Personal involvement and the robustness of perceptual salience effects

Eugene Borgida, Beth Howard-Pitney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Conducted 2 experiments, using a total of 146 undergraduates, to examine the generalizability of perceptual salience effects. Previous research in social cognition established that "top of the head" processing is a robust inferential bias even in involving task situations. It was expected, however, that perceivers who were personally involved in an issue would be more motivated than less-involved perceivers to shift attention from salient cues to attitudinally congruent but nonsalient message cues. In both experiments, salience was manipulated by varying the visual prominence of discussants in a 2-person conversation. In Exp I, involvement was experimentally manipulated by varying whether perceivers would be personally affected by an issue. In Exp II, involvement was operationalized as a subject variable. The results suggest that personal involvement indeed constitutes a boundary condition for salience effects. As expected, ratings of highly involved perceivers reflected more systematic processing of message arguments, regardless of which discussant was visually salient, whereas ratings of less-involved perceivers reflected "top of the head" processing. The analogous influence of personal involvement in persuasion research and the role of individual difference variables in research on inferential biases are discussed. (25 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)560-570
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1983


  • personal involvement in conversation, perceptual salience effects, college students


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