Determining the Effects of Evidence-based Messaging on Millennial Agriculturalists' Attitudes Towards Genetically Modified (GM) Foods
Genetically modified foods and crops are a topic of heated debate in the United States. As with all issues, messaging has the potential to influence and change an individual’s attitude. Through the lens of social judgment theory, this quasi-experimental study investigated the influence of an evidence-based message on millennial agricultural students’ attitudes towards genetically modified foods and crops, while taking into account participants’ ego-involvements for the issue. Sixty-nine undergraduate students in the College of Agriculture participated in this study – comprised of a pre-test and post-test questionnaire with an evidence-based message intervention between. The major finding from this study was that for the issue of genetically modified foods, millennial agricultural students’ with high ego-involvement are capable of attitude change and moving their anchor points in the direction of viewing genetically modified foods and crops less favorably than prior to the evidence-based message intervention. This result was unexpected, but important. Another key finding is that the majority of millennial agricultural students reported holding favorable attitudes towards genetically modified foods. In regards to the risks of genetically modified foods, the majority of participants disagreed that there is any risk associated with eating genetically modified foods and were neutral towards any environmental risks of genetically modified crops. This study also investigated the role of ego-involvement and the widths of the latitudes of acceptance, noncommitment, and rejection. While there was a trend for the latitude of acceptance to increase and for the latitude of rejection to decrease for both the high and low ego-involvement groups, these findings were insignificant. Overall, this study’s findings provides great insight to science communicators who are messaging with the goal of influencing attitude change. Utilizing key elements of science communication including, weight of evidence reporting, weight of experts reporting, reinforcement of self-identity, credibility, valence, and framing theory, it is possible to influence attitude change, at least for millennial agricultural students with high ego-involvement for the issue of genetically modified foods. Future research should expand to include other segments of the population, as well as other science issues.
Pfeiffer, Purdue University.
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