The cognitive dynamics of beliefs: The role of discrepancy, credibility, and involvement on microprocesses of judgment

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This dissertation investigates the process of belief change by examining the time course of beliefs. The time course of belief change during judgment provides information about dynamic aspects of the cognitive system, cognitive responses during judgment, and the effect of distal variables on belief change. Several previous studies obtained individual belief trajectories using a computer mouse technique to observe the time course of belief change. Based on characteristics of belief trajectories, this study developed a new framework for their analysis. This framework allows analyses not only of overall but also of micro aspects of belief change during judgment. Hypotheses about the time course of belief changes were developed and tested with four data sets from three previous studies. Total N = 267.

This study found the following: (1) Belief change during message receipt reflects the structure and properties of the message; (2) belief change during the post-message phase shows some oscillatory and some damping dynamics; (3) message discrepancy and source credibility have dynamic effects on belief change during judgment.

This study generally supports dynamic models of belief change. Methodologically, this study suggests that belief trajectories can provide on-line information about cognitive responses and micro belief changes during judgment.