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Misinformation & Misconceptions in Communication

How Trusted Communicators Become Persuasive Despite Presenting Weak Messages

Fake news has prevailed in the last electoral year and may still be disseminated every hour of the day. Further, a look at national politics suggests that candidates can be elected to office in the absence of strong arguments or well-reasoned positions on political or social issues. Both of these problems have attracted my attention, leading me to identify new possible patterns of persuasion (Albarracín et al., 2017). The sleeper effect denotes a delayed increase in the impact of a persuasive message that is presented by a noncredible communicator. We argue, however, that traditional conceptualizations of the sleeper effect have been based on the assumption that audiences find source information disposable and organize representations exclusively around that arguments. However, when we process political messages, audiences are motivated to form an impression of the source. Just as the association with a noncredible source can discount a communication, weak arguments can as well. Thus, when a credible source presents weak arguments, the positive impression of the credible source may remain dormant and become apparent when the weak arguments fade away. Overall, this research has demonstrated how, over time, having a communicator who is credible or trustworthy on some dimension might be all that matters to ultimately gain support at the polls.

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