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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 1615

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: Journal Article

Douglas KM, Sutton RM.
Right about others, wrong about ourselves? Actual and perceived self-other differences in resistance to persuasion
Br J Soc Psychol 2004 Dec; 43:(Pt 4):585-603


The third-person effect (TPE) is the tendency for people to perceive the media as more influential on others than on themselves. This study introduced a new methodological paradigm for measuring the TPE and examined whether the effect stems from an overestimation of the persuasibility of others, an underestimation of the persuasibility of the self, both, or neither.

In three studies, we compared ratings of:

(a) current self attitudes (both baseline and post-persuasion),

(b) current others’ attitudes (both baseline and post-persuasion),

© retrospective self attitudes, and (

d) retrospective others’ attitudes.

We also measured traditional third-person perception ratings of perceived influence. Rather than overestimating others’ attitude change, we found evidence that people underestimated the extent to which their own attitudes had, or would have, changed.

Adult Attitude* Female Firearms/legislation & jurisprudence* Humans Male New Zealand Personal Construct Theory* Persuasive Communication* Prospective Studies Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't Retrospective Studies Self Concept* Social Conformity* Students/psychology


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You are going to have many difficulties. The smokers will not like your message. The tobacco interests will be vigorously opposed. The media and the government will be loath to support these findings. But you have one factor in your favour. What you have going for you is that you are right.
- Evarts Graham
When truth is unwelcome: the first reports on smoking and lung cancer.