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Epega, Titilola O.
Factors influencing the perceived credibility of public relations message sources
h [electronic resource] /
by Titilola O. Epega.
[Tampa, Fla] :
b University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
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Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2008.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
ABSTRACT: This study establishes a link between research done in the field of public relations on source credibility, communicator gender, message strength, and source affiliation. Research has established that source credibility is one of the most important factors influencing the acceptance of a message. For this study, source credibility was measured using three main dimensions: expertise, trustworthiness and attractiveness. Similar to many studies focusing on source credibility, this study focuses on the various attributes of the communicator or message source. This study uses an experimental procedure to investigate the relationships between source credibility, message strength, source affiliation, and communicator gender. Based on previous findings, this study hypothesized that higher message strength will be perceived as more credible than lower message strength, sources labeled 'public relations practitioner' will be perceived as less credible than sources that are not, and male communicators will be seen as more credible than females. Findings indicate, however, that message strength has no significant influence on source credibility. Nor does it significantly influence the opinions of the participants on the communicator's gender and their affiliation with the term public relations practitioner, except in the case of their levels of expertise. The results however did indicate that there are statistically significant interactions between the trustworthiness and attractiveness of the source and the attitudes of the participants toward the public relations message, the corporation and their subsequent behavioral intentions.
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Advisor: Scott Liu, Ph.D.
x Mass Communications
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Factors Influencing the Perceived Credibili ty of Public Relations Message Sources by Titilola O. Epega A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts School of Mass Communications College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Scott Liu, Ph.D. Kelly Page Werder, Ph.D. Kenneth Killebrew, Ph.D. Date of Approval: April 3, 2008 Keywords: source credibility, message stre ngth, source affiliation, gender, sex roles Copyright 2008, Titilola O. Epega
DEDICATION To my parents Dr.& Mrs. Afolabi Adeyemi Epeg a, who instilled in me the spirit of hard work and dedication.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS There are several people I must thank fo r their help and support while completing this manuscript. To my thesis chair, Dr Liu, thank you for being so patient with me from the formation of my first ideas, to the final execution of my thesis. Your honest and candid opinions and constant support through many frustrations ma de it possible for me to complete my thesis. To my thesis committee members, Dr.Werder and Dr. Killebrew thank you for all the private meeting and class time spent on working on the details of my research. I appreciate the time you took out of your schedule s to help me develop the details of my academic work. To my graduate school advisor, Dr. Deri na Holtzhausen your guidance, especially at the beginning of my graduate education made it possible for me not only to complete my thesis, but also to find the fortitude it took to make it through the entire program. To Daniel and Kelly Epega, thank you for all everything. Your generosity and constant encouragement made it possible for me to finish my graduate program and thesis. To John and Adeola Epega, thank you for the constant support and belief in me, I am grateful for all your s upportive words and deeds. To Caroline Simon, Tweba Sargeant, a nd Yeatie Morgan, thank you for putting your own work aside to encourage me daily. I also appreciate all the time you spent
proofreading draft afte r draft of my thesis. I am grat eful for all the personal time you gave me to year. To my cohort, colleagues, and friends working with all of you over the past two years has enlightened me academically, personally and professionally, thank you. Finally, to my twin nephews, David and Daniel Epega, you two bring joy to my life.
i Table of Content List of Tables iii ABSTRACT v Chapter One Introduction 1 Chapter Two Review of Literature 3 Source Credibility 3 Im portance of Sour ce Credibility 3 Source Characteristics 4 Expertise 4 Trustworthiness 5 Attractiveness 5 Determinates of Source Credibility 6 Message Strength 6 Elaboration Likelihood Model 6 Source Affiliation 8 Public Relations Practitioners as Reliable Sources 9 Gender 11 Gender and Public Relations 12 Interactions Among Independent Variables 17 Chapter Three Research Hypothesis 20 Chapter Four Methodology 23 Research Design 23 Research participants 24 Procedures 24 Instrumentation 25 Stimulus Material 25 Measurement Apparatus 26 Chapter Five Results 31 Data Analysis 31 Hypothesis 1 33 Hypothesis 2 35 Hypothesis 3 37 Hypothesis 4 38 Hypothesis 5 41 Hypothesis 6 44 Hypothesis 7 50
ii Hypothesis 8 51 Hypothesis 9 52 Chapter Six Conclusion 54 Source Credibility, Message Strength, Source Affiliati on and Communicator Gender 54 Behavioral Intentions Attitudes towards the Message and Organization 58 Chapter Seven Discussions and Recommendations 62 Limitations of the Study 63 Suggestions for Future Research 63 References 66 Bibliography 72 Appendices 76 A.1: Survey 77 B1: Male/Non PR title/Strong Message 81 B2: Male/Non PR title/Weak Message 82 B3: Male/PR title/Strong Message 83 B4: Male/PR title/Weak Message 84 B5: Female/Non PR title/Strong Message 85 B6: Female/Non PR title/Weak Message 86 B7: Female/PR title/Strong Message 87 B8: Female/PR title/Weak Message 88
iii List of Tables Table 1 Reliability Statistics for Expertise 27 Table 2 Reliability Statistics for Trustworthiness 28 Table 3 Reliability Statistics for Attractiveness 30 Table 4 Categorical Demographic 32 Table 5 Distribution of Participants to Treatment Groups 33 Table 6 Means and Standard Deviation for Message Streng th and Expertise 34 Table 7 Means and Standard Deviation for Message Strength and Trustwor thiness 35 Table 8 Means and Standard Deviation for Message Strength and Attractiveness 35 Table 9 Means and Standard Deviation for Affiliation and Expertise 36 Table 10 Means and Standard Deviation for Affiliation and Trustworthiness 37 Table 11 Means and Standard Deviations for Affiliation and Attractiveness 37 Table 12 Means and Standard Deviation for Gender and Expertise 38 Table 13 Means and Standard Deviation for Gender and Trustw orthiness 39 Table 14 Means and Standard Deviation for Gender and Attractiv eness 39 Table 15 Means and Standard Deviation for Ge nder, Message Strength and Expertise 40 Table 16 Means and Standard Deviation for Gender, Message Strength and Trustworthiness 41 Table 17 Means and Standard Deviati on for Gender, Message Strength and Attractiveness 42
iv Table 18 Means and Standard Deviations for Gender, Affiliation and Expertise 43 Table 19 Means and Standard Deviations for Gender, Affiliation and Trustworthiness 44 Table 20 Means and Standard Deviations for Gender, Affiliation and Attractiveness 45 Table 21 Means and Standard Deviations for Affiliation, Message Strength and Expertise 46 Table 22 Means and Standard Deviations for Affiliation, Message Strength and Trustworthiness 47 Table 23 Means and Standard Deviations for Affiliation, Message Strength and Attractiveness 48 Table 24 Overall Interaction Effects for Expe rtise 50 Table 25 Overall Interaction Effects for Trustworthiness 51 Table 26 Overall Interaction Effects for Attractiveness 52 Table 27 Regression Model for Attit udes towards the Public Relations Message 53 Table 28 Regression Model for Attitude s towards the Corporation 54 Table 29 Regression Model for Behavioral Intentions 55
v Factors Influencing the Perceived Credibility of Public Relations Message Sources Titilola O. Epega ABSTRACT This study establishes a link between resear ch done in the field of public relations on source credibility, communicator gender, message strength, and source affiliation. Research has established that source credibil ity is one of the most important factors influencing the acceptance of a message. For this study, source credibility was measured using three main dimensions: expertise, trus tworthiness and attractiveness. Similar to many studies focusing on source credibility, this study focuses on the various attributes of the communicator or message source. This study uses an experimental procedure to investigate the relationships between s ource credibility, message strength, source affiliation, and communicator gender. Base d on previous findings, this study hypothesized that higher message strength will be perceived as more credible than lower message strength, sources labele d Â‘public relations practitione rÂ’ will be perceived as less credible than sources that are not, and male communicators will be seen as more credible than females. Findings indicate, however, that message strength has no significant influence on source credibility. Nor does it significantly influence the opinions of the participants on the communicat orÂ’s gender and their affili ation with the term public relations practitioner, except in the case of th eir levels of expertise. The results however did indicate that there are sta tistically significant interactions between the trustworthiness
vi and attractiveness of the sour ce and the attitudes of the pa rticipants toward the public relations message, the corpor ation and their subsequent behavioral intentions.
1 Chapter One Introduction Problems with Public Relation Sources A growing body of literature suggests th at public relations sources are not considered the most credible sources of information. Many individuals see public relations practitioners who create, design, and develop messages, as their companyÂ’s designated public representatives (Callison, 200 4). Public relations practitioners who are paid to represent their respec tive corporations ar e not typically seen as embodiments of truth and honesty. Some believe these orga nizational spokespeople are willing to say anything to build, rebuild, and maintain thei r corporationÂ’s image and integrity. This leads to their respective publics questioni ng the corporationÂ’s true communications intentions. Publics of an organization and pract itioners themselves understand that an organizational spokesperson is a paid supporte r of his/her company and must maintain a certain amount of reporting bias. Callison ( 2001) suggested that th e publicÂ’s negative perception of practitioners is r ooted in this perceived reportin g bias. Reporting bias is the advocacy public relations pract itionersÂ’ show towards their organizations when covering their causes (Murphy, 2001). It might be argued that practi tioners who handle company communications must posses a certain amount of reporting bias in or der to do their jobs effectively. Nonetheless, this reporting bias is the root cause of th e publicÂ’s distrust for the industry and its practitioners.
2 Eagly, Wood, and Chaiken (1978) car ried out the first research suggesting, Â“bias attributed to information sources influence th e way the source and his or her information are judgedÂ” (p. 428). The resear chers suggest that the source of the information is a crucial factor in the way the information is accepted and assimilated by an individual or a specific public. It was concluded that when receivers of a communication believe that situational or occupational pressures are being applied to the communicator, it could cause the source to withhold some vital facts. These occupational pr essures subsequently cause a reporting bias and compromise the willingness of the communicator to be honest. The implications of the Eagly et al. research are very pertinent to the public relations practitioners and the growth of the profession and this study. Generally, members of the public do not believe that they are receiving the complete truth from practitioners (Callison, 2002). Practitioners are not always seen in the most positive light by the publics their or ganizations are affiliated with. This has caused a major credibility problem within the public relations industry. The main purpose of this study is to e xplore the credibility of public relations messages sources. An experiment was conducted to examine the effect that message strength, communicator gender, and source affiliation have on source credibility. The information gathered in this study contribute s to research development in the field on public relations.
3 Chapter Two Review of Literature Source Credibility Importance of Source Credibility For many years now, the term credibilit y, or source credibility, has been an important area of research in persuasion theor y. The source credibility theory states that people are more likely to be persuaded when the source presents itself as credible (Hovland, & Janis, Kelley, 1953). Credibility is considered to be Â“the judgments made by a message recipient concerning the believabi lity of a communicatorÂ” (Callison, 2001, p. 220). The source of a message is of vital im portance when determining the credibility of the message. Â“An individualÂ’s acceptance of information and ideas is based in part on Â‘who said it.Â’ This variable, the sourceÂ’s ro le in communication effectiveness, has been given many names: ethos, prestige, charis ma, image, or, most frequently source credibilityÂ” (Berlo, Lemert, & Mertz, 1969, p. 563). Credibility is one of the most fundamental source factors that has produced scholarly resear ch. Anderson (1971) described source credibi lity as a weight that can enhance the value of information in a message. Similarl y, Tormala and Petty (2004), defined source credibility as a message sourceÂ’s perceived ab ility or motivation to provide accurate and truthful information.
4 Numerous factors affect the credibilit y of a public relations message. Research suggests a message's source, specifically comm unicator gender, may have a strong effect on message credibility (White & Andsager, 1991, Burkhart 1989). Many studies show that message strength is a critical factor in determining the credibility of a message. Other literature suggests that the co mmunicator's title (e.g. public re lations practitioner) greatly affects message credibility (Callison, 2001). Source Characteristics Holvland and Weiss (1951) conducted the in itial studies of source credibility as a theoretical construct. The researchers proposed that info rmation sources are evaluated on two main dimensions of cred ibility; trustworthiness and expertise. Since the seminal study, many other researchers have studied so urce credibility and have added various other dimensions. The initial studies on source credibility found expertise and tr ustworthiness were the two major factors of credibility (Hol vland & Weiss, 1951; Hovland et al., 1953; Kelman & Hovland, 1953). Scholars since ha ve argued that sour ce credibility is composed of three individual and separate dime nsions: (i) expertise, (ii) trustworthiness, and (iii) attractiveness (McC roskey, 1999; Perloff, 2003). Expertise Expertise refers to the extent to which a speaker is perceived to be capable of making correct assertions (Hovland, Janis & Kelley, 1953). The communicatorÂ’s level of expertise deals with the level to which the receptors of the message believe that he/she is a knowledgeable and experienced source on a spec ific topic. Expertise also deals with
5 other attributes such as intelligence, qualification, authoritativeness, and competence. (McCrosky, 1999). Trustworthiness Trustworthiness refers to the degree to which an audience perceives the assertions made by a communicator to be valid (Hol vland, Janis & Kelley, 1953).Trustworthiness deals with attributes such as the comm unicatorÂ’s perceived h onesty, sincerity, and objectivity (McCraken, 1989). It is important that the public perceive the source of a message as trustworthy in order for the messa ges designed to have th e desired effect on the targeted audiences. Attractiveness Attractiveness refers to the physical appearance of the communicator, and the various ways that may positively or negatively effect his/her credibility with an audience. Communicators who are considered attractive to their audiences have a better chance of holding their audienceÂ’s a ttention and persuading them to his/her point of view. A vast body of advertising and communication literature contends that attr activeness is a vital part of one individualÂ’s initial judgments of a communicator (Bak er & Churchill 1977; Chaiken, 1979; Joseph, 1982; Kahle & Homer, 1985; Mill s & Aronson, 1965; Widgery & Ruch, 1981). Scholars throughout history have studie d several other dimensions of source credibility. For example, Berlo, Lemert, and Mertz (1969) recognized competence, trustworthiness qualifications, safety, and dyna mism as additional dimensions that could be attributed to a source. Whitehead (1968) also identified two dimensions of source
6 credibility research: compet ence and objectivity. McCrosky (1966) noted two additional factors in source credibility resear ch: authoritativeness and character. Determinates of Source Credibility The following attributes, for the purposes of this study, are the main determinants of the perceived credibility of public rela tions messages sources: message strength, source affiliation, and communicator gender. Message Strength The majority of studies using the variable of message stre ngth, or argument quality, have followed the Elaboration Likelihood M odel conceptualized by Petty and Cacioppo (1981). Elaboration Likelihood Model The Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) st ates that an indi vidual will receive a message, examine it, and form an opinion. Ot her times, they may listen to the message, do not actively process it, but a llow an external factor to pe rsuade them. According to the ELM, there are two basic r outes to persuasion; the central route is the route taken by individuals who receive the message, diligently and actively process the information, and are subsequently persuaded by the rationali ty of the argument or the message. The peripheral route of persuasion occurs when a receiv er of the message does not take the time to evaluate the argument or proce ss the information. These individuals allow nonessential cues to guide their decisions. The ELM claims that the process of attitude change will vary based on the degree of elaboration. When an argument takes the ce ntral route, it is generally because it has
7 been buttressed with strong arguments and ha s significance to the receiver. When an argument takes the peripheral route, there are different factors to be considered. In this case, the receiver is relying on simple decision-making criteria (i.e. attractiveness, gender). It was found that a communicator who uses arguments that contain strong claims that are relevant, objective, and verifiable wi ll generally be more persuasive and foster more positive thoughts than weak argume nts (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986). Petty and Cacioppo defined a strong message as one that Â“when subjects are instructed to think about the message, the thoughts that they gene rate are predominantly favorableÂ”(p.147), a weak message however will have statements that, when subjects are prompted to think about them Â“the thoughts that they generate will be predominantly unfavorableÂ”(p.147). The authors claimed that the information cont ained in the stronger argument will be more influential in the overall influence on an individuals attitude and belief towards on organization or brand. Recently, ELM scholars, in response to criticis ms have shifted the word choice to Â“strongerÂ” and Â“weakerÂ” messa ges to account for all message categories. (Areni & Lutz, 1988; Boller, Swasy, & Munch, 1993) The ELM is the theoretical foundation chos en to examine more clearly the effect that message strength has on th e credibility a nd the believability of the source of a public relations message. For the purposes of the study, the stronger message will contain relevant, objective, and verifiable inform ation supported by numerous arguments. The weaker message will contain comparatively le ss relevance, objectivity, and verifiability supported with fewer arguments.
8 Source Affiliation In order to determine the ability of a practitioner to serve as reliable spokespersons, individuals must first understa nd the publicÂ’s percep tion of practitioners (Callison, 2002 p.220). Research has found that th e impressions of public relations and its practitioners are negative. Â“Scholars have established credibility and its counterpart, trustworthiness, as the key source and message attributes necessary in communicating persuasive messagesÂ” (Callison, 2004, p.372). Indi viduals do not view public relations practitioners as credible and trustworthy sources, and this has contributed to the erosion of the practitionerÂ’s credibili ty as viable sources. In recent times, one of the most exposi ng studies displaying the lack of credibility in the public relations industr y was done by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). In September 1998, with funding fr om the Rockfeller Foundation, a telephone survey was conducted in which 1,000 respondents were asked to rate the credibility of sources of information on a 4point scale, from 1 being ( very credible ) to 4 ( not at all credible .) There were 44 information source pr oviders rated by each respondent. Public relations practitioners finished third from last, a little behind professional athletes and student activists (Callison, 2004). Publics find it difficult to view public relations messages produced by practitioners as credible information. Callison wrote: Scholars have isolated four key factors that play a role in determining the ability of public relations professionals to serve as quality sources. First, receivers note
9 credibility in messengers to determin e the believability and accuracy of communications. Second, an audience reli es on judgments concerning a sourceÂ’s trustworthiness and competence in evalua ting credibility. Third, public relations practitioners, students, and the general public doubt the trustworthiness of public relations professionals. Finally, this imag e can be attributed in part to public relations practitioners who often try to appease receive rs and to the tendency to believe that sources who speak to an a udienceÂ’s expectations in persuasive situations are not honest (2001, p. 222). In order to overcome the unfavorable pe rceptions that accompany the title public relations, corporations shoul d associate themselves with credible and reputable spokespersons for their internal and ex ternal communications Public relations practitioners must associate with trustworthy and believa ble sources (e.g. specialist, renewed scholars) in order to bols ter the credibility of the field. Public Relations Practitioners as Reliable Sources Â“Public relations-based messages are persua sive at heart. Whereas in most cases not overtly attempting to modify an audien ceÂ’s attitude in an extreme way, public relations messages are written with the goa ls of the organization in mind, and with an intention of improving or maintaining favorable impressions or beliefs about the organizationÂ” (Calli son & Zillmann, 2002, p. 86). Public relations messages are in principa l meant to inform and persuade. Due to the persuasive nature of the messages, rece ivers tend to have their defenses up while viewing the message. Schramm (1971) stated that there are no contracts involved between the communicator and th e receiver of a message in a persuasive situation. The
10 receivers of the communications are usually very skeptical when they know a piece of information is attributed to a less than trustworthy source. The combination of this Â“guard upÂ” mentality from the receivers and public relations low credibility score have caused the current negative views f acing the profession. A study by Saunders (1993) determined that the general public was not alone in its poor perceptions of public relations practitioners. Public relations students did not have much more confidence th an the public in their chosen profession. Researchers using first year public relations students as respondents found that Â“half of first time public relations students agreed that honesty is a relative termÂ” (p. 8). Rebuilding the credibility of public relations practitioners should be of paramount impo rtance to every scholar and practitioner. Modern public relations personnel work in ardu ous conditions. PublicÂ’s lack of an overall sense of confidence in the orga nizations that practiti oners represent, this coupled with their low credibility scores, have been crippling to the credibility of public relations as a profession (Judd, 1989). In light of these discov eries, Callison (2001), thro ugh experimental research, demonstrated the publicÂ’s negative perception of public relations. Th e participants were presented with sets of messages attributed to two different sour ces. In one set, the information was attributed to a public relations specialist; in the other, it was simply labeled company spokesperson. More than 98% of the text was held constant in both message sets. However, the participants were much more critical of the public relations source and its affiliated company than they were of the spokesperson source and its affiliated company. Communications sources not labeled as public relations were overall viewed as more believable and credible (Callison, 2002). The study concluded that
11 participants thought public rela tions sources were less likely to tell the truth, more dishonest, and less trustworthy. Sallot (2002) used a mixed particip antÂ’s pool of college students and mall shoppers. The researcher determined that perc eived motives driving the public relations campaign, communication styles, and professionalism were the key indicator of how people evaluate public relations and its prac titioner. Audiences view public relations messages as biased pieces of communication, slanted to portray the organization in the best light possible. Public re lations messages are not seen as credible sources because the publics of organizations believe that messa ges are designed for the protection of the company and not for the betterment of the public. The publics of organizations have developed a certain distrust for public relatio ns practitioners and their employers when they believe that the companyÂ’s benefit or gain seems to be the apparent result from their communications (Durham 1997; Sallot, 2002). Gender Gender is Â“one of the earliest, and con tinues to be one of the most basic, components of self-identityÂ” (Spence, 1984, p.81). The gender of the communicator is also a key factor when discussing source credibility of a public relations message. Gender, according to Alvesson and Billing (199 7), is the social and cultural meanings associated with being male or female th at are imposed and expected by society. Bem (1993) claimed that the term gender was c onstructed by the Â“historically-constructed cultural lens embedded in the social institutions and cultural discourses of society whichÂ… leads us to become unwitting collabora tors in the social reproduction of the existing power structureÂ” (p.46). Howard a nd Hollander (1997) defined gender as the
12 Â“culturally determined behaviors and personality characteristics that are associated with, but not determined by, biological sex (p. 11). Sex, the biological id entification of being male and female, is also strongly associat ed with gender in public relations. The gender of the communicator could have a significant influence on the recipients of the message and, subsequently, the credibility of the message. Researchers have cited traits such as rationality, activeness, dominance, competitiveness, selfconfidence, aggressiveness, independence, boa stfulness, and hostility as characteristics defining men; characteristics such as empathy, dependence, passivity, sympathy, sensitivity, nurturance, and shyness descri be women. (Berryman-Fink, 1985; Spence & Helmreich, 1978). These characteristics can a ffect the ways in which messages are delivered by communicators and the en suing credibility of the message being conveyed. A clear understanding of the gender vari able could be a cr itical factor when developing public relations messages specifica lly targeted towards an audience. This study also investigates the influence of the gender of the communicator on the credibility and subsequent believability of the message. Gender and Public Relations Historically, there have been very few st udies showing the effects of the gender of the communicator as a variable in determini ng the credibility of a message. In one of the most important studies conducted using the ge nder variable to date Freiden (1984) found no significant interaction be tween endorser type and gende r of communicator. However, there have been other studies that have theori zed Â“gender, or sex, of the influence source may be a significant factor in determining sour ce credibility, and if so, would then be a
13 significant factor in determining the succe ss of the influence attemptÂ” (Summers, Montano, Kasprzyk, & Wagner, 1980 p. 312). The majority of gender studies in public relations have focused on salary and the role of the practitioner. Pract itioner roles serve as a significant indicator of the income differences between male and female pract itioners. (Broom, 1982; Broom & Dozier, 1986; Dozier, 1988; Dozier & Broom, 1995; Dozier, Grunig & Grunig 1995). The results of these studies showed that woman genera lly earn less money then men because women tend to stay in technical roles and rare ly achieve the ranks of managerial or communicator roles. Research conducted on salary by PRWEEK in 2001 reported that men, on average, earn 38% more than woman annually. Public relations is a significantly fema le dominated profession. According to the U.S. Census Beureau (2000) woman accounted for 50.1% of the public relations workforce in 1983 and 66.3% in 1998. However, research indicates that woman who achieve managerial status in their organizations do not have same benefits as their male counterparts. (L.A. Gruing, Toth & Hon, 2001; Toth & Hon 2001; Serini, Wright, Emig, 1998). Giving consideration to the female satu ration in the field of public relations and the persistence of th e glass ceiling, research ers claim that gender research is not only important to the development and advancem ent of the field but should continue to influence research (Choi & Hon 2002). Ridgeway (1998) argued that the differen ces between men and woman are rooted in social expectations imposed by society. The researcher stated that men are more likely to achieve upper level managerial positions, not because of the difference in gender but because men are more likely to partake in active tasks, such as decision-making and
14 leadership activities than woman are. Ridgeway states that gender is constructed socially and institutionally. People are raised to believe that men and woman are supposed to behave differently and show different abilit ies, ranging from dealings with family to workplace activities, even with no concrete bi ological explanations to support these claims. Researchers have stipulated that woman are generally perceived as inappropriate for managerial and communications roles. Th e managerial roles are constructed to fit within the constraints of the male descriptiv e characteristics such as dominance and selfconfidence. Female traits such as dependen ce and passivity are seen as negative and not suitable for communicator and manageri al roles (Choi & Hon, 2002). Powell and Butterfield (1978) conducted a study to determine the differe nce between perceptions of managerial and communications roles of men and women. The resercher determined that a good manager was traditionally defined in masculine terms. Brenner and Greenhaus (1979) also documented that both male and female managers believed that male characteristics we re more likely to be associated with good communications. Those traits that will be a ssociated with a good manager and the most appropriate to manage large organizations. A study conducted ten years later by Brenner, Tomkiewicz, and Schein (1989) showed that male mangers had not changed their attitudes about the traits required for success. They did, however, discover that female managers believed that successful managers sh ould posses traits attributed to both male and female communications managers. The sp ecific problems female practitioners face are detailed in the glass ceiling and velvet ghet to studies. The glass ceiling is the invisible barri er faced by middle management females
15 who desire to reach top-level positions. Accordin g to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2001 women comprise 41.4% of the workfo rce in the United States, but few women have attained top managerial and pay pos itions. Currently, woman comprise 10% of senior management positions in Fortune 500 companies; less than 4% are CEO, presidents, and executive vice presidents a nd comprise less than 3% of top corporate earners (Meyerson & Fletcher, 2000). This cuts across all profe ssions, including public relations. The Velvet Ghetto study was sponsored by the Internationa l Association of Business Communicators (IABC). Pub lic relations was referred to as the velvet ghetto because Â“companies load their public relatio ns departments with woman to compensate for their scarcity in other pr ofessional or managerial capacities that usually lead more directly to top managementÂ” (PR: Â“The Ve lvet GhettoÂ” 1978, p.122). The results of this study showed that women are not perceive d to be as emotionally tough and are subsequently relegated to the technical roles. These factors knowingly or unknowingly a ffect the perception of the perceived credibility of the message. Women, due to their gender are seen as less effective communicators and managers. Due to this pe rceived lack of Â‘toughnessÂ’ women for the most part are fixed in technical roles. This may consequently aff ect their communication effectiveness. In 1989, Ragins and Sundstrom analyzed ge nder differences in public relations in terms of accessibility to the re sources of power. The researchers argued that power has a greater influence on the evaluation of manage rial and communication effectiveness than gender does. The Ragins et al. study found that men can obtain and exercise power easier
16 than women, because men have access to pow er resources and maintain these positions due to a supportive male netw ork and male intensive male populated dominant coalition. The importance of communication compet ence is also of budding concern among communications scholars, in regards to source credibility (Allen & Brown, 1978; Bostrom, 1984; Larson, Backlund,& Wi emann,1977; Spitzberg & Cupach, 1984; Wiemann, 1977).The precise na ture of competent communica tion is not currently well known, but there is a consensus that competen ce incorporates two f undamental properties Â– appropriateness and effectiveness. Canary and Spitzberg (1987) stated Â“effective communication accomplishes the goals, objectives, or intended functions of the interact, whereas appropriate communication avoids the violation of the situational and relational rules governing the communicative context.Â” (p. 94). Canary and Spitzberg proposed a funda mental question in their 1987 study on communication appropriateness and effectivenes s: Â“Does the gender of the communicator affect perceptions of message appropriatene ss and/or effectivenes s?Â” (p. 94). This study plans to build on this 1987 st udy by exploring how, if in any way, the gender of the communicator influences the perceptions of public relations messages and its subsequent effectiveness on the targ eted publics. The researchers adapted a quasi-experimental design in order to operationalize the variables in the study. It was determined th at gender had no significant effects on the competence of the communicator. Furthermore, the gender of the communicator did not affect the assessment of whether or not the communicator obtained his or her goal. These specific results however call into question exis ting research claimi ng that gender is an important factor in the evaluation of competence (Johnson, 1976).
17 Gender Schema Theory The basic distinction between male and female serves as an organizing principle for every culture and society. The gender sc hema theory proposes that Â“the phenomenon of sex typing derives, in part, from gender-based schematic processing, from a generalized readiness to process information on the basis of sex-linke d associations that constitute the gender schemaÂ” (Bem, 1981, p. 354). The schema theory is further explaine d to be an understanding of reality depending on constructive processes in whic h what is perceived is a product of the various interactions between the informa tion being received and the perceiverÂ’s preexisting attitudes and beliefs (Bem, 1981). Understanding the gender schema theory could be significant to the advancement of public relations as a field. Th e socialization of a male or female child begins from birth and its effects last throughout an individualÂ’s lifetime. Th e practitioner who has a clear perception of the importanceÂ’s the impact of ei ther being socialized as a male or female can have on an individual, can become an effective communicator who knows how to address his/her specific publics on a interpersonal level. Interactions Among Independent Variables There have been numerous studies linking the main independent variables in this study. Moore et al. discovered a significant interaction between s ource credibility and argument strength (1986). He discovered th at when arguments are strong, the highly credible source brought about a more favorable attitude towards the brand than did the low-credibility one. The same study showed no apparent effects of source credibility when the arguments were weak.
18 Stoltenberg and Davis (1988) conducted a study using argument strength, source credibility and issues involve ment as variables in the de sign. They discovered that argument strength had a greater impact on atti tudes and behaviors when the participants were dealing with a highly credible source, compared to a lower one. The study also discovered that participants were more like ly to act on a certain recommendations when stronger arguments were put fort h by highly credible source and were least likely to act when weak arguments were presented by a highly credible source. Argument quality affected persuasion only when the source wa s of high expertise, when the source was low, the different argument strengths did not significantly affect persuasion (Herron, 1997). Slater and Rouner (1996) hypothesized that the strength of the message will have a direct effect and mediate the effects of th e initial credibility a ssessments. In addition, the researchers claimed that message strength would affect subsequent source credibility assessments and belief change. Their result s supported that a higher strength message will have a direct effect on initial credibility assessments. Priester and Petty claimed that people who exert low cognitions were less likely to think about what a clearly honest source said in comparison to what a potentially dishonest source said. A source considered to be honest can genera lly be trusted, thus little scrutiny of their motives are needed. Ho wever, for an untrustworthy source, even those low in cognition needed to exert extra efforts to en sure they were not being deceived (Petty, Haugtvedt, & Smith, 1995). These interactions of the independent vari ables and the literature reviewed are the foundations on which the hypothesis for this st udy was formulated. The main purpose of
19 this study is to explore the credibility of public relations messages sources. An experiment was conducted to examine the e ffect that message strength, communicator gender, and source affiliation have on sour ce credibility. The next chapter outlines the main hypothesis and used to test the ma in variables chosen for this study.
20 Chapter Three Research Hypothesis The main purpose of this study is to e xplore the credibility of public relations messages. A 2X2X2 experiment was conducted to examine the effect that the independent variables of communicator gende r, message strength, and source affiliation have on the dependent variable the credibility of the public relations message source, which was analyzed using the dimensions of e xpertise, trustworthiness and attractiveness. The research gathered intends to furthe r the public relations field by determining the most suitable ways to frame a public re lations message in order for it to have credibility with the publics in its envir onment. Thus, the following hypothesis were tested: H1: Public relations messages with higher message strength will be perceived as more credible than messages with lower message strength. H2: Public relations message sources not labeled public relations practitioner will be perceived as more credible than those sources that are affiliated with the labeled public relations practitioner H3 : Communicator gender influences source credibility. Past research has shown an interact ion effect between me ssage strength and communicator gender. According to the re search done by Kempf and Palan (2006) the most positive attitudes towa rds a brand or an organization were derived when the
21 communicator was male and the argument strength was strong. The least positive consumer attitudes were derived when the communicator was male and the argument strength was weak. Female communicators fell in the middle of the range with stronger arguments rendering more positive attitude s than weaker ones (Kempf & Palan, 2006, p.10). Based on these findings the following hypot heses were tested by the researcher: H4 : Men will be considered more credib le than women as a message source when message strength is high but le ss credible than women when message strength is low. H5: The communicator gender will have a more prominent effect on public relations practitioners; however, among non public relations practitioner sources the gender effect will be neutralized. H6: A strong message will be enhanced by an official source but will lose its effect when presented by a non-official source. Source credibility, as the literature sugge sts, is an important factor for the effective persuasion of an individual. Â“Public relations-based messages are persua sive at heart. Whereas, in most cases, not overtly attempting to modify an audien ceÂ’s attitude in an extreme way, public relations messages are written with the goa l of the organization in mind and with an intention of improving or maintaining favorable impressions or beliefs about the organizationÂ” (Callis on & Zillmann, 2002, p. 86).
22 Hence, the credibility of the source can infl uence the subsequent attitudes and behaviors of the individuals exposed to the messages. Based on this the following hypotheses were tested: H7 : Source credibility will influence on th e individualÂ’s attitudes towards the public relations message. H8: Source credibility will influence the individualÂ’s attitudes towards a Corporation. H9: Source credibility will influence th e behavioral intentions of the participants towards al ternative energy products.
23 Chapter Four Methodology Research Design The experimental method refers to the pr ocess in which data is collected where certain constraints are exercised over one or mo re factors to determine their influence on the variables of interest. This method was chosen in order to determine the causal relationships and interactions between the independent vari ables and their consequent effects on the credibility of public relations messages. A controlled experiment was conducted in this study to te st the nine hypotheses posed. This study seeks to build and extend upon the Calliosn (2001) experiment on the importance of source credibility in public re lations. However, in this study there is a distinct difference from the Callison experime nts. This study takes a different approach by exploring the credibility of public re lations messages by examining the message strength, communicator gender, and affiliation w ith the title public relations practitioner as independent variables and source cred ibility as a dependent variable. The organization used in this study is the Alternative Energy Corporation. This fictional organization modele d after an actual organiza tion, the Alternative Energy Sources Inc. The main issues addresse d are the importance of alternative energy, microhydro electricity in particular, and the development of an energy plant in Fort Myers, Florida. This was chosen because of the geographic significance to the research
24 participants and because of the current tr ends leaning towards developing alternative energy. Research participants Research participants were recruited from a population of undergraduate students enrolled in a general education course at a large southeastern university. The total sample included 250 participants. Procedures The experiment was conducted during th e second session of the classÂ’ weekly meeting. The primary researcher explained th e purpose of the exercise and the survey process to the students. The participants were told that this was a masterÂ’s thesis study seeking to gauge college stude ntsÂ’ attitudes towards alte rnative energy. Students were randomly assigned to specific treatment gr oups. Each participant received a packet containing one version of the editorial pi ece and a questionnaire booklet. Both the editorial piece and the questionnaire include d an identifying numb er that corresponded with one another. Students were told that the survey packet s they received were different from most of their fellow classmates. Direct ions for completing the process appeared on the outside of the stimulus packets (see Appe ndix A.1). The directions listed the step-bystep procedure to completing the reading the editorial piece and s ubsequently completing the questionnaire. The participants were instru cted to wait until the entire class received their individual packets before beginning. Next, the directions instructed them to open the cover sheet of the packet and read the editorial piece. They were informed that they could spend as long as they deemed fit to read and fully understand the editorial piece. The
25 participants were told to flip to the questionn aire and answer the ques tions to the best of their ability. The researcher informed the par ticipants to read the instructions to each section carefully and answ er all the questions. In each of the eight treatment groups, the participants were be exposed to eight distinctly different messages from the A lternative Energy Campaign. Each of these messages were different variations of the th ree independent variables mentioned in the literature review. The editorial piece created is a typical exam ple, of an editorial piece placed in a quarterly report of an Energy or Natural Conservancy Magazine. The packets were collected when all the participants were done. Instrumentation To operationalize the independent va riables communicator gender, source affiliation and message strength, eight instrument s were created that contained all three of the variables. Each piece contained a picture of a man or a woman with their title, phone number and email address directly unde rneath their photograph. The strong/weak message will run through out the piece surr ounding the pictures. After a thorough review of the instrument, participants were asked to complete a questionnaire containing items that measure each receiver variables. Stimulus Material To achieve a 2X2X2 factorial design be tween subject, eight treatment conditions were created. Participants in each of the ei ght cells were exposed to stimulus material featuring an editorial piece from the Alternative Energy Co rporation. All eight editorial pieces had identical font and layout. The ei ght messages created were as follows:
26 o Strong message, male communicator, with a public relations specialist title o Strong message, female communicator, and a public relations specialist title o Strong message, male communicator, with a vice president of energy distribution title o Strong message, female communicator, with a vice president of energy distribution title o Weak message, male communicator, with a public relations specialist title o Weak message, female communicator, with a public relations specialist title o Weak message, male communicator and with a vice president of energy distribution title o Weak message, female communicator, with the title vice president of energy distribution title Measurement Apparatus After viewing the editorial piece from the Alternative Energy Corporation participants were asked to complete a 38-item questionnaire that included the participantsÂ’ perception of the communicato rÂ’s credibility, message strength, attitude towards the editorial piece, attitudes to wards the Alternative Energy Corporation, attitudes toward a new plant opening in Fort Myers, behavioral intent towards alternative energy. The questionnaire solicited demographi c information as well (see Appendix). Specifically, scales were created to m easure the following variables: 1) source credibility was measured using OhanianÂ’s (1990) scale of sour ce credibility, source credibility was divided into three distinct se ctions, namely expertise, trustworthiness and attractiveness ; 2) gender of the communicat or was measured by using a subset of
27 HafnerÂ’s (1984) semantic differential of sex roles 3) source affiliation 4) Wittler & DiMeo (1991) argument strength scale was us ed as the manipulation check for message strength; 5) attitude toward the editorial pi ece; 6) attitudes towards Alternative Energy Corporation; 7) attitudes towards the new plan t opening in Fort Myers; 8) behavioral intentions related toward alternative ener gy; and 9) demographi c variables (including gender, academic rank, and specific college). Expertise Expertise was measured with a five item, seven-interval scale with anchors labeled expert-non expert, in experienced Â–experienced, knowledgeableunknowledgeable, unqualifiedqualified, skille d-unskilled. The CronbachÂ’s Alpha for expertise is .861 Table 1: Reliability Statistics for Expertise Reliability Statistics Cronbach's Alpha Cronbach's Alpha Based on Standardized Items N of Items .859 .861 5 Mean Std. Deviation N Expertise 4.46000 1.356377 250 Experience 4.88800 1.249681 250 Knowledge 5.11600 1.310501 250 Qualified 5.00400 1.200729 250 Skill 4.71600 1.315395 250 Trustworthiness Trustworthiness was measured w ith a six item, seven-interval scale with anchors labeled undependable-d ependable, honest-dishonest, unreliable-
28 reliable, sincere-insincere, untrustworthytrustworthy, and sincere-insincere. The CronbachÂ’s Alpha for Trustworthiness is .872. Table 2: Reliability Statistics for Trustworthiness Reliability Statistics Cronbach's Alpha Cronbach's Alpha Based on Standardized Items N of Items .871 .872 6 Mean Std. Deviation N Dependable 4.7880 1.18519 250 Honesty 4.7800 1.21388 250 Reliability 4.8240 1.11264 250 Sincerity 4.8400 1.32871 250 Trustworthine ss 4.7040 1.15138 250 Responsibility 4.8400 1.15748 250 Attractiveness. Attractiveness was measured with a two-item seven-interval scale with anchors labeled beautif ul-ugly, and attractive-unatt ractive. The CronbachÂ’s Alpha for Attractiveness is .618
29 Table 3: Reliability Statistics for Attractiveness Reliability Statistics Cronbach's Alpha Cronbach's Alpha Based on Standardized Items N of Items .615 .618 2 Beauty 4.0040 1.14476 249 Attractiveness 3.7510 1.28666 249 Gender. A subset of HafnerÂ’s (1984) semantic differential of sex roles was used to measure the gender variable. Gender was m easured with a five item seven interval scale with anchors labeled assertive-not assertive, sympathetic-non-sympathetic, aggressive-passive, non dominant-dominan t; and compassion-not compassionate. Source Affiliation. Source affiliation was measured with a single item seven interval scale with anchors labeled specialist Â– non specialist. Message Strength By using Whittler and DiMeo (1991) scale of argument strength four separate items were created. Each of the following items were measured on a 5-point Likert type scale by strongly agree/strongly disagr ee: Â“The editor ial piece was convincingÂ”; Â“The editorial piece was informativeÂ”; Â“The editorial piece send a strong messageÂ”; and Â“The editorial pi ece was believableÂ”. Attitudes towards the Editorial Piece. To measure the attitudes toward the editorial piece, the following Likert t ype scale items, each anchored by strongly agree/strongly disagree, were created: Â“I like the editorial piece presented by the
30 Alternative Energy CorporationÂ”; Â“I have a favorable attitude towards alternative energyÂ”. Attitudes towards the Alternative Energy Corporation To measure the attitudes toward the Alternative Energy Cor poration piece, the following Likert type scale items, each anchored by strongly agree/strongly disagree, were created : Â“ My attitude toward the Alternative Energy Cor poration is favorableÂ” ; Â“My attitude towards the Alternative Energy Corporation is positiv eÂ”; My attitude towards the Alternative Energy Corporation is generally goodÂ” Attitudes towards the Plant Opening Attitudes towards the new plant opening in Fort Myers were measured using the follo wing Likert type scale items, each anchored by strongly agree/strongly disagree: Â“My at titude towards the Microhydro Plant opening in Fort Myers is favorableÂ”; Â“My attitude towards the Microhydro Power Plant opening in Fort Myers is negativeÂ”; Â“I like the idea of opening the Microhydro Power Plant in Fort MyersÂ” Behavioral Intentions. Behavioral intentions were measured with the following Likert type scale items, each anchored by strongly agree/strongly disagree: Â“I would switch to an alternative source of energy if an electricity pl ant opened in my communityÂ”; Â“I would forward emails about the im portance of alternative energy to my family/friendsÂ”; and Â“I would be actively involved in protecting the environments natural resourcesÂ”. Demographic Information. In addition to the va riables outlined above, participants were asked to provide demographic informa tion, including their gender, academic rank, specific college, and age.
31 Chapter Five Results Data Analysis Data analyses for this study were performed using SPSS 16.0 for Windows. p < .05 significance was used as the basis for rejecting the null hypothesis for all tests performed. Three one-way analyses of variance (ANOVA) tests were used to identify the differences between groups for each of the firs t six hypothesis. Multiple regressions were used to analyze the relationship between source credibility, attitudes towards the editorial piece, attitudes towards the Alternative En ergy Corporation, and behavioral related intentions towards alternative energy sources. The final sample yielded 179 female respondents and 71 male respondents. The total number of respondents was (n = 250). The majority of respondents (n = 137) were in their first year of college. The mean age was 19. Table 4 summarizes the demographic characteristics of the sample.
32 Table 4. Categorical Demographics________________________________________________ n % Academic Rank Freshman 137 5 4.2 Sophomore 58 22 .9 Junior 44 17.4 Senior 9 3.6 Other 2 0.8 College Arts & Sciences 178 70.4 Business 41 16.2 Education 4 1.6 Engineering 5 2.0 Honors College 1 0 .4 Medicine/Nursing 3 1.2 Visual Performing Arts 2 0.8 Arts 2 0.8 Public Health 3 1.2 Other 10 4.0 Age 17 1 0.4 18 81 32.4 19 88 34.8 20 31 12.3 21 17 6.7 22 8 3.2 23 10 4.0 24 1 0.4 25 3 1.2 26 1 0.6 27 3 1.2 30 1 0.4 34 1 0.4 43 1 0.4 ________________________________________________________________________
33 Table 5. Distribution of Part icipants to Treatments _____________________________ N % Public Relations title/ Strong Message 35 14.0 Male/ Public Relations title / Weak Message 35 14.0 Male/ Non Public Relations title/ Weak Message 29 11.6 Male/ Non Public Relations title / Strong Message 32 12.8 Female/ Public Relations title/ Strong Message 30 12.0 Female/ Public Relations title/ Weak Message 30 12.0 Female/ Non Public Relations title / Strong Message 32 12.8 Female/ Non Public Relations title/ W eak Message 27 10.8 ________________________________________________________________________ Hypothesis Testing In this study, the perceived credib ility of public relations message sources were measured on the three dimensions of source cr edibility discussed in the literature. The nine main hypotheses tested th e credibility of pu blic relations message sources based on their degrees of expertise, trustw orthiness, and attractiveness. Hypothesis 1 The first hypothesis stated that the part icipants of the survey would perceive a public relations message with higher message strength to be more credible than messages with lower message strength. Three one-way ANOVA were used to test this hypothesis. The results showed that message strength had no significant eff ect on perceived expertise of the source F (1,242)=.641; p=.434 (see table 24). There was no significant difference in terms of expertise of the source when th e message strength was strong ( M=4.88, S.D. =0.91 ) and when the message was weak ( M=4.78, S.D.=0.03 ).
34 Table 6: Dependent Variable: Expertise Message Mean Std. Deviation N strong message 4.8969 1.05740 128 weak message 4.7738 1.00048 122 Total 4.8368 1.02980 250 The results also indicated that message st rength had no significant effect on the perceived trustworthin ess of the source F (1,242) =1.07; p=.302)(see table 25). There was no significant difference in terms of trustw orthiness of the source when the message strength was strong ( M =4.86, S.D. =. 944) and when message strength is weak ( M = 4.72, S.D =.913). Table 7: Dependent Variable: Trustworthiness Message Mean Std. Deviation N strong message 4.8622 .94423 127 weak message 4.7276 .91393 123 Total 4.7960 .93003 250 In addition to these the results, the ANOVA showed that message strength had no significant effect on the perceived attractiveness of the source F (1,241) = .309 ; p=.579 (see table 26). The results determined that ther e was no statistical significance in terms of the attractiveness of the source when the message strength was strong ( M=3.84, S.D. =.941 ) and when the message strength is weak ( M=3.91, S.D.=1.13 ).
35 Table 8: Dependent Variable: Attractiveness Message Mean Std. Deviation N strong message 3.8465 .94178 127 weak message 3.9098 1.12635 122 Total 3.8775 1.03471 249 The message strength has no signifi cance in terms of this st udy on the credibility of the source as measured by expertise, trustworthiness and attractiveness. Hypothesis 2 The second hypothesis sought to dete rmine if public relations messages not labeled with the term public relations would be perceived as more credible than those who are affiliated with the term public relations practitioner. Three one-way ANOVAs were used to test this hypothesis. The results showed that source affiliation had a significant effect on the perceived expertise of the source F (1,242) =4.34; p=.038)(see table 24). There was a st atistically significant difference in terms of expertise between the me ssages labeled public relations ( M=4.70, S.D.=1.09 ) and those not labeled public relations practitioner ( M=4.98, S.D.= .938 ). Table 9: Dependent Variable: Expertise Affiliation Mean Std. Deviation N Non Pr 4.9754 .93758 122 Pr 4.7047 1.09802 128 Total 4.8368 1.02980 250
36 The ANOVA also uncovered that there was no statistical significance on the perceived trustworthiness of the source between sources labeled public relations practitioner and those not labeled public relations practitioner F(1,242) =1.03; p=.310 (see table 25). The results determined that th ere no statistical significance in terms of the trustworthiness of the sour ce when an item is labeled public relations practitioner ( M=4.73, S.D.=.923 ) and those not labeled publi c relations practitioner ( M=4.86, S.D.=.936 ). The results also indicated that th ere was no significant results in terms of attractiveness of the source between items labe led public relations pr actitioner and those that are not labeled publi c relations practitioner F (1,241,)=.949 ; p.=.331)(see table 26). There was no statistical signi ficance between those public re lations messages not labeled as public relations ( M=4.00, S.D.=.889 ) and those that were ( M=3.81, S.D.=1.16 ). Table 10 Dependent Variable: Trustworthiness Affiliation Mean Std. Deviation N Non PR 4.8620 .92305 122 PR 4.7331 .93590 128 Total 4.7960 .93003 250 Table 11 Dependent Variable Attractiveness Affiliation Mean Std. Deviation N Non PR 3.9426 .88886 122 PR 3.8150 1.15779 127 Total 3.8775 1.03471 249
37 There is a significant effect in terms of expertise between messages labeled public relations and those messages not labeled publ ic relations practitioners. Non-labeled public relations practitioners are perceived as having gr eater expertise than their counterparts with a public relations label. Ho wever, there was no significant effect in terms of their trustworthiness and attractiveness. Hypothesis 3 The third hypothesis was posed to discover whether the communicatorsÂ’ gender would affect source credibility. Three oneway ANOVAs were run to test this hypothesis. The results determined that in terms of expertise there was no si gnificant difference betw een the two genders F (1,242) =2.39; p=.123) (see table 24). The results showed that expertise has no significant effect between males (M=4.92, S.D. =.939) and females ( M=4.74, S.D.=1.12 ). Table 12 Dependent Variable: Expertise Gender Mean Std. Deviation N Male 4.9282 .93909 131 Female 4.7356 1.12132 118 Total 4.8369 1.03187 249 The same ANOVA proved that there was no significant effect between the two genders when taking the trustworth iness of the sour ce into account F (1,242) =.450 ; p=.503)(see table 25). The results determined that the trustworthin ess of the source has no statistical significance between males ( M=4.83, S.D. =.873 ) and females ( M=4.76, S.D. =.992).
38 Table 13 Dependent Variable: Trustworthiness S Gender Mean Std. Deviation N Male 4.8333 .87284 130 Female 4.7619 .99210 119 Total 4.7992 .93053 249 Additional analysis revealed that th ere was no statistical significance in terms of attractiveness between the two genders F (1,241) = .215; p =.643 (see table 26). It was discovered that there was no statistical significant results between males ( M=3.90, S.D.=1.07 ) and females ( M=3.84, S.D.=.993 ). Table 14 Dependent Variable: Attractiveness Gender Mean Std. Deviation N Male 3.9031 1.07906 129 Female 3.8487 .99267 119 Total 3.8770 1.03677 248 Hypothesis 4 The fourth hypothesis set out to de termine the potentia l relationship and interaction effects between message st rength and gender. Three one-way ANOVAs were used to test this hypothesis. It was determined that there was no significant effect between the in teraction of message strength and gender in terms of the expertise of the source F (1,242) =.901 ; p=.334(see table 24). These results showed that there was no statistical signi ficance in terms of e xpertise between males
39 distributing a strong and w eak message respectively ( M=5.05, S.D.=.891 M=4.82, S.D.=.975) and females distributing a str ong and weak message respectively( M=4.73, S.D.=1.20, M=4.74, S.D.=1.04) Table 15 Dependent Variable: Expertise Gender Message Mean Std. Deviation N male strong message 5.0523 .89112 65 weak message 4.8061 .97537 66 Total 4.9282 .93909 131 female strong message 4.7355 1.20097 62 weak message 4.7357 1.03685 56 Total 4.7356 1.12132 118 Total strong message 4.8976 1.06156 127 weak message 4.7738 1.00048 122 Total 4.8369 1.03187 249 A one way ANOVA was used to test th is hypothesis. It was determined that there was no significant effect between the in teraction of message strength and gender in terms of the trustworthiness of the source F (1,242 )=.663; p=.416 (see table 25). There results showed that there was no statistical significance in terms of trustworthiness between males distributing a strong and weak message respectively ( M=5.00, S.D.= .801 M=4.71, S.D.=.927) and females distributing a str ong and weak message respectively (M=4.77, S.D.=1.07, M=4.74, S.D.=.906).
40 Table 16 Dependent Variable: Trustworthiness Gender Message Mean Std. Deviation N Male strong message 4.9557 .80192 64 weak message 4.7146 .92716 66 Total 4.8333 .87284 130 Female strong message 4.7796 1.07199 62 weak message 4.7427 .90637 57 Total 4.7619 .99210 119 Total strong message 4.8690 .94484 126 weak message 4.7276 .91393 123 Total 4.7992 .93053 249 The same set of one way ANOVAs were us ed to further test this hypothesis. It was determine that there was no significant effect between the in teraction of message strength and gender in terms of th e attractiveness of the source F (1,241)=.631 ; p=.428)(see table 26). These re sults showed that there was no statistical significance in terms of attractiveness between males distributing a strong and weak message respectively ( M=5.00, S.D.=.801 M=4.71, S.D.=.927 ) and females distributing a strong and weak message respectively (M=4.77, S.D.=1.07, M=4.74, S.D.=.906 ).
41 Table 17 Dependent Variable: Attractiveness S Gender Message Mean Std. Deviation N Male strong message 3.9219 .96040 64 weak message 3.8846 1.19167 65 Total 3.9031 1.07906 129 female strong message 3.7661 .93088 62 weak message 3.9386 1.05674 57 Total 3.8487 .99267 119 Total strong message 3.8452 .94544 126 weak message 3.9098 1.12635 122 Total 3.8770 1.03677 248 Hypothesis 5 The fifth hypothesis was posed to dete rmine the possible interaction effects between the communicators ge nder and source affiliation. Three one-way ANOVA was used to test th is hypothesis. It was determined that there was no significant effect between th e interaction between the communicatorÂ’s gender and the affiliation with th e term public relations with re gard to the expertise of the source F (1,242)=.120; p=.729)(see table 24). The results showed that there was no statistical significance in terms of expertise between male public relations practitioners and non public relations pr actitioners respectively (M=4.81, S.D.=.971, M=5.05 S.D.=.892 ) and female public relations practit ioners and non pub lic relations respectively practitioners respectively (M=4.58, S.D.=1.22, M=4.89, S.D.=.991 ).
42 Table 18 Dependent Variable: Expertise SGender Affiliation Mean Std. Deviation N male nonpr 5.0548 .89235 62 pr 4.8145 .97155 69 Total 4.9282 .93909 131 female nonpr 4.8949 .99124 59 pr 4.5763 1.22564 59 Total 4.7356 1.12132 118 Total nonpr 4.9769 .94134 121 pr 4.7047 1.09802 128 Total 4.8369 1.03187 249 The ANOVA was used to further analyze this hypothesis. It was determine that there was no significant effect between th e interaction between the communicatorÂ’s gender and the affiliation with the term public relations with regard to the trustworthiness of the source F(1,242)=.250; p=.617)(see table 25). The resu lts showed that there was no statistical significance in terms of trustw orthiness between male public relations practitioners and non public relatio ns practitioners respectively (M=4.79, S.D.=.865, M=4.88, S.D.=.885) and female public relations pract itioners and non p ublic relations practitioners respectively (M=4.67, S.D.=1.01, M=4.85, S.D. =.969 ).
43 Table 19 Dependent Variable: Trustworthiness SGender Affiliation Mean Std. Deviation N male Nonpr 4.8790 .88561 62 Pr 4.7917 .86549 68 Total 4.8333 .87284 130 female Nonpr 4.8588 .96927 59 Pr 4.6667 1.01310 60 Total 4.7619 .99210 119 Total Nonpr 4.8691 .92351 121 Pr 4.7331 .93590 128 Total 4.7992 .93053 249 The ANOVA shed further light on the hypot hesis by revealing that there was no significant interactions between the communi catorÂ’s gender and the affiliation in terms of attractiveness of the source F (1,241)=.005; p=.941(see table 26). The results showed that there was no statistical si gnificance in terms of attrac tiveness between male public relations practitioners and non public re lations practitione rs respectively ( M=3.84, S.D.=1.18, M=3.98, S.D.=.956) and female public relations practitioners and non public relations respectively practitioners respectively (M=3.79, S.D.=1.13, M=3.91, S.D.=.827).
44 Hypothesis 6 The sixth hypothesis was set to dete rmine the possible interactions between message strength and source affiliation. It was determined that there was no si gnificant effect between the interaction between affiliation with the term public relations and message strength in regards to the expertise of the source F (1,242) =.081; p=.777(see table 24). There results showed that there was no statistical significance in te rms of expertise betw een public relations practitioners distributing a str ong and weak message respectively (M=4.78, S.D.=1.15 M=4.63, S.D.=1.05) and non public relations practitione rs distributing a strong and weak message respectively (M=5.00, S.D.=.959, M=4.94, S.D.=.919). Table 20 Dependent Variable Attractiveness Gender Affiliation Mean Std. Deviation N Male Non PR 3.9758 .95569 62 PR 3.8358 1.18510 67 Total 3.9031 1.07906 129 Female Non PR 3.9068 .82772 59 PR 3.7917 1.13605 60 Total 3.8487 .99267 119 Total Non PR 3.9421 .89254 121 PR 3.8150 1.15779 127 Total 3.8770 1.03677 248
45 Table 21 Dependent Variable: Expertise Affiliation Message Mean Std. Deviation N Non PR strong message 5.0030 .95916 66 weak message 4.9429 .91906 56 Total 4.9754 .93758 122 PR strong message 4.7839 1.14994 62 weak message 4.6303 1.05027 66 Total 4.7047 1.09802 128 Total strong message 4.8969 1.05740 128 weak message 4.7738 1.00048 122 Total 4.8368 1.02980 250 It was determine that there was no significant effect between the interaction between affiliation with the term pub lic relations and message st rength in regards to the trustworthiness of the source F (1,242) =.315; p=.575 (see table 25). The results showed that there was no statistical significance in terms of trustworthiness between public relations practitioners di stributing a strong and w eak message respectively (M=4.77, S.D.=.951 M=4.69, S.D.=.928) and non public relations pr actitioners distributing a strong and weak message respectively (M=4.94, S.D.=.936, M=4.76, S.D.=.904 ).
46 Table 22 Dependent Variable: Trustworthiness Affiliation Message Mean Std. Deviation N Non Pr strong message 4.9470 .93697 66 weak message 4.7619 .90445 56 Total 4.8620 .92305 122 Pr strong message 4.7705 .95120 61 weak message 4.6990 .92762 67 Total 4.7331 .93590 128 Total strong message 4.8622 .94423 127 weak message 4.7276 .91393 123 Total 4.7960 .93003 250 The ANOVA shed further light on the hypothe sis by revealing that there was are no significant interactions between affiliati on with the term public relations and message strength in regards to the attractiveness of the source F (1,241)=.599; p=.440 (see table 26). The results showed that there was no statis tical significance in terms of attractiveness between public relations pr actitioners distributing a strong and weak message respectively ( M=3.73, S.D.=.883 M=3.89, S.D.=1.37 ) and non public relations practitioners distributing a str ong and weak message respectively( M=3.95, S.D.=.987, M=3.92, S.D.=.765)
47 Table 23 Dependent Variable: Attractiveness Affiliation Message Mean Std. Deviation N Non PR Strong message 3.9545 .98733 66 Weak message 3.9286 .76532 56 Total 3.9426 .88886 122 PR Strong message 3.7295 .88305 61 Weak message 3.8939 1.36583 66 Total 3.8150 1.15779 127 Total Strong message 3.8465 .94178 127 Weak message 3.9098 1.12635 122 Total 3.8775 1.03471 249 Table 24 Dependent Variable : Expertise Source Type III Sum of Squares df Mean Square F Sig. Partial Eta Squared Corrected Model 9.703a 7 1.386 1.319 .242 .037 Intercept 5791.699 1 5791.699 5510.305 .000 .958 SGender 2.522 1 2.522 2.399 .123 .010 Message .646 1 .646 .614 .434 .003 Affiliation 4.566 1 4.566 4.344 .038 .018 SGender Message .947 1 .947 .901 .344 .004 SGender Affiliation .126 1 .126 .120 .729 .000 Message Affiliation .085 1 .085 .081 .777 .000 SGender Message Affiliation .676 1 .676 .643 .423 .003 Error 254.358 242 1.051 Total 6112.720 250 Corrected Total 264.061 249 a. R Squared = .037 (Adjusted R Squared = .009)
48 Table 25 Dependent Variable : Trustworthiness Source Type III Sum of Squares df Mean Square F Sig. Partial Eta Squared Corrected Model 5.439a 7 .777 .896 .510 .025 Intercept 5693.495 1 5693.495 6563.109 .000 .964 SGender .390 1 .390 .450 .503 .002 Message .929 1 .929 1.071 .302 .004 Affiliation .897 1 .897 1.034 .310 .004 SGender Message .575 1 .575 .663 .416 .003 SGender Affiliation .217 1 .217 .250 .617 .001 Message Affiliation .273 1 .273 .315 .575 .001 SGender Message Affiliation 2.056 1 2.056 2.370 .125 .010 Error 209.935 242 .867 Total 5965.778 250 Corrected Total 215.374 249 a. R Squared = .025 (Adjusted R Squared = .003)
49 Table 26 Dependent Variable : Attractiveness Source Type III Sum of Squares df Mean Square F Sig. Partial Eta Squared Corrected Model 3.654a 7 .522 .480 .848 .014 Intercept 3711.937 1 3711.937 3416.240 .000 .934 SGender .234 1 .234 .215 .643 .001 Message .336 1 .336 .309 .579 .001 Affiliation 1.031 1 1.031 .949 .331 .004 SGender Message .685 1 .685 .631 .428 .003 SGender Affiliation .006 1 .006 .005 .941 .000 Message Affiliation .650 1 .650 .599 .440 .002 SGender Message Affiliation .832 1 .832 .766 .382 .003 Error 261.860 241 1.087 Total 4009.250 249 Corrected Total 265.514 248 a. R Squared = .014 (Adjusted R Squared = -.015)
50 Hypothesis 7 The seventh hypothesis stated that the cr edibility of the source wi ll have an influence on the participants attitudes towa rds the public relations message. A standard multiple regression analysis was performed between the dependent variable attitude towards the public relati ons message and the independent variable source credibility divided into three dime nsions: expertise, tr ustworthiness, and attractiveness. Regression analysis revealed that the model significantly predicted an individualÂ’s attitude toward the public relations message F (3,243)=21.29,p<.001. R for the model was .208 and adjusted R was .198. Table 27 displa ys the unstandardized regression coeffients (B), intercept, a nd standardized regression coefficients ( ) for each variable. Table 27 Model Unstandardized Coefficients Standardized Coefficients t Sig. B Std. Error Beta (Constant) 1.771 .253 7.007 .000 Expertise .072 .059 .103 1.214 .226 Trustworthiness .263 .066 .338 3.989 .000 Attractiveness .085 .040 .124 2.140 .033 a. Dependent Variable: Attitude Towards the Editorial Piece In terms of individual relationships betw een the independent variable and attitude towards the public relati ons message, expertise ( =.103, p=.226 ), trustworthiness ( =.338,p<.001 ), and attractiveness is ( =.124, p=.003 ). Trustworthiness and
51 attractiveness both significantly influence th e individualÂ’s attitude s towards the public relations message. Hypothesis 8 The eighth hypothesis stated that s ource credibility would infl uence the participants general attitude towards the A lternative Energy Corporation. A standard multiple regression analysis was performed between the dependent variables attitude towards the Alternativ e Energy Corporation and the independent variable source credibility divided into three dimensions: expertise, trustworthiness, and attractiveness. Regression analysis revealed that the model significantly predicted an individualÂ’s attitude towards th e Alternative Energy Corporation F(3,243)=23.04 ,p<.001. R for the model was .222 and adjusted R was .212. Table 28 displays the unstandardized regression coeffients (B), intercept, and sta ndardized regression coefficients ( ) for each variable. Table 28 Model Unstandardized Coefficients Standardized Coefficients t Sig. B Std. Error Beta 1 (Constant) 2.115 .234 9.021 .000 Expertise .019 .055 .029 .342 .732 Trustworthiness .326 .061 .448 5.337 .000 Attractiveness .005 .037 .007 .130 .897 a. Dependent Variable: Attitude Towards the Corporation In terms of individual relationships between the independe nt variables and attitude towards the Alternativ e Energy Corporation, expertise ( =.029, t=.342 ),
52 trustworthiness ( =.448,t=.5.33 ), and attractiveness is ( =.007, t=.130). Trustworthiness showed a signifi cant influence on the individualÂ’s attitudes towards the Corporation. Hypothesis 9 The ninth hypothesis stated that source credibility will have an impact on the future behavioral intentions of the participants of the study. A standard multiple regression analysis was performed between the dependent variable behavioral intenti ons towards alternative energy and the independent variable source credibility divided into three dime nsions: expertise, tr ustworthiness, and attractiveness. Regression analysis revealed that the model significantly predicted an individualÂ’s behavi oral intentions, F(3,236)=23.04 ,p<.001. R for the model was .103 and adjusted R was .091. Table 29 displays the unst andardized regression coeffients (B), intercept, and standardized regression coefficients ( ) for each variable. Table 29 Model Unstandardized Coefficients Standardized Coefficients t Sig. B Std. Error Beta (Constant) 1.761 .324 5.432 .000 Expertise .011 .075 .013 .143 .886 Trustworthiness .217 .083 .236 2.615 .010 Attractiveness .138 .051 .171 2.732 .007 Dependent Variab le: Behavior
53 In terms of individual relationships betw een the independent variables behavioral intentions towards alternative energy, expertise ( =.013, t=.143), trustworthiness ( =2.36,t=2.62) and attractiveness is ( =.171, t=2.73). Both trustworthiness and attractiveness showed a significant influence on the individualÂ’s behavioral intentions towards alternative energy.
54 Chapter Six Conclusion Public relations messages have garnered a credibility problem over the years. Studies have shown that public relations pr actitioners and the me ssages they produce are seen in less favorable light than those not a ffiliated with the term public relations. Public relations messages sources are generally viewed by the public as a less truthful, believable and viable source of a message. (Saunders, 1993; Judd, 2004, Callison, 2002; Callison, 2004). The main purpose of this study was to determine what effects, if any, communicator gender, message strength and affi liation with the term public relations has on the subsequent credibility on the source of the message. Source Credibility, Message Strength, Source Affiliation and Communicator Gender In terms of source credibility, the results of several studies have determined that messages with stronger message strength are pe rceived as having grea ter credibility with than messages with lower message strengt h. Researchers have verified that the communicator who uses arguments that cont ain strong claims that are relevant and readily and easily verifiable will foster more positive thoughts towards the brand, product and organization that weak arguments (P etty & Cacioppo, 1986). Contrary to these findings, the results of this study indicate no significant difference in the perceived
55 believability of strong and w eak messages. Although the mean of the stronger message was higher than the weaker message, this rati ng did not reach statisti cal significance. This study measured each aspect of source credibil ity under the three dimensions discussed in the literature. Conversely, to fi ndings in similar studies stated in the literatur e, this study showed no statistical signifi cance between message strength and source credibility. The independent variable message strength was isolated to analyze the credibility of the source measure using expertise, trustwor thiness and attractiveness. There was no statistical credibility found in regards to message strength. There could be various why strong messages and weak messages had no stat istical significance in this study. Perhaps the topic chosen in previous studies had a less positive polarizing effect on the audience and it was easier for the participants to draw distinctions between stronger and weaker messages. The company used in this study was a fi ctitious company, the Alternative Energy Corporation, which is based on an actual co mpany the Alternative Energy Sources Inc. Many individuals already believe that altern ative sources of ener gy are a popular and cheap means of producing energy. This agre eability of the gene ral usefulness and efficiency of alternative energy sources could potentially be the reason behind the lack of statistical significance between the strong and the weak messages. In addition the participants may have had prior knowledge a bout alternative energy sources and its uses. This may have skewed the participants vi ew on the general message due to the prior favorable consensus on the topic of altern ative energy. However, this study did not include any questions to te st for prior knowledge.
56 Based on earlier conclusions found in pr evious research claiming that messages distributed by public relations practitioners are perceived as less credible than messages distributed by non public relations practiti oners (Callison, 2001), this study included affiliation with the term pub lic relations as its second independent variable. The anticipated results for this study fell in line wi th the results of the Callison experiment. Subjects were expected to view the public relations practitioners as less credible and attribute similar judgments to the organiza tions they represent. The results however showed no statistical difference between public relations professionals and a source not affiliated with the term public relations. This did not suppor t the findings in previous research done in this specific area. The study indicated that th ere is no statistical significance in terms of the di fference between labeled public relations practitioners and non-labeled practitioners except in terms of their respective expertise. Public relations practitioners were seen statistically less credible than non-la beled public relations practitioners in terms of their expertise. In this study, the label assigned to the non public relations was Energy Distributi on Specialist. The results in terms of expertise, however statistically significant they may be, might not carry the weight desired due to the label assigned to the non public relations practitioner. The participants were aware this source was an expert due to the labe l assigned to him/her. Public relations professionals were seen as the statistically the same a non-aff iliated source distributing the same message. In addition, to the findings that there we re no statistically significant difference between in the credibility rating between labeled practitioners and non labeled practitioner in terms of their trustworthiness and attractiveness, the results showed the
57 means of the non labeled practitioners to be hi gher than the labeled practitioner across all dimensions of source credibility mentioned in the literature. Based of previous research that show ed the gender variable has no statistical significance on message credibil ity (Freiden, 1984; Spitzberg 1987), this study chooses to add the independent variable gende r to further test this concep t. The anticipated results of this study were that the part icipants would find male comm unicators more credible than female communicators when measured agains t the three dimensions of credibility analyzed in the literature. The gender sche ma theory proposes that Â“the phenomenon of sex typing and differentiation derives, in pa rt, from gender-based schematic processing, from a generalized readiness to proce ss information on the basis of sex-linked associationsÂ” (Bem, 1981, p. 354). The findings did not statistically support the posed hypothesis or theory. There were no statisti cal significant differences between the male and females in this study. However, the m eans in this study where slightly higher for males than they were for females in terms of their general credibility. This study further examined the rela tionships between the gender of the communicator and message strength. The resear cher anticipated a discovery that would coincide with the Kempf and Palan (2006) research. It was antic ipated that male communicators will be perceived as more cr edible when message strength was high and least credible when message strength was low. However, the results of this survey did not support the posited hypothesis. There was no statistical signifi cance found between message strength and gender in terms of exper tise, trustworthiness and attractiveness. This study also sought to discover if ther e was an interaction effect between the communicatorÂ’s gender and s ource affiliation. There was no statistical significant
58 difference between gender and source affiliati on in regards to expertise, trustworthiness and attractiveness of the sour ce. Since the results of the study found no significant results between with gender and source affiliation respec tively, the lack of st atistical significance here was unsurprising. A final interaction hypothesis was set to discover if there was any interaction effect between message strength and sour ce affiliation. The study anticipated that a strong message would be enhanced by an exp ect source but will loose its effect when presented by a non-expert source. The result s showed no statistical significance between source affiliation and message strength. The non public relations s ource for the purposes of this study was identified as an Energy Distribution Specialist. This title however ceased to produce a statistica lly significant result amongst th e participants. Neither the public relations source nor th e non-labeled public relations source reached statistical significance amongst the participan ts in the study and there was no statistical significance with its interaction with message strength. Behavioral Intentions Attitudes towards the Message and Organization In this study, three regr ession analyses were done to determine the correlations and possible interactions betw een source credibility as measured by the three dimensions of source credibility discussed in the litera ture review: expertise, trustworthiness and attractiveness. One of the principle inten tions behind having a credible source is the production of favorable intentions towards th e organization, brand, or product. Hence, for this study it was important to analysis the correlations between th e credibility of the source and the correlating att itudes and behavioral intenti ons of the participants.
59 This study stated the postulate of the Elaboration Likelihood Model that claims that an individual will receive a message, ex amine it, and form an opinion, while other times individuals will listen to the message not actively process it, and simply allow external factors to persuade them. This study showed a significant result in terms of the participantÂ’s attitudes towards the public relations message and their opinions on the communicatorÂ’s trustworthiness and attractiv eness. The communicatorÂ’s attractiveness had a significant impact on th eir message acceptability. This supports the pe ripheral route of the ELM that claims that an individual wi ll receive the message, not actively process it, but alternately allow external factor such as the attractiveness of the communicator to sway their attitudes. However, according to the results of the study, the participants did not appear to process the information centrally due to the fact that there was no significant difference between the strong message that contained facts and official s ources and the weak message that did not contain facts and figures The participants did not also appear to process the information peripherally, because there was no significant difference between the communicatorÂ’s genders and their respective titles. Nowadays, individuals are inundated with advertisements, pamphlets, public service announcements, and various sorts of persuasive information. The researcher proposes a Â“theoreticalÂ” route of the Elabor ation Likelihood Model wh ere the receiver of the message views the information and uncons ciously chooses to disregards it totally. The individual chooses not to process the in formation at all due to the high volumes of cognitive energy needed to pro cess the myriad of persuasive information on a daily bases. This would help clarify the l ack of statistical si gnificance in the resu lts in this study.
60 A simple regression was conducted in the study to examine the relationship between source credibility and the participantÂ’s attitude towards the Corporation. In this case, trustworthiness was the only significan t variable discovered in terms of the participantÂ’s attitude toward the messa ge and their subsequent opinion of the Corporation. This is enlightening for the fu ture in terms of general message design for public relations practit ioners. Public relations practi tioner should develop a certain amount of trustworthiness amongs t their pertinent publics in or der to be able to portray their organizations in the best light. The results of this study show that individuals should have a more favorable opinion of the cor poration if the spokesperson appears to be trustworthy. A final simple regression was done to de termine the impact source credibility has on the behavioral intentions of the part icipants. Once again, trustworthiness and attractiveness were the only two significant va riables. Trustworthiness is very important in garnering the support of a corporations publics and establishi ng credibility as a profession. One possible explanation for the general lack of statistical significance in this study in may be the channel used to deliver the message in this study. An editorial piece format was used to convey the message s attributed to the Alternative Energy Corporation. Perhaps the participants of th e study considered the editorial piece general information and by default factual. If a standard press release were use, the participants would have perhaps been more aware of th e intentions of persuasion the piece was intending to convey. An editorial piece was uti lized in order to inco rporate the picture of
61 the author of the message more smoothly and further emphasis the importance of the independent variable of gender.
62 Chapter Seven Discussions and Recommendations This study sought to investigate the re lationships between source credibility, source affiliation, gender, and message strengt h. It was asked if the independent variables have an influencing effect on the perceive d credibility of public relations message sources. The findings indicate that message strength and gender have no influencing effect on the credibility of public relations message sources. Affiliation with the term public relations has a slight significance, only in term s of the expertise of the communicator. Additionally, audiences see trustworthiness and attractiveness as key factors influencing their subs equent attitudes and behavior s towards an organization. These findings did not support previous findings that have attributed lower credibility scores to public re lations practitioners. According to previous research public relations, practitioners are faci ng a credibility crisis. The re sults of this study failed to support that claim. This is good news for practitioners currently working in the industry and for those soon to join. If a practitioner can establish a si ncere base of trust between themselves, the organizations they represen t, and the publics associated with their company the public relations practitioner can turn the present credibility crisis into a credibility success.
63 Limitations of the Study Although the study presented findings th at highlighted the links between trustworthiness to positive attitudes about the message, corporation and subsequent behavioral intentions, it had several limitati ons which prevents the generalization of the findings. Undergraduate students were used as th e participants for th is study. The use of undergraduate students in social science se tting is a general limitation of many studies. Because these participants are not randomly se lected, the results cannot be generalized to a larger audience. Only one specific picture of the communicator from each gender was used. In further research, perhaps diffe rent pictures of varying at tractiveness can be used to analyze the attractiveness dimension of source credibility more closely. The study only used one mean to delive r the message, the editorial piece. Perhaps the participants would have had a grea ter understanding of the message and the interactions between the variables if a diffe rent means of message delivery such as a public service announcement was used. Suggestions for Future Research This study utilized experimental research in order to determine the influencing effects source credibility, messages stre ngth and communicator gender has on source credibility. Additional steps s hould be taken to further und erstand the influences the independent variables have as singular entiti es on source credibility and their potential interaction effects with one another. The data collected in the study suggests many new directions for future research in the field. For example, the following studies are needed
64 in order to test the variables and their in fluences on source credibility more thoroughly and be able to apply it to real world situations I. A replication of the curren t research. Further resear ch should be conducted in order to determine the relationships amongs t the independent variables. However, other participants should be used in future research. The samples should not consist of undergraduate st udents in a general educati on introductory class. II. A replication of current research with a different means of delivering the message. This study used editorial pieces, future re search should comprise of video Public Service Announcements (PSA),press releases or advertising copy. III. A replication of the current research with a different main topic. This study used alternative energy as the s ubject of its message. Future research should use a less agreeable topic which could easily provide for stronger and weaker message points. Guidance for Practitioners Practitioners can use this research as a t ool to explain to the organizations they represent the best possible ways to present th emselves to receive adequate credibility and subsequent trustworthiness fr om their pertinent publics Public relations practitioners must unde rstand the lenses under which they are scrutinized. The public according to estab lished literature does not consider public relations practitioner as credib le sources of information. The research collected in this study and future experimental research s hould guide practitioners in the way of
65 developing an open honest and tr usting relationship w ith their organizationÂ’s internal and external publics in or der to garner credibility as pr ofessionals and as an industry.
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77 A.1: Survey Instructions: This packet contains questions about your impression of the editorial piece you just read. Please answer as honestly as possible. Your responses will remain completely confidential. The fist set of questions have to do with the author of the editorial page you just read. Using the scales presented below, please describe your reactions to the author by pu tting a check mark he appropriate position on each scale. In my opinion, the author of the editorial piece is (an): 1. Expert ____: ____: ____: ____: ____: ____:____ Non Expert 2. Inexperienced: ____: ____: ____: ____: ____: ____:____ Experienced 3. Knowledgeable ____: ____: ____: ___: ____: ____:____ Unknowledgeable 4. Unqualified: ____: ____: ____: ____: ____: ____:____ Qualified 5. Skilled: ____: ____: ____: ____: ____: ___ _:____ Unskilled 6. Undependable ____: ____: ____: ____: ____: ____:____ Dependable 7. Honest ____: ____: ____: ____: ____: ____:____ Dishonest 8. Unreliable ____: ____: ____: ____: ____: ____:____ Reliable 9. Sincere ____: ____: ____: ____: ____: ____:____ Insincere 10. Untrustworthy ____: ____: ____: ____: ____: ____:____ Trustworthy 11. Unattractive ____: ____: ____: ____: ____: ____:____ Attractive 12. Beautiful ____: ____: ____: ____: ____: ____:____ Ugly 13. Insincere ____: ____: ____: ____: ____: ____:____ Sincere 14. Non Â–Assertive ____: ____: ____: ____: ____: ____:____ Assertive 15. Sympathetic ____: ____: ____: ___: ____: ____:____ Non -Sympathetic 16. Aggressive ____: ____: ____: ____: ____: ____:____ Passive 17. Non Dominant ____: ____: ____: ____: ____: ____:____ Dominant 18. Compassion ____: ____: ____: ____: ____: ____:____ Not Compassionate 19. Specialist ____: ____: ____: ____: ____: ____:____ Non Specialist
78 The following questions ask your opinions on the message strength of the editorial piece you just read. Please use the following scales to indicate your opinions: 20. The editorial piece was convincing 21. The editorial piece was informative 22. The editorial piece sends a strong message 23. The editorial piece was believable Strongly Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Disagree 5 4 3 2 1 5 4 3 2 1 5 4 3 2 1 5 4 3 2 1 The following questions ask your attitudes abou t the editorial piece you just read. Please use the following scales to indicate your opinions: 24. The editorial piece from the Alternative Energy Corporation is informative 25. The editorial piece from the Alternative Energy Corporation is credible 26. The editorial piece from the Alternative Energy Corporation is trustworthy: Strongly Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Disagree 5 4 3 2 1 5 4 3 2 1 5 4 3 2 1
79 The following questions ask your attitudes to wards the Alternative Energy Corporation. Please use the following scales to indicate your opinions: 27. My attitude towards the Alternative Energy Corporation is favorable 28. My attitude towards the Alternative Energy Corporation is positive 29. My attitude towards the Alternative Energy Corporation is generally good Strongly Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Disagree 5 4 3 2 1 5 4 3 2 1 5 4 3 2 1 The following questions ask your attitudes about the new plant opening in Fort Myers. Please use the following scales to indicate your opinions: 30. My attitude towards the Microhydro Power Plant opening in Fort Myers is favorable: 31. My attitude towards the Microhydro Power Plant opening in Fort Myers is negative: 32. I like the idea of opening the Microhydro Power Plant in Fort Myers: Strongly Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Disagree 5 4 3 2 1 5 4 3 2 1 5 4 3 2 1 The following questions ask your behaviors relat ed to alternative energy sources. Please use the following scales to indicate your opinions: 33. I would switch to an alternative source of energy if an electricity plant opened in my location 34. I would forward email about the importance of alternative energy to my family/friends 35. I would be actively involved in protecting the environments natural resources Strongly Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Disagree 5 4 3 2 1 5 4 3 2 1 5 4 3 2 1
80 The following questions will help us understand your answers. Please respond by marking the appropriate box: 36. What is your gender? Female Male 37. Please indicate your academic rank: Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior Other: _______________________ 38. What college are you in? Arts/Sciences Business Education Engineering Honors College Medicine Nursing Visual/Performing Arts Public Health Other: _______________
81 B1: Male/Non PR title/Strong Message
82 B2: Male/Non PR title/Weak Message
83 B3: Male/PR title/Strong Message
84 B4: Male/PR title/Weak Message
85 B5: Female/Non PR title/Strong Message
86 B6: Female/Non PR title/Weak Message
87 B7: Female/PR title/Strong Message
88 B8: Female/PR title/Weak Message