This study investigated whether the efficacy of affective vs. cognitive persuasive messages was moderated by (1) individuals’ subjective assessments of whether their attitudes were based on affect or cognition (i.e. meta-bases) and (2) the degree individuals’ attitudes were correlated with affect and cognition (i.e. structural bases). Participants (N = 97) were randomly exposed to a message containing either affective or cognitive arguments discouraging binge drinking. The results demonstrated that meta-bases and not structural bases moderated the influence of argument type on message judgement. Affective (cognitive) messages were judged more positively when individuals’ meta-bases were more affective (cognitive). In contrast, structural bases and not meta-bases moderated the influence of argument type on attitude and intention change following exposure to the message. Surprisingly, change was greater among individuals who read a message that mismatched their structural attitude base. Affective messages were more effective as attitudes were more cognition-based, and vice versa. Thus, although individuals prefer messages that match their meta-base, attitude and intention change regarding binge drinking are best established by mismatching their structural base.
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