Connecting Abstract Goals With The Means To Achieve Them: Construal Level Theory, Strategic Messages, And Mobile Technology

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This work provides theoretical models that adapt construal level theory to the study of persuasion and describes findings from tests of several key propositions. The first chapter provides a theoretical model that proposes how the concepts of abstraction and distance influence the processing of persuasive messages. Chapter 2 tests two different mechanisms of fostering cognitive bridging, which is a connection between specific behavioral choices and goals. In three experiments (n = 263, n = 145, n= 145), the induced process was effective at fostering cognitive bridging, while the integrated process was not. This suggests that cognitive bridging can be fostered through the text of the persuasive message, regardless of how abstractly or concretely somebody is initially thinking. In Chapter 3, interactions between construal level theory and psychological reactance theory are explored through two experiments (n = 84, n = 79). Both experiments illustrate that when individuals are thinking specifically (low construal level), the message is psychologically close, and threat to choice is high, message effectiveness is lowest. However, when the individual is shifted to think more abstractly (high construal level), message effectiveness can increase. This suggests that it might be possible to deliver a message featuring a high threat to choice if the individual is processing the message abstractly. In Chapter 4, the affordances of mobile technology are connected to the concepts in construal level theory to present a theoretical model. In Chapter 5, three experiments (n = 232, n = 82, n = 47) test the concept of shifting to explore whether it is possible to shift how abstractly or concretely somebody is processing information using a mobile device. Finally, Chapter 6 concludes with a future research agenda for the study of construal level theory in the field of communication.
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Persuasion; Construal Level Theory
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Byrne, Sahara E.
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Regan, Dennis Thomas
Shapiro, Michael A
Gay, Geraldine K
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Ph. D., Communication
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Doctor of Philosophy
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dissertation or thesis
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