect.The paucity of research leaves major gaps in establishing the conditions for existence of the sleeper effect, understanding the underlying mechanisms of the effect, the context in which the sleeper effect may flourish, and other factors with the potential to influence the effect. Recent research suggests self-associations at encoding impacts information processing and attitude change. The research reported in this thesis builds on the latter to develop hypotheses to test the relationships between self-associations and attitudes toward positive and negative information over time.The study adopts a quantitative approach to test the hypotheses using a series of three experiments, each building on one another. The first experiment seeks to find the absolute sleeper effect, and accomplishes this aim. The second experiment investigates the role of implicit self-anchoring on attitudes toward positive and negative information over time, showing that self-anchoring influences self/product identity overlap rather than the transfer of meaning through elaborative associations. The third experiment compares implicit self-anchoring and explicit self-referencing on attitudes toward positive and negative information, and shows that explicit self-referencing produces the associations and dissociations necessary to find the sleeper effect.This study significantly contributes to understanding the sleeper effect, not only by providing evidence for its existence, but by clarifying the mechanisms at work in the sleeper effect process. It distinguishes implicit self-anchoring and explicit self-referencing, and defines two processes in which the self and object interact in memory to influence attitudes. From a practical perspective, it situates the research in the contemporary consumer context, in which positive and negative information regarding products and services is accessible to consumers online. This study demonstrates that negative information can be leveraged to produce positive attitudes.
|Date of Award||1 Aug 2015|
- The University of Manchester
|Supervisor||Kathy Keeling (Supervisor)|
- sleeper effect