Using self-persuasion to change public service motivation and policy alienation: lessons from a survey experiment
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Self-persuasion interventions have been successfully used in psychological research to ef¬fectuate individual attitude change. This article examines the application of low intensity self-persuasion interventions in public administration by using it to influence public service motivation (PSM) and the policy alienation dimension of societal mean-inglessness. Our first hypothesis is that pro-referent low intensity self-persuasion treatments will increase reported levels of public service motivation. Hypothesis 2a considers that counter-attitudinal low intensity self-persuasion will decrease levels of reported societal meaninglessness. Hypothesis 2b refers to pro-attitudinal low intensity self-persuasion will increase levels of reported societal meaninglessness. Hypothesis 3 considers that pro- and counter-attitudinal self-persuasion is more effective when compliance is high. We test our hypotheses using two survey experiments amongst 680 health care professionals. Our results show that concept specific self-persuasion changes reported levels of PSM and policy alienation. Specifically, this research indi¬cates that PSM can be made more salient by low intensity self-persuasion, although effects are small. Regarding policy alienation, counter-attitudinal self-persuasion lowers levels of societal meaninglessness, but in situations of no compliance, it can backfire and heighten societal meaninglessness instead. In general, our findings suggest that self-persuasion can be used in public administration research provided that researchers take into account the nature of the targeted variables and the compliance methods necessary and possible.