Research stemming from self-categorization theory (Turner et al., 1987) has demonstrated that individuals are typically more persuaded by messages from their in-group than by messages from the out-group. The present research investigated the role of issue relevance in moderating these effects. In particular, it was predicted that in-groups would only be more persuasive when the dimension on which group membership was defined was meaningful or relevant to the attitude issue. In two studies, participants were presented with persuasive arguments from either an in-group source or an out-group source, where the basis of the in-group/out-group distinction was either relevant or irrelevant to the attitude issue. Participants' attitudes toward the issue were then measured. The results supported the predictions: Participants were more persuaded by in-group sources than out-group sources when the basis for defining the group was relevant to the attitude issue. However, when the defining characteristic of the group was irrelevant to the attitude issue, participants were equally persuaded by in-group and out-group sources. These results support the hypothesis that the fit between group membership and domain is an important moderator of self-categorization effects.
- persuasion effect