We examined how listeners characterized by empathy and a non-judgmental approach affect speakers’ attitude structure. We hypothesized that high quality listening decreases speakers’ social anxiety, which in turn reduces defensive processing. This reduction in defensive processing was hypothesized to result in an awareness of contradictions (increased objective-attitude ambivalence), and decreased attitude extremity. Moreover, we hypothesized that experiencing high quality listening would enable speakers to tolerate contradictory responses, such that listening would attenuate the association between objective- and subjective-attitude ambivalence. We obtained consistent support for our hypotheses across four laboratory experiments that manipulated listening experience in different ways on a range of attitude topics. The effects of listening on objective-attitude ambivalence were stronger for higher dispositional social anxiety and initial objective-attitude ambivalence (Study 4). Overall, the results suggest that speakers’ attitude structure can be changed by a heretofore unexplored interpersonal variable: merely providing high quality listening.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was supported by grants from the Recanati Fund at the School of Business Administration, and by the Israel Science Foundation (145/12) to the second author.
© 2016, © 2016 by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.
- attitude ambivalence
- attitude extremity
- defensive processing
- high quality listening
- social anxiety
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology