Ambivalence about Marijuana Use: A Potential Facilitator of Information Processing and Changes in Attitudes and Intentions Resulting from Anti-Drug Messaging


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In recent years, rates of marijuana use in the United States have increased, and along with that increase in use, attitudes about marijuana have become more accepting and perception of a risk of harm has decreased (Cerd� et al., 2017). As attitudes shift from negative to positive, there are likely many individuals who feel ambivalent about their use of marijuana. Theories of behavior change as well as some treatment modalities have posited that ambivalence is a normal part of the change and decision-making process and that resolution of this ambivalence may be a mechanism of behavior change (Prochaska & DiClemente, 1983; Miller & Rollnick, 2013). Research has shown that people who are ambivalent are more likely to engage in systematic information processing (Azjen, 2011), and their attitudes and behavioral intentions are more likely to be impacted by persuasive information (Maio et al., 1996). Therefore, the current study examined how ambivalence about marijuana use in young adults affected changes in attitude and intentions to use after viewing video anti-drug messaging. This study also examined whether a reduction in ambivalence occurred after viewing anti-drug messaging. Results revealed that participants who were high in ambivalence had changes in attitudes and intentions after viewing video messaging such that attitudes became more negative and intentions to use decreased. These effects were mediated by information processing such that higher ambivalence led to more information processing, which was associated with negative attitude changes and decreased intentions. Furthermore, findings indicated that individuals who were initially high in ambivalence had smaller increases in felt ambivalence than those low in ambivalence; and those high in potential ambivalence had decreased ambivalence pre to posttest, whereas those initially low in potential ambivalence had increased ambivalence at posttest. This effect was mediated and mitigated by information processing such that high initial ambivalence was associated with more information processing, but more information processing led to increases in ambivalence for both felt and potential ambivalence, which was the opposite of the direction of the direct effects. This study also replicated results from many previous research studies by showing that when people have intentions to change their behavior or increases in their readiness to change, they exhibit decreases in their endorsement in the pros of use and increases endorsement of cons of use. The findings of the current study have implications for tailoring messaging or brief interventions who are ambivalent about their use. These findings can be used to inform future interventions and may help to elucidate how variables such as ambivalence and information processing factor into the effectiveness of video messaging and other forms of intervention and prevention.