Is it true? (When) does it matter? The roles of likelihood and desirability in argument judgments and attitudes

Date of Completion

January 2005


Psychology, Social




Several theoretical perspectives either directly or indirectly specify roles for likelihood and desirability information in argument judgments and attitude formation. Some perspectives assume that argument judgments and attitudes are a function of the likelihood of the consequences or conclusions, others contend that the desirability of the consequences or conclusions underlie judgments and attitudes, and expectancy-value perspectives, (e.g., Fishbein, 1963) propose that judgments and attitudes should depend on the likelihood × desirability interaction. Construal level theory (CLT; Trope & Liberman, 2003) also suggests that both likelihood and desirability information impact argument judgments and attitudes, but the roles of each are moderated by when the outcomes are to occur. Three studies examined the sometimes-competing predictions regarding the roles of these variables by orthogonally manipulating levels of likelihood and desirability. Although likelihood and desirability both emerged as components of argument strength, and contributed to attitudes, all 3 studies showed that desirability information was more closely associated with argument strength and attitudes than was likelihood information. In Study 1a, argument strength was shown to mediate the desirability-attitude relation. The likelihood × desirability interaction did not predict attitudes in a manner consistent with expectancy-value predictions, though in some instances likelihood and desirability judgments interacted to predict attitudes and attitude change in the predicted expectancy-value pattern. Studies 1b and 2 showed that the desirability-attitude relation was best described as a cubic trend consistent with prospect theory. CLT predictions examined in Study 2 were largely unsupported. Theoretical and methodological implications are discussed. ^