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• Ads are ubiquitous and even appear on human flesh.

• Advertising has proven extremely successful as witnessed by the campaigns marketing cigarettes to women and people in other countries.

The Nature and Origin of Attitudes

• Social psychologists define an attitude as an enduring evaluation, positive or negative, of people, objects, or ideas.

• Attitudes consist of three components: affect, or the emotional reaction toward the attitude object; cognition, or the beliefs about it; and behavior, or the actions one takes with respect to it.

A. Where Do Attitudes Come From?

• Tesser (1993) suggests that some attitudes are linked to our genes. Evidence for this is based on the finding that identical twins raised apart (and not knowing of each other) have more similar attitudes to each other than do fraternal twins. Attitude similarity is probably mediated by similarity of temperament and personality.

• Even if there is a genetic component, social experience clearly plays a large role in shaping attitudes.

• Although all attitudes have the three components, any given attitude can be based more on one component than another.

1. Cognitively Based Attitudes

Cognitively based attitudes are based primarily on a person’s beliefs about the properties of the attitude object; their function is “object appraisal,” meaning that we classify objects according to the rewards or punishments they provide.

2. Affectively Based Attitudes

Affectively based attitudes are based more on people’s feelings and values than on their beliefs. Their function may be value-expressive. Thus, attitudes towards political candidates are generally more affectively than cognitively based.

• Other affectively based attitudes can be the result of a sensory reaction or of conditioning.

Classical conditioning is learning by association (a stimulus that elicits an emotional response is repeatedly experienced along with a neutral stimulus that does not, until the neutral stimulus takes on the emotional properties of the first stimulus). Operant conditioning is the case whereby behaviors that people freely choose to perform increase or decrease in frequency, depending on whether they are followed by positive reinforcement or punishment (see Figure 7.1).

• Affectively based attitudes have these features in common: they do not result from rational examination of the issues; they are not governed by logic; and they are often linked to people’s values.

3. Behaviorally Based Attitudes

Behaviorally based attitudes are based on self-perception of one’s own behavior when the initial attitude is weak or ambiguous.

• According to Bem’s (1972) self-perception theory, under certain conditions people don’t know how they feel until they see how they behave.

B. Explicit Versus Implicit Attitudes

• Once an attitude develops, it can exist at two levels. Explicit attitudes are ones we consciously endorse and can easily report. Implicit attitudes, on the other hand, are involuntary, uncontrollable, and, at times, unconscious evaluations. One of the most popular methods to measure implicit attitudes is the Implicit Association Test or IAT, in which people categorize words or pictures on a computer. You can find out more about this test at

C. How Do Attitudes Change?

• Attitudes may be very changeable; changes are frequently due to social influence.

D. Changing Attitudes by Changing Behavior: Cognitive Dissonance Theory Revisited

• Attitudes may change due to the cognitive dissonance resulting from behavior that appears to have insufficient internal justification; changing the attitude to correspond with the behavior provides an internal justification.

Counter-attitudinal advocacy is hard to induce on a mass scale, so people usually attempt to change the attitudes of the masses through persuasive communication.

E. Persuasive Communications and Attitude Change

• The study of persuasive communication by social psychologists began under Hovland with the Yale Attitude Change approach, which examines the conditions under which people are most likely to change their attitude in response to a persuasive messages and which focuses on who (the source of the communication) said what (the communication itself) to whom (the audience) (Figure 7–2).

• A problem with the Yale Attitude Change approach is that it does not define the conditions under which one aspect of a communication should be emphasized over others.

1. The Central and Peripheral Routes to Persuasion

• Petty and Cacioppo’s elaboration likelihood model tries to specify when people will be more influenced by message content and when they will be more influenced by superficial characteristics of the message.

• Under certain conditions, people are motivated to pay attention to and think about (elaborate on) the facts in a message and thus will be most persuaded when these facts are logically compelling. Under other conditions, people are not motivated to pay attention to the facts a message presents and only attend to superficial characteristics.

• More specifically, the elaboration likelihood model states that there are two ways in which persuasive communications can cause attitude change. The central route to persuasion is the case whereby people elaborate on a persuasive communication, listening carefully to and thinking about the arguments; this occurs when people have both the ability and the motivation to listen carefully to a communication. The peripheral route to persuasion is the case whereby people do not elaborate on the arguments in a persuasive communication but are instead swayed by peripheral cues or surface characteristics (e.g., who gave the speech).

• The audience’s motivation and ability determine which route they will take (Figure 7.3).

2. The Motivation to Pay Attention to the Arguments

• The personal relevance of a message influences motivation; thus, when a message is relevant, the amount of persuasion depends on argument quality.

• Petty, Cacioppo, & Goldman (1981) had students listen to a persuasive message advocating a senior comprehensive exam. Personal relevance was manipulated by saying that the exam was considered for next year or for ten years hence. Also, the message contained either strong or weak arguments and was presented by either a high or low prestige source. They found that under high relevance, people were more influenced by strong than by weak arguments, regardless of source prestige; while under low relevance, people were influenced by the prestige of the speaker more than by the quality of the arguments (Figure 7-4).

• People’s motivation to listen carefully to message content may also depend on their level of need for cognition, the extent to which they seek out and think about information in their social worlds.

3. The Ability to Pay Attention to the Arguments

• People’s ability to attend to message content may be influenced by outside distracters or by the complexity of the message.

4. How to Achieve Long-Lasting Attitude Change

• Attitude change will be more long-lasting if it occurs through the central route; thus develop strong arguments and get people to think about them by making the issue personally relevant.

F. Emotion and Attitude Change

• In order to get people to use the central processing route, you need to get their attention. This can by done by playing to their emotions.

1. Fear-arousing communications are persuasive messages that attempt to change people’s attitudes by arousing their fears. They are most effective if they induce a moderate amount of fear and if people believe that listening to the message will provide them with actions they can take to reduce this fear. If the message is too scary or not scary enough, it will fail (Figure 7–5).

2. Emotion as a Heuristic

• Chaiken’s heuristic-systematic model of persuasion states that there are two ways in which persuasive communications can cause attitude change; people either systematically process the merits of the arguments, or they use mental shortcuts (heuristics). Thus, when people take the peripheral route to persuasion they often use heuristics, e.g., “(Message) length equals strength” or “Experts are always right.”

• Emotions and moods themselves can be used as a heuristic; we ask ourselves “How do I feel about it?” and if we feel good, we infer we have a positive attitude. This can get us into trouble if the good feelings are due to something other than the attitude object and make a misattribution that the attitude object is the source.

3. Emotion and Different Types of Attitudes

• Studies suggest that it is most effective to try to change cognitively based attitudes by using the central route to persuasion but to change affectively based attitudes by using emotional persuasion.

• Shavitt (1990) found that people were most persuaded by informational, utilitarian ads for products (e.g., air conditioners) towards which they had cognitively based attitudes and by value or social-identity-laden ads for products (e.g., perfume) towards which they have affectively based attitudes (Figure 7–6).

4. Culture and Different Types of Attitudes

• Han and Shavitt (1994) found that Americans were most influenced by ads that stressed independence and self-improvement while Koreans were most influenced by ads (for the same product) that stressed interdependence and social standing.

• In general, advertisements work best if they are tailored to the kind of attitude they are trying to change.


A. Attitude Inoculation

• One way to bolster people against persuasion attempts is to have them consider the arguments for and against their attitude before somebody attacks it.

• W. McGuire’s attitude inoculation procedure does this by exposing people to a small dose of the argument against their position; this induced them to counterargue and provides a “vaccination” that helps people ward off later, stronger influence attempts.

B. Being Alert to Product Placement

• Companies pay the makers of a TV show to incorporate their product into the script, which is called product placement. Several studies have found that warning people about an upcoming product placement makes them less susceptible to that persuasive attempt.

C. Resisting Peer Pressure

• Several programs have tried to prevent smoking in adolescents by exposing them to mild versions of attempts to get them to smoke and having them role play counteracting these pressures. These programs appear successful in reducing teen smoking.

D. When Persuasion Attempts Boomerang: Reactance Theory

• It is important not to use too heavy a hand when trying to immunize people against assaults on their attitudes. If you administer too strong a prohibition, the prohibition may boomerang and lead to an increase in the prohibited activity. Reactance theory explains this by saying that strong prohibitions threaten a person’s feeling of freedom, and the boomerang is an attempt to restore that feeling of freedom.

• Pennebaker and Sanders (1976) found that graffiti was reduced more by a sign with a mild prohibition than by a sign with a strong one.


• People’s behavior does not always correspond to their attitude.

• LaPiere did a classic field study in the 1930s where he found that hotel and restaurants served a Chinese couple despite their written statements that they would not do so.

• Later research reveals that attitudes do predict behavior, but only under certain conditions.

A. Predicting Spontaneous Behaviors

• People’s attitudes will predict/be consistent with their spontaneous behaviors when the attitudes are highly accessible. If the attitudes are not highly accessible, arbitrary aspects of the situation will tend to determine behavior.

B. Predicting Deliberative Behaviors

• Fishbein and Ajzen’s theory of planned behavior is a theory of how attitudes predict planned, deliberative behavior; according to this theory the best predictors of these behaviors are the person’s specific attitudes, his or her subjective norms, and their perceived behavioral control (Figure 7–7).

• The attitude that is important is not a general attitude but their attitude towards the specific behavior in question. For example, Davidson and Jaccard (1979) showed that married women’s use of birth control pills was much better predicted by their attitude towards using the pills during the next two years than it was by their attitudes towards the pills or towards birth control (Table 7–1).

• Subjective norms are people’s beliefs about how those they care about will view the behavior in question. Asking people about their subjective norms increases the ability to predict planned, deliberative behaviors.

• Perceived behavioral control is the ease with which people believe they can perform the behavior. If people think it is easy to perform the behavior, they are more likely to form a strong intention to do it.

• Considerable research supports the idea that asking people about these three determinants of their intentions increases the ability to predict their planned, deliberative behaviors.


• Wilson and Brekke (1994) found that most people think advertising works on everybody but themselves.

• Contrary to such beliefs, the evidence indicates that advertising works in the sense that sales increase.

• The best evidence that advertising works comes from studies using split cable market tests where advertisers work in conjunction with cable companies and stores to show ads to a randomly selected group of people and see whether these people are more likely to buy the product.

• Ads work particularly well for new products.

A. How Advertising Works

• Advertisers should consider the kind of attitude they are trying to change. If they are trying to change an affectively based attitude, it is best to take an emotional approach (e.g., associate feelings of excitement, energy, and sexual attractiveness with the brand). If they are trying to change a cognitively based attitude, they also need to consider the personal relevance of the attitude.

• If a product is personally relevant, the best way to change it is through strong arguments; if a product is not personally relevant, advertising may attempt to make it seem so (e.g., Gerald Lambert created the term “halitosis” to increase sales for Listerine).

• Ads also try to make attitudes more affectively based by associating the product with emotions and values.

B. Subliminal Advertising: A Form of Mind Control?

• During the 2000 presidential election, an ad criticizing Gore’s drug plan briefly (1/13 of a second) showed the word rats and ignited a debate regarding the possible attempt by the Bush campaign to use subliminal messages.

Subliminal messages are words or pictures that are not consciously perceived but may influence people’s judgments, attitudes, and behaviors.

• In the 1950s, J. Vicary convinced a movie theater to flash the subliminal messages “Drink Coca-Cola” and “Eat popcorn” during a movie, and he claimed large increases in sales from this manipulation, provoking a large public outcry. Since then, audiotapes with subliminal messages to help people make personal changes have developed a large market.

1. Debunking the Claims about Subliminal Advertising

• Vicary’s original demonstration was both unscientific (lacking a control group) and a fraud.

• Although most people believe that subliminal messages work, and there have been many popular attempts to indicate that they do, controlled studies do not indicate that they are effective when used in everyday life.

2. Laboratory Evidence for Subliminal Influence

• There is some evidence that subliminal messages may be effective in controlled, laboratory studies. Murphy and Zajonc (1993) subliminally presented happy or angry faces or blank polygons along with supraliminally presented Chinese ideographs; people’s liking of the ideographs was influenced by the subliminally presented faces (Figure 7–8).

• Subliminal effects only occur under very carefully controlled conditions and do not override people’s wishes and desires.

• The hoopla about subliminal ads may obscure the powerful effects of consciously perceived ads.

C. Advertising, Cultural Stereotypes, and Social Behavior

• Advertisements transmit cultural stereotypes in their words and images, subtly linking products with desired images (e.g., Marlboro ads linking cigarettes with the rugged macho Marlboro Man).

• Gender stereotypes are particularly pervasive in advertising imagery. Men are portrayed as doers and women as observers (Figure 7.9).

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