sealPurdue News

January 1998

Thinkers enjoy added influence

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Charm, looks and personality can take you only so far. If you want to influence people -- try using your brain.

"In studying influential people, researchers are seeing that persons who enjoy thinking have added impact," says Duane Wegener, associate professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University. These thinkers are described as having a "need for cognition," or NC.

People high in NC would prefer chess to checkers or reading a book to watching TV. Wegener says these people have a desire to use their brains, which results in their forming strong opinions. "One of the reasons they are influential is the strength of the attitudes they hold," he says.

To see how it works, Wegener and two colleagues studied 74 students at two universities who participated in an exercise to study how jurors make decisions. The students were divided into small groups and then later paired off. Before the exercise, all the participants were rated on their NC. Persons high in NC were paired with students lower in NC.

The participants read summaries of a civil case and legal analyses. Members of each pair unknowingly received differing analyses -- one supporting the defense, the other the prosecution. After reading the material, the participants were asked to discuss the case with their partner and render a joint verdict.

The prediscussion views of those who like to think prevailed most often. "Fewer high-NC participants changed their minds as a result of the discussion than did their lower-NC partners," Wegener says. Overall, the lower NCs were twice as likely to accept the views of higher NCs.

He says the people who liked to think were perceived by their partners as generating more valid arguments and as being effective persuaders. "It could be that the thinkers had better-prepared arguments based on greater scrutiny of the trial evidence," Wegener says.

The NC results might also explain past research showing that group decisions are influenced by variables such as a person's level of education and occupation. "People who are more educated, and those in certain high-status jobs, also tend to be higher in NC," Wegener says.

Wegener's study was conducted with Donna Shestowsky of Yale University and Leandre R. Fabrigar of Queen's University. It was reported in May in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

CONTACT: Wegener, (765) 494-9554; e-mail,

Compiled by Beth Forbes, (765) 494-9723; e-mail,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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