Mechanisms of Action: Opinion Management

You can generate attitude change by writing.

–John Daly

EDUCATION DAILY, APRIL 5, 1985–Researchers attending the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association here said writing can be used to clarify students’ values and even alter their views on controversial subjects. But teachers can also use writing to manipulate a student’s viewpoint and attitude on controversial issues, said a researcher who has studied how writing changes attitudes. “You can generate attitude change by writing,” said John Daly of the University of Texas. Daly said his research showed that writing an essay about an issue helps students clarify their own views. But when asked to write an essay arguing a position opposing their values, the students are lead to change their minds….

…And the greater the effort a student puts into a writing assignment, the greater the change in attitude, Daly concluded.

Daly’s finding disturbed some educators, who said they were concerned that teachers have the power to alter students’ values. “It can be dangerous when we know that educators have the power to influence kids’ minds,” said Barbara Mitchell of the University of Pennsylvania.

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