[Psych] Sleeper effect: nothing to do with sleeping

, by 雨夜 [アマヤ]

What is it?


Sleeper effect is a phenomenon, where a highly persuasive message, paired with a discounting cue, causes an individual to be more persuaded by the message (rather than less persuaded) over time.

What is a discounting cue? It is simply any piece of accompanying information that lets you doubt the trustworthiness of the message, such as a disclaimer or a low-credibility source.

Therefore, at the beginning, you would not change your attitude after reading the message and its source because you know the message is not trustworthy. However, what researchers have found is that people start to believe more in the message over time, ie. more persuaded.

The sleeper effect is contrary to what usually is thought to happen: you hear a message, believe it, and over time, stop believing it because you forget it. However, the sleeper effect is completely opposite.

Why does it happen?

One theory is that over time, people dissociate the message from the source, remembering only the message. Since the message itself is highly persuasive, removing the discounting cue allows persuasion to occur, therefore people will believe more in the message after some time.

Depending on the theory, there are a few ways to measure the magnitude of the sleeper effect:
  1. Asking if you remember the source or not
  2. Asking you to recall the message & source and scoring the number of inaccuracies recalled
You could give it a try: think of a few persuasive arguments. Can you truly remember where/who you first heard it from? Or is the reason you remember even correct in the first place?

Signing off,

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