A Measure of Perceived Argument Strength: Reliability and Validity

Commun Methods Meas. 2011 Mar 4;5(1):48-75. doi: 10.1080/19312458.2010.547822.


Studies of the content of persuasive messages in which the central arguments of the message are scrutinized have traditionally relied on the technique of thought-listing to assess argument strength. Although the validity of the thought-listing procedure is well documented, its utility can be limited in situations involving non-adult populations and sensitive topics. In this paper we present a self-reported scale that can be used to assess perceived argument strength in contexts where thought-listing may be less appropriate. This scale taps into perceived argument strength from multiple points of view, including but also extending beyond the potential of the argument to elicit positive and negative thoughts. Reliability and validity of this scale were assessed in health communication contexts involving anti-drug PSAs directed at adolescents and anti-smoking PSAs targeting adults. Evidence of convergence between this scale and the thought-listing technique was also obtained using the classical comprehensive exam arguments.