Date of Award

Spring 5-14-2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

MS Experimental Psychology

Department

Psychology

Advisor

Susan Nolan, Ph.D

Committee Member

Michael Vigorito, Ph.D

Committee Member

Andrew Simon, Ph.D

Keywords

marijuana, cannabis, education, persuasion, source, believability

Abstract

In recent years, efforts have been made to legalize cannabis based on increasing research supporting medical benefits and the assumption, albeit questionable, that this is a safe drug. Statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) demonstrate a sharp increase in users, especially among the youth population (2014). This is problematic because smoking marijuana during the teenage years has been shown to have possible adverse effects, such as despondency and potential complications in cognitive development. (Crane et al., 2012) This current study aims to explore effective ways to educate the public on the adverse health effects of recreational marijuana through print advertisements. By comparing three types of persuasion (factual claims, evaluative claims, and unrelated claims) and two sources of information (Food and Drug Administration versus a branding agency), we evaluate factors that might increase overall knowledge, believability, and induce attitude change toward cannabis. Results suggest that participants who read factual claims had higher mean levels of knowledge about the effects of marijuana than those who read unrelated claims. In addition, information sponsored by the FDA was significantly more believable, on average, compared to a branding agency, with factual claims being significantly more believable than evaluative claims. Policy makers may wish to consider these findings when developing ways to educate the public on the potential consequences of smoking marijuana as it becomes legal.

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