An Investigation of the Persuasive Effects Of Rhetorical Questions, Message Framing, and the Elm In Promoting Responsible Cell Phone Usage

Robert James Glenn III


This study evaluated persuasive messages that advocate support for a ban against cell phones while driving using Petty and Cacioppo's Elaboration Likelihood Model of persuasion as its theoretical framework. Seven hypotheses were tested using a 2 x 2 x 2 factorial design assessing the influence of need for cognition (high vs. low) in tandem with the variables of message framing (gain vs. loss statements) and message form (questions vs. statements) upon assessments of elaboration (ME), cognition message value (CMV), message effectiveness ratings (MEF), and attitude toward the prescribed behavior (ATPB). A significant main effect was found for message framing as positively framed messages produced more positive ratings for CMV, the degree to which individuals found the advocacy to be intellectually stimulating and worthwhile as vehicles for persuasion. A pair of significant two way interactions were detected as: (1) High need for cognition individuals registered a stronger commitment toward the prescribed behavior ("don't use a cell phone while driving") when exposed to negatively framed messages; and (2) Low cognition receivers exposed to negatively framed messages registered a greater willingness to adopt the targeted behavior, future intent not to use a cell phone while driving. This latter result partially contradicted the original hypothesis.