Processing Social Information in MessagesSocial Group Familiarity, Fiction Versus Nonfiction, and Subsequent Beliefs
This experiment examines the impact of messages on subsequent beliefs about social groups. As a result of probable differences between the processing of familiar versus unfamiliar social information, nonfiction messages are expected to influence beliefs about social group member characteristics more than do fiction messages only when the social group described is relatively familiar. The experiment is a 2 × 2 within-subjects design, with 16 stimuli arranged in a 4 × Greco-Latin square. Twenty-four subjects received one of four sets of prose excerpts, each excerpt labeled as fiction or nonfiction and manipulated to refer to a familiar or unfamiliar social group. Interactions between familiarity and fiction / nonfiction status on beliefs about social group member characteristics and on confidence in belief estimates are found. It is concluded that the impact of fiction messages about unfamiliar peoples on readers' beliefs may well be equal to or greater than that of nonfiction messages.