The Role of Intentionality in Social
How Individual Difference Variables Can Help
Build Communications Theories of Persuasion
Janas E. Sinclair
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Philosophers of science emphasize that social scientific
theories provide the most complete explanation of phenomenon when
they account for the intentions of individuals. In this paper it is
argued that mass communication theories of persuasion are also best
able to explain human behavior when the intentions of individuals are
considered. Mass communication theories of persuasion that do not
account for intentions are examined. Individual difference variables
are also examined as a way in which researchers may account for the
intentions of individuals. To identify a phenomenon as intentional is
to identify it as something which was brought about for some reason .
. . [which] suggests that an adequate explanation of a social
phenomenon would have to include, or be based upon, an account of the
reasons or motivations which led to the behavior which brought about
the phenomenon in question (Fay & Moon, 1977/1994, p. 30).
Philosophers of social science have distinguished the social sciences from the
natural, or biological, sciences on the basis of intentionality (Elster, 1979;
Little, 1991). In the biological sciences, one of the primary goals is to
understand the functioning of the human body. Knowledge of people's intentions
is peripheral to this goal. Although people's intentions concerning
health-related behaviors may affect their health, the relationship between
motives and the occurrence of health-related behavior is primarily a topic of
study for the social sciences. In the social sciences the primary purpose of
study is to understand human behavior, and with most social scientific theories
it would be difficult to sketch even a simple description of human behavior
without alluding to the intentions that motivated that behavior. Consider the
examples of people who smoke, or people who fail to obtain routine medical
check-ups. It is hard to contemplate these behaviors without wondering what
motivated people to act (or not act) in these ways.
Mass communication research is one field of social science in which intentions
may be of particular interest. In the case of people who smoke or people who
fail to obtain check-ups, the central research question might be: How can these
people be persuaded to take better care of their health? Current models of
attitude change, including the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM; Petty &
Cacioppo, 1981; 1986) and Heuristic-Systematic Model (HSM; Eagly & Chaiken,
1993) both emphasize the effects of individual intentions on the degree to which
people attend to a persuasive message. If a message corresponds with people's
intentions, then they will process the message more carefully than if the
message does not correspond with their intentions (Eagly & Chaiken). For
example, an anti-smoking message might emphasize the social stigma attached to
those who smoke. This message might not be persuasive for people who are not
particularly motivated to consider the social acceptability of their behavior.
These people will most likely pass over the message without thinking about it
very carefully and neither their attitudes nor their behavior will be
influenced. On the other hand, a message that corresponds with people's
intentions may grab their attention. They may think about the message carefully
and as a result their attitudes, and eventually their behavior, may change.
Understanding intentions appears to be a crucial step in understanding
persuasion. It is possible, however, to describe behavior without describing
intentions. Dennett (1971), a philosopher of science, describes two approaches
in which individual intentions are not considered: the design stance and the
physical stance. In persuasion research, adoption of the design stance would
lead theorists to develop a single model of persuasion that would apply to all
people. It seems that early research in mass communication approached the study
of persuasion from the design stance. As in the design stance, early models of
media effects did not consider how differences among people, including
differences in intentions, might affect persuasion. Another theoretical
approach that does not involve consideration of individual intentions is the
physical stance, which for human subjects, is basically a physiological
explanation of behavior. Persuasion models based on the physical stance would
describe persuasion processes at the level of neuro-physiology -- an approach
that has not been widely adopted by communication scholars, but does appear in
research examining subconscious processing (Zajonc, 1980; Janiszewski, 1990).
Dennett also describes and advocates a third approach to studying phenomenon,
the intentional stance. According to Dennett, knowledge of the intentions that
underlie and give rise to behaviors not only provides a more complete picture of
a given phenomenon but also enhances the predictive power of a theory. When the
reasons for a behavior are understood, better predictions can be made concerning
when the behavior will or will not occur based on individuals' intentions.
Theories can more clearly delineate the processes that lead to certain behaviors
when individual intentions concerning communications-related behaviors are
specified. It seems that current models of persuasion, such as the ELM and HSM,
can be described as examples of the intentional stance. These models allow for
consideration of the effects of individuals' intentions on persuasion.
If researchers adopt the ELM or HSM approach to persuasion, then they are faced
with the question of how they can account for individuals' intentions as these
models prescribe. One method is to consider the effects of stable individual
differences in personality. Many personality variables are conceptualized as
measures of people's stable intentions or goals, and these goals are thought to
function as the organizing forces behind people's behaviors (Murray, 1938;
Allport, 1937). A personality variable, therefore, can serve as a vehicle for
achieving the kind of "adequate explanation" of persuasion that Fay and Moon
(1977/1994) advocate for all social scientific research, because personality
variables can account for the reasons for behavior. The first goal of this
paper is to consider three basic approaches to research -- the design, physical,
and intentional stances -- and to examine how these stances have manifested
themselves in mass communication research on persuasion. The second goal is to
examine the role of personality variables in accounting for individuals' goals
in the case in which the intentional stance is adopted for the study of
persuasion. Before these goals are addressed, however, the basic meaning of
intentionality should be examined so that the implications of adopting or not
adopting a research stance that allows for intentionality will be more clearly
The philosopher Elster (1985/1994) defines intentionality in terms of three
requirements for the relationships between people's cognitions and goals on one
hand, and their behavior on the other. The first requirement for intentionality
is that given a person's beliefs, his or her behavior must be perceived as the
best means to realize a given desire. In other words, the behavior must be the
best way to achieve a certain goal according to the person's perceptions. This
requirement alone, however, is not enough to ensure intentionality. First, it
is not sufficient requirement for the actual occurrence of behavior. Second,
the requirement does not rule out the possibility that a behavior might be
caused by something other than a person's desires and cognitions. For example,
as part of a scene in a play an actor might be instructed to shudder. The actor
might hold the beliefs and desires that would lead her to shudder; however, when
she shudders in the scene it might actually be because she saw a snake on the
set. Such involuntary behavior should be excluded from the definition of
intentionality. Elster, therefore, states that the second requirement for
intentionality is that the person's cognitions and desires must be the direct
cause of behavior.
Given these two requirements, however, it is still possible that a person's
cognitions and desires caused the behavior through some non-intentional process.
For example, consider that a rock climber desires to be rid of the weight and
danger of holding another climber on a rope. He believes that by letting go of
the rope he can fulfill this desire. His beliefs and desire are extremely
unsettling, and they cause him to panic. This panic, in turn, leads him to lose
his grasp of the rope. In this case, the climber's belief and desire caused the
behavior, yet the behavior was not intentional because he did not purposely
choose the behavior. Elster suggests we would not want to consider his letting
go of the rope in this instance as intentional behavior. In order to eliminate
such phenomenon from the definition of intentionality, the third requirement
states that the person's cognitions and desires must cause the behavior qua
reasons. In other words, intentional behavior must involve conscious
consideration and selection of that behavior.
Elster provides further insight into the meaning of intentionality by referring
to the myth of Ulysses and the Sirens (Elster, 1979). Ulysses wanted to hear
the beautiful song of the Sirens, but did not want to fall under the Sirens'
spell and meet his death. Therefore he instructed his crew to tie him to his
ship. Additionally, the crew was not to release him, no matter how much he
might beg, while he listened to the Sirens. Ulysses demonstrated intentionality
because rather than being a "passive and irrational vehicle for his changing
wants and desires" (Elster, 1979, p. 36) he consciously chose the action that
allowed him to achieve his desire (listening to the Sirens) given his cognitions
about the situation (he would die unless he took certain precautions). In mass
communication research, it is similarly theorized that people choose to either
carefully consider persuasive messages or ignore them and then act accordingly.
Not all theoretical perspectives, however, have considered the intentionality of
behavior. In the following sections, the implications of how intentionality is
treated will be considered for three types of persuasion theories: bullet
theory, subconscious processing theories, and information processing theories.
The Design Stance: Bullet theory
In the article "Intentional Systems" (1971) Dennett describes three strategies
an investigator may adopt when examining what he calls a "system" (systems can
include individuals). The first two strategies, the design and physical
stances, do not involve intentions. A mass communication persuasion theory
based on the design stance would consider the basic "design" of the
relationships between the message and any receiver. The design stance does not
allow for consideration of people's intentions, nor does it permit
consideration of the differences among people or how these differences may
mediate persuasion. Dennett illustrates the design stance with the example of a
chess-playing computer. In order to predict the computer's next move, an
investigator should consider the computer's design, or program. If the design
stance is applied to human behaviors, then these behaviors would also be
understood in terms of the common "program" that applies to any person. The
design stance would not allow for consideration of different programs that apply
to different people. The mass communication approach that most closely
resembles the design stance is the "bullet theory" (described by O'Guinn &
Faber, 1991) or "direct effects model" (described by Petty & Priester, 1994).
Early research in mass communication was based on the assumption that the
persuasive power of the mass media was potent and direct. An initial study
conducted during World War I concluded that the power of propaganda was
considerable (Lasswell, 1927). Events such as the rise of the Nazi movement in
Germany, the stock market crash of 1929, and the hysteria that followed the
radio broadcast of Orson Wells' "War of the Worlds" were interpreted as evidence
that messages delivered via the mass media had direct effects on people's
attitudes and behavior. This "bullet theory" of persuasion focused more on the
role of media messages as vehicles of persuasion than on the role of the
individual in receiving the message. It was assumed that "if the right message
was designed and delivered . . . people would immediately change their views to
conform with its intent" (O'Guinn & Faber, 1991). The bullet theory approach to
persuasion seems to exemplify the design stance. In bullet theory, humans were
viewed very much as if they were computers functioning according to programs
that read as follows: "adopt and act on all messages that meet requirements X,
Y, and Z."
Differences that might exist among the "programs" of different people were not
considered. As with the design stance, predictions based on the bullet theory
were made "solely from knowledge or assumptions about the system's functional
design, irrespective of the physical constitution or condition of the innards of
the particular object" (Dennett, 1971, p. 88). In the case of bullet theory, a
functional design was inferred from observance of current events. It was
assumed that the function of media messages was to mold attitudes and behavior,
and the function of people was to conform to these messages -- irrespective of
the differences that might exist among people's reactions to media messages.
The bullet theory also exemplifies the design stance because motivations were
not considered. The bullet theory considered people's role in persuasion only
in terms of a basic functional design, not in terms of people's personal
motivations to either consider or basically ignore a persuasive message.
The Physical Stance: Subconscious Processing
A second strategy that Dennett proposes is the physical stance. According to
Dennett, predictions from the physical stance are based on examining the
physical state of an entity and then applying the relevant laws of nature. The
physical stance is frequently adopted when an investigator finds that systems
have failed to operate according to their design. The investigator then
searches for the physical cause of malfunction. For example, if the
chess-playing computer failed to respond to any typed messages, one might take
the physical stance and check to see whether it was plugged in. If a person
failed to respond to a persuasive message in the predicted manner, it is
conceivable that theorists could invoke a physical description of the
abnormalities that caused this break-down from the hypothesized design. Such
physical abnormalities, however, do not seem to be of central interest to mass
communication theories of persuasion. These physical break-downs seem to have
more to do with the questions typically asked in the fields of abnormal
psychology or physiology.
In mass communication theory, researchers who subjected the bullet theory to
empirical tests during the 1940's found that the persuasive effects of the media
were not nearly as strong as the model predicted. In response to multiple
findings that audiences were not operating according to the hypothesized design,
a new perspective developed in which mass media were seen as having limited
effects. These "limited effects" models posited that numerous factors mediate
whether or not a message will result in attitude change. Although most models
based on limited effects did not stem from the physical stance, some mass
communication research in the 1980's and 1990's does appear to exemplify this
approach. Theory and research on subconsciousness processing does not consider
individuals' motivations, while it does focus on the physical states that
correspond with a certain type of persuasion.
Research on subconscious processing examines persuasion that occurs beyond the
threshold of awareness. Studies have found that increasing the amount of
subconscious processing that a stimulus receives results in increased liking of
the stimulus. This increased liking is known as the "mere exposure effect,"
because it can be brought about by increasing the length of exposure to a
stimulus even if the stimulus is not consciously processed. It is theorized
that subconscious analysis of a stimulus leads to a feeling of familiarity,
which is interpreted as liking. Subconscious processing has been explained in
terms of physical descriptions of brain structure. Zajonc (1980) states that
the locus coeruleus, a network of the central nervous system, may be capable of
generating the affective responses associated with subconscious processing
without activation of the autonomous nervous system, which is responsible for
conscious processing. Janiszewski (1990) uses physical descriptions of the
right- and left-brain hemispheres to account for subconscious processing. His
research indicates that when one hemisphere of the brain is engaged in active
processing, the non-activated hemisphere may engage in subconscious processing
of a stimulus in the corresponding field of vision.
According to Dennett, the physical stance can be employed not only to describe
malfunctions in a system but also to describe normal functioning, as Zajonc and
Janiszewski demonstrate for a basic type of persuasion process. Providing a
physical explanation of more sophisticated processes, however, may be very
difficult. Dennett states that "attempting to give a physical account or
prediction of the chess-playing computer would be a pointless and herculean
labor, but it would work in principle" (p. 89). Similarly, it seems that
providing a physical account of intentional processes, in which people
consciously consider a message and its relation to their own attitudes, would
also prove to be a herculean task. For the limited scope of subconscious
processes, however, it seems that the physical stance is the correct approach.
Subconscious processes involve relatively simple responses, so it is both
possible and practical to describe them physically. It also seems correct that
the study of subconscious processes would not include intentionality in its
scope, because these processes are defined as inaccessible to conscious
processing. The physical stance has the advantage over the design stance of
allowing the investigator to consider what Dennett calls "the innards of a
particular object." Unlike the design stance, the physical stance allows the
researchers to consider physical differences between individuals and to examine
how those differences affect subconscious processing and persuasion.
The Intentional Stance: Information Processing Models of Persuasion
While physical descriptions may be useful for describing subconscious
processing, it seems that such descriptions would not be practical for
describing conscious, intentional processing of persuasive messages -- or at
least not without substantial advances in the field of neuro-physiology. The
first strategy, the design stance, also does not appear to be the right stance
for communications scholars who study this type of persuasion. Theories such as
the bullet theory, which are based on the design stance, are insufficient for
accounting for important mediating variables in persuasion, such as the goals
that may lead individuals to pay attention to certain types of messages. When
research in the 1940's subjected the bullet theory to empirical testing, the
theory demonstrated poor predictive value, which according to Dennett is a
typical problem of design theories. Design theories are based on one model to
describe the functioning of all subjects, and are therefore likely to suffer in
terms of predictive value because these theories do not take into account
individual differences in motivations and goals. As Dennett states, "in the end
I may not be able to frame a very good prediction, if I am unable to determine
with any accuracy what information and goals the [system] has" (1971, p. 90).
The third strategy that Dennett outlines is the intentional stance. This
stance leads to the development of theories that do take intentions into
account, and therefore should have enhanced predictive value. Dennett considers
intentionality as an investigative strategy that researchers may adopt as they
attempt to understand an entity, or system. He states that under the
intentional stance, behavior can be predicted "by ascribing to the system the
possession of certain information and by supposing it to be directed by certain
goals, and then by working out the most reasonable or appropriate action on the
basis of these ascriptions and suppositions" (1971, p. 90).
The intentional stance allows for enhanced prediction because, in part, the
researcher attributes certain goals to the subject. Based on these goals, the
reasons for behavior can be more specifically defined. In mass communication,
the intentional stance was adopted as the theoretical focus of the field shifted
from examining "what the media did to people" (the bullet theory approach) to
examining "what people did with the media" (Katz, 1959). Persuasion theorists
began to consider people as active participants in persuasion whose goals might
lead them to either carefully consider a message or to skim over it. The
development of the construct of involvement (Krugman, 1965; 1966) represents the
beginnings of the intentional approach in persuasion research. Involvement
generally refers to the personal relevance of a message to a particular
individual. Research results demonstrated that involvement affects message
processing, which in turn affects persuasion. Information processing models
further developed the construct of involvement and the intentional approach.
The Elaboration Likelihood Model, or ELM (Petty & Cacioppo, 1981; 1986), and
the Heuristic-Systematic Model, or HSM (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993) each posit two
routes to persuasion: the central, or systematic, route and the peripheral, or
heuristic, route. Central route processing involves careful evaluation of a
persuasive message and results in relatively stable attitude shifts that are
predictive of behavior. Central route processing most closely parallels the
conscious thought processes that Elster defines as intentional behavior. The
second processing route, on the other hand, involves processing that may be
conscious but is less deliberate. Peripheral route processing does not involve
careful evaluation of the message. Instead, attitudes are formed based solely
on the recognition of positive or negative "heuristic cues." Heuristic cues can
be related to the message itself (such as the number of arguments presented) or
to the message source (such as his or her attractiveness). Both the ELM and HSM
identify two important determinants of whether a message will be processed
centrally or peripherally: ability and motivation. Ability is identified as an
important determinant because it is assumed that the careful thinking involved
in central processing requires a greater amount of cognitive resources than is
required by simply responding to heuristics. Motivation is identified as an
important determinant because it is assumed that people are "'economy-minded
souls' who wish to satisfy their goal-related needs in the most efficient ways
possible" (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993, p. 330). In general, people are expected to
favor the least effortful mode of processing, which is peripheral processing,
unless they are particularly motivated to carefully consider a message.
Individuals' processing goals, therefore, influence the degree to which they
will carefully process a message. If their goals lead them to carefully
consider a message, then the likelihood of stable attitude change increases
along with the probability that these attitudes will be predictive of behavior.
To return to the opening scenario, let us assume that a communications
researcher wishes to design a message that decreases the rate of smoking in a
certain target population. The persuasion task at hand involves convincingly
people to break a habitual pattern of behavior. Therefore, the researcher
decides that the type of processing most relevant to the persuasion task will be
conscious processing. It seems that a conscious, intentional effort will be
required for smokers to break this habit, therefore the physical stance is
eliminated as a possible approach to this research problem. The researcher also
feels that development of the most effective anti-smoking message will depend on
the individual goals that influence the degree to which members of the target
population will make the effort to carefully consider the message. The design
stance, therefore, is also eliminated and the intentional stance is adopted,
because unlike the design stance, the intentional stance allows for
consideration of individuals' goals. At this point, the researcher is faced
with the question of how best to account for intentionality in terms of message
processing. How can the beliefs and desires of the audience members be
assessed? If prediction can be enhanced by adopting the intentional stance and
attributing intentions to people, then it seems that the greater the accuracy in
attributing beliefs and desires, the greater the predictive power of the theory.
The Role of Personality in Building Theories Based on the Intentional Stance
Many of the individual difference variables developed in personality research
allow for accuracy in the attribution of goals to individuals, which should be
the central goal in effectively employing the intentional stance. As the
philosopher Fmllesdal states:
"When ascribing beliefs, desires and other propositional
attitudes to a person on the basis of observation of what he does and
says, . . . use all your knowledge about how beliefs and attitudes
are formed under the influence of causal factors . . . and in
particular your knowledge about his . . . personality traits"
(1982/1994, p. 309).
Personality theories, be definition, detail the relationship between stable
goals that guide and organize an individual's experience and certain types of
behavior. Allport, one of the founding fathers of personality research, defined
personality as "the dynamic organization within the individual of those
psychophysical systems that determine his unique adjustments to his environment"
(1935, p. 48). He further defined personality traits as constructs that
"initiate" and "guide" behavior. Murray (1938) also conceived of personality in
terms of the underlying reasons for behavior, and Stagner (1937) similarly
included the concept of "motives-goals" in his theory of personality.
From the lay-person's perspective, "personality" describes aspects of an
individual that are generally consistent over time. For example, if an
individual generally avoided social interaction, it might said that he was shy,
or that this was his "personality." Allport, Murray, and Stagner reasoned that
overtly consistent behavior must be the product of stable goals. The
personality of the "shy" person, for example, might be understood in terms of an
underlying goal to focus on private thoughts. Not all personality measures have
been developed to assess the kinds of underlying goals that Allport, Murray, and
Stagner described. However, by selecting personality variables that do assess
goals, researchers can greatly enhance their ability to accurately infer
individuals' intentions. In terms of Elster's definition of intentionality,
personality variables can assess the beliefs and desires of individuals as well
as the actions they are most likely to choose based on those beliefs and
An example: Need for Cognition
The individual difference variable of Need for Cognition, or NC (Cacioppo &
Petty, 1982; Cacioppo, Petty, & Kao, 1984), will be used to describe the way in
which personality variables can been incorporated in intentional stance
theories. NC measures an individual's motivation to engage in effortful
cognitive tasks. People high in NC enjoy carefully thinking through issues, and
therefore they take advantage of opportunities to do so. Careful cognitive
processing is a goal of people high in NC. People low in NC, on the other hand,
have been called "cognitive misers" who do not enjoy effortful cognitive tasks
and whose goal is to avoid such tasks (Cacioppo, Petty, Feinstein, & Jarvis,
1996). In terms of Elster's definition of intentionality, the need for
cognition variable provides insight into beliefs, desires, and behaviors.
People high in NC believe complex cognitive tasks are enjoyable, desire to
engage in such tasks, and generally choose to do so. People low in NC, on the
other hand, do not believe effortful cognitive tasks are enjoyable, do not
desire to engage in these tasks, and so generally avoid such tasks. Knowledge
of these particular beliefs and desires can aid researchers in developing mass
Imagine a case in which a researcher has adopted the intentional stance to
persuasion and hypothesizes that an anti-smoking advertisement with strong
arguments will be more effective than an anti-smoking message with weak
arguments. The researcher might wish to further specify that the effectiveness
of advertisements with strong arguments will be greater when people carefully
consider the message then when they do not. Scores on NC allow the researcher
to attribute the relevant beliefs and desires to each subject. By incorporating
NC into the research project, the researcher may express in detail the role of
individual intentions: strong arguments would be expected to be much more
effective than weak arguments for subjects high in NC, while strong arguments
would be expected to be only slightly more effective than weak arguments for
subjects low in NC. Low NC subjects are less motivated to carefully process
information than high NC subjects, and therefore it is less likely (a) that they
will notice whether arguments are strong or weak and (b) that they will be more
persuaded by the strong arguments than by the weak arguments. High NC subjects,
on the other hand, are more highly motivated to carefully process information.
They would be expected to both notice whether arguments are strong and weak and
base their attitudes on the strong, rather than weak, arguments.
If these hypotheses are supported (see Haughtvedt, Petty & Cacioppo, 1992;
Batra & Stayman, 1990), the researcher has evidence to build a theory that
accounts for the goals that mediate people's responses to persuasive mass
communication messages. People high in need cognition are likely to be more
influenced by strong arguments than weak arguments because, in general, they
desire to engage in careful processing and believe that this activity will be
rewarding. People low in need for cognition are less likely to be influenced by
strong arguments than weak arguments, because they are less motivated to engage
in careful thinking. This type of theoretical model, which is based on
specific, measurable intentions, is likely to account for a larger proportion of
variance than models that do not consider intentions. This type of model will
also most likely lead to theories that specify, in detail, the intentional
processes that underlie persuasion. Need for cognition was used to illustrate
how personality variables can be incorporated into communications research, but
many other individual difference variables can provide insight into people's
intentions. In addition to the motivations measured by NC, researchers
examining persuasion and advertising effectiveness have recently theorized about
the effects of motivations assessed by the scales of self-monitoring (Snyder &
DeBono, 1985; DeBono & Packer, 1991; Shavitt, Lowrey & Han, 1992), visual
processing style (Burns, Biswas & Babin, 1993), sociability (Artz, Tybout &
Kehret-Ward), self-confidence (Bither & Wright), self-acceptance (Chebat &
Picard, 1988), and sex role identity (Jaffe, 1994).
Philosophers of social science have noted that treatment of intentionality
separates the social sciences from the natural sciences. While intentionality
is not an issue in the natural sciences, it is a construct that is generally
central in the social sciences, where research questions generally focus on
human behavior. The notion of intentionality captures the processes by which
people purposely choose to act on the basis of their beliefs and desires. In
mass communication research, some theories have not considered intentionality,
while others have emphasized its role in persuasion. Early mass communication
theory, or bullet theory, did not take into account audience members' intentions
or the differences in their responses to media messages. As a result, bullet
theory was unable to satisfactorily predict persuasion effects. Another branch
of mass communication theory that does not take intentions into account focuses
on subconscious processing. Research on this topic has essentially taken the
form of natural science theories applied to the "social" phenomenon of
persuasion. Subconscious processing has been described in terms of brain
physiology. In this branch of theory, persuasion scholars appear to be correct
in not considering intentionality, because the processes they are examining
operate below the threshold of awareness required for the intentional, purposive
selection of actions.
Information processing theory is an area of persuasion research in which the
role of intentionality is strongly emphasized. Information processing models
emphasize that individuals' goals effect whether they will chose to carefully
analyze a message or simply gloss over it. A key component of information
processing theory, therefore, is the identification of the goals that might lead
people to consider (or not consider) various types of media messages.
Personality theory can aid researchers in building theory both by providing a
taxonomy of the basic goals that organize human behavior and by providing scales
that directly assess individual differences in these goals. Communications
scholars and practitioners might ask how measuring differences in personality
can be useful in a field in which the goal is usually to influence the attitudes
and behaviors of a mass target audience. The answer is that by accounting for
intentionality, personality variables enhance the predictive power and
descriptive richness of theories that describe how people actively process
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