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Sleeper Effect

Michael Schenk

Subject Communication Reception and Effects » Media Effects Theories

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


“Sleeper effect” describes a phenomenon in which messages from sources with originally low credibility cause opinion change over time. The credibility of a source as perceived by receivers of its message constitutes a central issue in the theory of persuasion, in particular with regard to its impact on attitude change (→  Attitudes ). A highly credible communicator (e.g., by virtue of trust, expertise, or reliability) commands an increased probability that the receivers of a message will accept and absorb the persuasive intent of the communication (→  Persuasion ). However, the effect of credibility varies during the course of persuasive effects over time. In general, the impact of a persuasive message peaks immediately after exposition and declines over time (→  Credibility Effects ). The sleeper effect describes a contrary phenomenon for messages from low-credibility sources. Here, the immediate effect is overruled by the long-term effect: The sleeper effect is thus defined as the absolute increase in attitude change over time for receivers of a low-credibility message ( Hovland et al. 1949 ). Increase in agreement for low-credibility communication in the long term might be due to the diminishing of initial skepticism over time. Generally, arguments and other content supporting a communicator's conclusion are subject to being forgotten over time. For a credible communicator, receivers ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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