Origins[ edit ] The theory of inoculation was derived from previous research studying one-sided and two-sided messages. One-sided messages are supportive messages to strengthen existing attitudes, but with no mention of counterpositions. One-sided messages are frequently seen in political campaigns when a candidate denigrates his or her opponent through " mudslinging ". This method is effective in reinforcing extant attitudes of derision toward the opposition and support for the "mudslinging" candidate.
If the audience supports the opposition, however, the attack message is ineffective. Two-sided messages present both counterarguments and refutations of those counterarguments.
One of the greatest motivators for McGuire was the aftermath of the Korean War. Nine US prisoners of war , when given the opportunity, elected to remain with their previous captors. Many assumed they were brainwashed , so McGuire and other social scientists turned to ways of conferring resistance to persuasion Dewey, Since its creation, the uses of inoculation theory have been expanded in the areas of health, political, educational and commercial messaging.
This meant it was primarily used toward the attitudes that were rarely, if ever attacked by opposing forces. The early tests of inoculation theory were used on non-controversial issues, e. Inoculation theory studies currently target less popular or common attitudes, such as whether one should buy a Mac or a Windows -based PC computer or if one should support gay marriage. Medical analogy[ edit ] The inoculation process is analogous to the medical inoculation process from which it draws its name; the analogy served as the inaugural exemplar for how inoculation confers resistance.
As McGuire initially explained, medical inoculation works by exposing the body to a weakened form of a virus—strong enough to trigger a response i.
Attitudinal inoculation works the same way: Expose the receiver to weakened counterarguments, triggering a process of counterargument which confers resistance to later, stronger persuasive messages.
This process works like a metaphorical vaccination: Inoculation theory suggests that if one sends out messages with weak counterarguments, an individual can build immunity to those messages and strengthen their original attitudes. It uses a threat on initial beliefs to trigger a person's desire to fight against the threat, ultimately reinforcing their attitude.
Other work has confirmed that inoculation's efficacy can be boosted with other persuasion processes, like reactance Miller et al. Explanation[ edit ] Inoculation theory states that to prevent persuasion it is necessary to strengthen preexisting attitudes, beliefs, or opinions.
First, the receiver must be made aware of the potential vulnerability of an existing position e. This establishes threat and initiates defenses to future attacks. The idea is that when a weak argument is presented in the inoculation message, processes of refutation or other means of protection will prepare for stronger arguments later.
It is critical that the attack is strong enough to keep the receiver defensive, but weak enough to not actually change those preexisting ideas. This will hopefully make the receiver actively defensive and allow them to create arguments in favor of their preexisting thoughts. The more active the receiver becomes in his or her defense the more it will strengthen their own attitudes, beliefs, or opinions McGuire, Key components[ edit ] There are four basic key components to successful inoculation: The first is threat, which provides motivation to protect one's attitudes or beliefs Pfau, a.
The message receiver must interpret that a message is threatening and recognize that there is a reason to fight to maintain and strengthen their opinion. Refutational preemption is the second component. Refutational preemption is the cognitive part of the process.
It is the ability to activate one's own argument for future defense and strengthen their existing attitudes through counterarguing Pfau, Scholars have also explored whether other resistance processes might be at work, including affect. Refutational preemption provides specific content that receivers can employ to strengthen attitudes against subsequent change. This aids in the inoculation process by giving the message receiver a chance to argue with the opposing message.
It shows the message receiver that their attitude is not the only attitude or even the right attitude, creating a threat to their beliefs. This is beneficial because the receiver will get practice in defending their original attitude, therefore strengthening it. Refutational preemption acts as the weak strain of the virus in the metaphor.
By injecting the virus or opposing opinion into a person, you are letting them learn how to fight off the opposing threat. By the time your body processes the virus or you process the counterattack, you have learned how to eliminate the threat.
In the case of messaging, if the threatening message is weak or unconvincing, a person can reject the message and stick with their original stance on the matter. Delay is the next element that is necessary in the inoculation process. There has been much debate on whether there is a certain amount of time necessary between inoculation and further attacks on a persons' attitude that will be most effective in strengthening that person's attitude. McGuire suggested that delay was necessary strengthening a person's attitude and since then many scholars have found evidence to back that idea up.
There are also scholars on the other side who suggest that too much of a delay lessens the strengthening effect of inoculation. Involvement is the last element necessary in the effectiveness of inoculation theory. This element is important because an individual's involvement with an issue determines how effective the inoculation process will be, if at all. If an individual is not involved, or interest in the subject, they are not going to perceive a threat toward their attitude and consequently will not feel the need to defend and strengthen their original opinion, making the inoculation process useless.
Applications[ edit ] Research during the past two decades has revealed numerous real-world applications of inoculation theory. The field of Public Relations is the perfect place for the inoculation theory to be used because the field itself is meant to act to the public, their opinions, and their actions.
It is especially useful with an audience who already has an opinion on a brand. Inoculation theory is the perfect way to convince already faithful customers that they are making the right choice in trusting your company and to keep the customer coming back in the future. For example, Apple and their "Mac versus PC" campaign. This campaign did a great job of following the inoculation theory in targeting those who already preferred Mac computers.
The series of ads pit out in the duration of the campaign had a similar theme; they directly compared Macs and PCs. Inoculation theory is in action here because these commercials are more than likely aimed toward apple users. These ads are effective because the apple users already prefer Mac computers and they unlikely to change their minds. This comparison creates refutational preemption, showing Macs may not be the only viable options on the market.
The TV ads throw in a few of the positive advantages that PCs have over Macs, but by the end of every commercial they reiterate the fact that the Mac is ultimately the superior product for consumers. This reassures viewers that their opinion is still right and that Macs are in fact better than PCs. The inoculation theory in these ads keep Mac users coming back for apple products and may even have them coming back sooner for the bigger and better products that Apple is releasing.
That last part is especially important in a field like technology because it is continually changing and something new is always being pushed out onto the shelves. Another great example of inoculation theory are studies which indicate that it is possible to inoculate, for political supporters of a candidate in a campaign against the influence of an opponent's attack ads; citizens against the corrosive influence of soft-money-sponsored political attack ads on democratic values; citizens of fledgling democracies against the spiral of silence which can thwart the expression of minority views; commercial brands against the influence of competitors' comparative ads; corporations against the damage to credibility and image that can occur in crisis settings; and young adolescents against influences of peer pressure, which can lead to smoking, underage drinking, and other harmful behaviors.
Refutational same and refutational different[ edit ] While there are many studies that have been conducted comparing different treatments of inoculation, there is one specific comparison that is mentioned throughout various studies. This is the comparison between what is known as refutational same and refutational different messages. A refutational same message is an inoculation treatment that refutes specific potential counterarguments that will appear in the subsequent persuasion message, while refutational different treatments are refutations that are not the same as those present in the impending persuasive message Pfau et al.
Pfau and his colleagues developed a study during the United States presidential election. The Republicans were claiming that the Democratic candidate was known to be lenient when it came to the issue of crime. The researchers developed a refutational same message that stated that while the Democratic candidate was in favor of tough sentences, merely tough sentences could not reduce crime. The refutational different message expanded on the candidate's platform and his immediate goals if he were to be elected.
The study showed comparable results between the two different treatments. Importantly, as McGuire and others had found previously, inoculation was able to confer resistance to arguments that were not specifically mentioned in the inoculation message. Political campaigning[ edit ] Compton and Ivanov offer a comprehensive review of political inoculation scholarship and outline new directions for future work. Pfau and some of his colleagues examined inoculation through the use of direct mail during the presidential campaign.
The researchers were specifically interested in comparing inoculation and post hoc refutation. Post hoc refutation is another form of building resistance to arguments, however, instead of building resistance prior to future arguments, like inoculation, it attempts to restore original beliefs and attitudes after the counterarguments have been made. Results of the research reinforced prior conclusions that refutational same and different treatments both increase resistance to attacks. More important, results also indicated inoculation was superior to post hoc refutation when attempting to protect original beliefs and attitudes Pfau et al.
Health[ edit ] Much of the research conducted in health is attempting to create campaigns that will encourage people to stop unhealthy behaviors e. There are many inoculation studies with the intent to inoculate children and teenagers to prevent them from smoking, doing drugs or drinking alcohol. Much of the research shows that targeting at a young age can help them resist peer pressure in high school or college. Godbold and Pfau used sixth graders from two different schools and applied inoculation theory as a defense against peer pressure to drinking alcohol.
They hypothesized that a normative message, a message tailored around what the social norms are, would be more effective than an informative message. An informative message is a message tailored around giving individuals information pieces. In this case, the information was why drinking alcohol is bad. The second hypothesis was that subjects who receive a threat two weeks later will be more resistant than those receiving an immediate attack.
The results supported the first hypothesis partially. The normative message created higher resistance from the attack, but was not necessarily more effective. The second hypothesis was also not supported; therefore, the time lapse did not create further resistance for teenagers against drinking. One major outcome from this study was the resistance created by utilizing a normative message.
In another study conducted by Duryea , the results were far more supportive of the theory. The study also attempted to find the message to use for educational training to help prevent teen drinking and driving.
The teen subjects were given resources to combat attempts to persuade them to drink and drive or to get into a vehicle with a drunk driver. They were shown a 1 a film; 2 participated in question and answer; 3 role playing exercises; and 4 a slide show. The results showed that a combination of the four methods of training was effective in combating persuasion to drink and drive or get into a vehicle with a drunk driver.
The trained group was far more prepared to combat the persuasive arguments. Additionally, Parker, Ivanov, and Compton found that inoculation messages can be an effective deterrent against pressures to engage in unprotected sex and binge drinking—even when only one of these issues is mentioned in the health message.