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Psychology 3723F/G
Olson James

Lecture Notes Lecture 1-2 Introduction and Measurement of Attitudes Definition of Attitudes • Likes and dislikes – Bem • The categorization of a stimulus object along an evaluative dimension, which can based upon or developed from: o Cognitive information o Affective information and/or o Behavioral information • Psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favor or disfavor – Eagly and Chaiken • Key aspects: o Evaluation (good-bad, like-dislike favourable-unfavourable) o Target (what is evaluated positively or negatively)  Can be virtually anything (food, person, object, social issue, abstract concept, behavior) • Social psychologists are primarily interested in certain attitudes o Primarily attitudes that are enduring and important Sources of Attitudes • Attitudes can be based on one or more of: o Cognitive information o Affective information o Behavioral information • Sometimes referred to as “three component view” of attitudes (CAB) Cognitive sources of attitudes • Cognitive information: o Beliefs about object o Knowledge about object o Expectations of object’s costs and benefits o Eg. Attitudes toward scissors, warning labels Affective sources of attitudes • Affective information: o Feelings toward object o Emotions elicited by object o Pleasure or pain associated with object o Eg. Attitudes toward eating raw oysters Behavioral sources of attitudes • Behavioral info: o Previous actions towards object o Past/current ownership of object 1 o Planned actions toward object o Eg. Attitudes towards whole wheat bread Three sources of attitudes • Components may sometimes be consistent with one another • Components may sometimes be inconsistent with one another o Eg. Positive and negative feelings towards the dentist o When things are inconsistent the attitude may have unpredictable effects o Behavior will be inconsistent because different components will be more salient at different times (concept of ambivalence) Consequence of attitudes • Attitudes can be influences by one or more of: o Cognitive/information processing o Affect/feelings o Behavior Explicit versus implicit attitudes • Focus of social psychologists has been on explicit attitudes (can be consciously reported) • Since 1995 some have been studying implicit attitudes, cannot be measured traditionally • Implicit attitude – automatic evaluative response to a target which may occur without awareness Implicit attitudes • Key aspects: o Evaluation o Target o Automatic o May occur without awareness o Usually primarily affective • Usually consistent with explicit • Individuals usually aware of their implicit attitudes • Sometimes implicit may differ and people may not be aware of their implicit responses • Usually a largely affective response • Ex. Ethnic groups – people may express a favorable evaluation consciously and mean it (explicit) but may have implicit negative affective response Concepts related to attitudes • Values o Broad ideas/goals that guide people’s lives o General principles that people hope to follow in their actions o Can be considered very general attitudes 2 o Ex. Honesty, pleasure, freedom • In general, values are positive concepts for everyone, but some people consider them more important than others o Ex. Freedom – almost everyone thinks it’s a good thing, but some people regard it as higher priority than others Values • Shalom Schwartz (1992) o Conducted cross-cultural research in more than 60 countries o Identified 9 fundamental value domains o All of these domains were present in all cultures o All of them can be organized in a circumplex that reflects their similarity  Self direction: freedom, creativity  Universalism: wisdom, social justice  Benevolence: helpfulness, honesty  Conformity/tradition: humility, devoutness  Security: social orderliness, cleanliness  Power: authority, wealth  Achievement: success, ability  Hedonism: pleasure, enjoyment of life  Stimulation: daring, varied life o Ratings of the importance of the nine domains tend to be similar for domains that are close together in the circle, but different to opposite ones in the circle  Eg. Someone who considers universalism important is likely to rate self-direction and benevolence positively, but evaluate power and achievement less positively o Value domains that are close to one another in the circle tend to be logically and behaviorally compatible with one another o Value domains on opposite sides of the circle tend to be incompatible  Eg. Hedonism and benevolence Functions of attitudes • Benefits of attitudes • Goals fulfilled by attitudes • Smith et al. 1956; Katz 1960 o Object appraisal function (smith) Utilitarian function (Katz) (Terms considered  Most basic and universal function the same)  Attitude provides rapid evaluation of target  Attitude induces approach or avoidance of target  Attitude maximizes rewards and punishments  Eg. Infant’s positive attitude to mother o Value expressive function (Katz) Social adjustment function (Smith)  Attitude links person with valued others 3  Attitude facilitates social interaction  Attitude expresses person’s identity  Attitude reflects person’s central values  Eg. Catholic’s negative attitude to birth control o Ego defensive function (Katz) Externalization Function (Smith)  Attitude defends the self from internal conflict  Attitude protects the ego (self-concept)  Attitude keeps the individual from having to admit an uncomplimentary truth about self  Eg. Some professors’ negative attitude towards students, worker’s positive attitude to low paying job o Knowledge function Katz)  Attitude helps person to understand something that is otherwise confusing  Attitude integrates beliefs that are otherwise inconsistent  Attitude allows person to predict the future more confidently  Eg. Person’s negative attitude toward disputants in longstanding conflict, person’s positive attitude toward successful people • Usefulness of functional view of attitudes o Explains how or why attitudes form spontaneously o Effectiveness of attitude change strategies may depend on whether they address or match the function of the attitude o Compatible with recent perspectives on implicit attitudes, in that functions might be subconscious • Limitations of functional view of attitudes o Difficult to measure functions, especially if subconscious o Some attitudes might fulfill multiple functions for a given person o Some functions can overlap conceptually o Some functions can overlap conceptually  Eg. If attitude facilitates social interactions with others (social adjustment), it might increase the individual’s reward (utilitarian) Attitude Measurement • Most rely on self-report because: o Most convenient method o People should be aware of their explicit attitudes  Through they are not necessarily away of implicit, which require different techniques o People should be willing to report their explicit attitudes honestly  Unless there are strong social desirability demands, such as when some attitude positions are regarded as undesirable (require different techniques) • Single-Item Attitude Measure o Direct, simply strategy o Ask for overall evaluative rating 4  Eg. How favourable or unfavourable are you toward abolishing the Canadian Senate Extremely 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Extremely Unfavourable Favourable Self-report measures of attitudes • Osgood’s semantic differential scale (Osgood et al., 1957) o Designed to measure “connotative meaning” of objects/concepts o Based on factor analyses of people’s ratings of many different objects on a wide array of bipolar adjective scales o Three underlying dimensions:  Evaluation (good-bad)  Potency (strong-weak)  Activity (active-passive) o Evaluative dimension represents attitudes o Participants rate attitude object on several bipolar evaluative scales:  Good-bad; beneficial-harmful; wise-foolish; like-dislike etc o Can be used to measure attitudes toward any object or issue o Eg. Place an “X” to indicate your rating on each dimension: Conservative Party of Canada: Like ___:___:___:___:___ Dislike Good ___:___:___:___:___ Bad Wise ___:___:___:___:___ Foolish Beneficial ___:___:___:___:___ Harmful o All measures of explicit attitudes to date have used absolute rating scales eg.  “How favourable are you toward religion?” • Extremely unfavourable – Extremely favourable  “Rate religion on the following scales:” • Good – Bad; Favourable – Unfavourable • Olson, Goffin and Haynes 2007 o Tested whether relative measures of attitudes might be better than absolute o Relative measures require comparisons of target to others  More sensitive  Makes peoples answers more comparable with others  Participants received detailed explanation • “We want you to rate your attitude toward a number of targets, using a relative attitude scale. On this scale, you should compare yourself to all students in Psychology 020 at UWO.” 5 o Absolute measures reflect qualities of target directly o Recruited students from intro psych at UWO and measured attitudes and behaviors in several different domains o Five domains:  Organized religion  Reading for pleasure  Drinking alcohol  Exercising  Watching sports o Half of the participants reported their attitudes using a relative measure and the other half an absolute measure o In a separate questionnaire, participants reported the frequency that they performed various behaviors in a specific time period such as:  How many times they attended a religious service etc. 6 o Correlation coefficients between measures of attitudes and measures of behavior were computed separately for:  Participants who completed relevant measures of attitudes vs.  Participants who completed absolute measures • Why do relative measures predict behavior better? o Gives all respondents the same interpretation of labels on the scale o Respondents think more about behavior because they must use it to infer others’ attitudes • Problems affecting self-report scales o Social desirability  Give answers that are most socially acceptable  Strategies to reduce: • Anonymity • Innocuous items (not harmful/offensive) • “no right or wrong answers” • use scale to measure tendency to give socially desirable answers o Acquiescence  Tendency to agree with all statements  Strategies to reduce: • Use balanced scale where high scores on some items reflect agreement and high scores on others reflect disagreement o Carelessness  Tendency to answer randomly  Strategies to reduce problem: • Stress importance of task • Keep questionnaires short Alternatives to Self-report measures of explicit attitudes • Behaviour measures o Attitudes are assumed to influence behavior, so perhaps behavior can be used to measure attitudes o Eg. Interpersonal distance can be used to infer lining  Problem – not very sensitive and can be time consuming to obtain o Eg. Lost letter technique (Milgram)  Addresses, stamped letters are “lost” throughout the city  The addresses represent targets of attitudes eg. “young communist league” vs “young conservative party” 7  Number of lost letters delivered to address is assumed to reflect attitudes toward target groups  Problem – can only measure community-level attitudes, not individual attitudes, time consuming • Physiological measures o Attitudes can affect physiological processes so maybe they can infer attitudes o Eg. Measures of stress/arousal (GSR and Hear rate)  Problem – these reactions indicate intensity but not direction of evaluations o Eg. Facial EMG of muscles in face  Problem – indicate direction but not sensitive to intensity and are time consuming Measures of implicit attitudes • Implicit attitude – automatic evaluative response to a target which may occur without awareness o Cannot be measured by self-report because may be unconscious o Usually measured with reaction time procedures o Most common measure – implicit association test (IAT), Greenwald • IAT – assesses whether participants find it easier to associate a target with good or bad meanings o Participants sort items from the target categories to the left or to the right at the same time as sorting words with good or bad meaning o Criticism  Measures the difference in evaluations of two concepts, not attitudes toward one concept • Possible to develop single category IAT with no contrasting category • In one block of trials participants must categorize the single category with good words • In another block, must categorize single category with bad words • If participants are faster to categorize single category (exercise) with “good” than with “bad”, then they have a favourable implicit attitude (toward exercise)  Might reflect knowledge of social norms, rather than personal attitudes • Participants may be influenced by perceptions of how the categories are typically perceived by most people (e.g., show “The Bachelor” is seen as good by most people, even though I dislike it) • Can use “I like/I dislike” rather than “good/bad”  Can be influenced by response biases, such as conscious attempts to control latency • Must stress importance of answering quickly 8 Chapter 2 – Attitudes Structure and Attributes; Personality and Attitudes; Attitudes toward the environment Attitude structure • Intra-attitude structure o Structure within the attitude • What are the internal components of attitudes? (Attitude content in the textbook) • CAB model Intra-attitude structure • How many dimensions underlie attitudes? • Are attitudes unidimensional? o Extremely negative – neutral – extremely positive • Are attitudes bidimensional? o Not all negative – extremely negative And Not at all positive – extremely positive • Probably when attitudes first form they are most always unidimensional • Bidimensional structure No positive Many Positive No negative Neutral/none Positive Many negative Negative Ambivalent • Ambivalent attitudes: o Less stable over time o More easily changed o Less predictive of behaviour o Unpleasant for perceiver because:  we dislike inconsistency  we dislike uncertainty • Conner (2002) o Measured attitudes toward eat a low fat diet, both the overall favourability of the attitude and the ambivalence of the attitude  Overall attitude: unidimensional semantic differential (-3 to +3)  Eg. If I were to eat a low fat diet it would be: • Unpleasant – pleasant  Ambivalence of attitude – separating positive/negative • Considering only unfavorable qualities of eating low fat diet , how unfavourable is your evaluation of eating a low fat diet? o Not at all unfavourable – extremely unfavourable • Considering only the favorable qualities of eating a low fat diet and ignoring unfavourable ones, how favourable is your evaluation of eating a low fat diet o Not all favourable – extremely favourable 9  These separate ratings were integrated using a forumal that assessed the extent to which both positive and negative elements were extreme and equally extreme o Also measured behavior  One month later, measured actual compliance with eating a low fat diet • I have eat a low fat diet in the last month Strongly disagree – strongly agree o Results o Attitudes predicted behavior better when ambivalence was low rather than high o Attitude behavior correlations:  Low ambivalence group = 0.36  Intermediate ambivalence group = 0.25  High ambivalence group = 0.14 Inter-attitude structure  Structure between attitudes  How are different attitudes related to one another?  Hierarchical (or Vertical) structures – how attitudes at the same level are related o Are more specific/narrow attitudes nested within/below more general/broad attitudes? Hierarchical structure of attitudes • Broad attitudes lead down to relevant general attitude  specific • Appears that when you activate something up high, things down low become activated or primed 10 o Does not happen in reverse • If you think about affirmative action it does not make your broad values more accessible or active Inter-attitude structure • Horizontal structure o Is the attitude embedded within a complex array or network of related attitudes? o Ex. Most peoples attitudes towards their mothers are connected to many other attitudes  Example of highly embedded in a network o This network is often thought of as semantic network – the semantic connection is what determines the structure o Thought of as an associative network – if one concept or attitude is activated it activates other related or connected attitudes • Implications for attitude change: o Hierarchical structure  If a higher level attitude/value changes then lower level attitudes may also be influenced especially if person becomes aware of potential inconsistency o Horizontal structure  Attitudes that are embedded in a more complex array may be more difficult to change • Consistency between attitudes o People want their attitudes to be consistent with one another – to “make sense” in the context of other attitudes o Most famous theory that builds on the assumption of desire for consistency – dissonance theory Consistency between attitudes • Another consistency model of attitudes – balance theory (Fritz Heider) • Heider proposed that people prefer balanced relations among their attitudes • Awareness of unbalanced relation is aversive and motivates people to create balance by changing one of the elements • Important early model of consistency Balance theory • Best known application is to triads involving two people and one attitude target/topic o P = person (the focus individual) o O = other person o X = attitude target/topic o + = like/positive attitude o - = dislike/negative attitude • Focal person has negative attitude toward X • Focal person likes other individual • Other individual has favorable attitude towards the target 11 • There is an unbalanced triad because someone you like disagrees with you • If P becomes aware of unbalanced relations: o Change attitude toward X o Change liking for O o P cannot easily change O’s liking for X • Limitations: o Overly simplistic o Does not consider the strength or degree of liking by P of O or X o Does not consider reciprocal liking or disliking from O to P o Does not consider that relationships often involve multiple attitudes: people can share some attitudes with an individual but also disagree with that person on other issues Social Judgment theory • Most theories of attitudes assume that attitudes are a single specific “position” on an issue o Person’s overall evaluation of an object • Sherif and Hovland’s theory takes a different view of attitudes and attitude structure • SJT – views attitudes as a continuum of evaluations: range of acceptable positions, unacceptable positions, positions towards which the individual has no strong commitment o These ranges of positions = Latitudes • Latitude of acceptance o All those positions on an issue that an individual finds acceptable • Latitude of rejection o All those positions on an issue that an individual finds unacceptable or objectionable • Latitude of noncommitment o All those positions on an issue that an individual has no strong feelings about • People who are highly ego-involved in an issue tend to have larger latitudes of rejection and smaller latitudes of noncommitment o Messages that argue for a position in the latitude of rejection are rejected outright and produce no persuasion (perhaps even a boomerang)  When individuals are exposed to a persuasive message that argues a position they find objectionable they tend to reject the message right away and sometimes become more extreme in what they believe  Partly explains why it’s so difficult to persuade people who are highly ego involved 12 Attributes of Attitudes • What characteristics or features differ from one attitude to another? • What attributes of attitudes are important • How do attitudes differ from one another in ways that influence important consequences of the attitudes • 8 common attributes o Valence  Good/bad  Positive/negative  Favourable/unfavourable  Direction: pro/con  The most fundamental attribute of attitudes  Reflects the good vs. bad evaluation of the attitude object o Extremity  Extent to which attitude deviates from midpoint of good-bad scale  Can be in favourable or unfavourable direction o Ambivalence  Contains both positive and negative elements  Positive and negative elements are extreme  Positive and negative elements are equally extreme  Reflects the extent to which valence of attitude is ambiguous o Accessibility  Ease of retrieval or activation of attitude  Strength of link between attitude object and evaluation  Measured by speed of response to attitude question o Importance  Degree to which person cares about attitude  Perceived significance of the attitude  Measured by subjective rating of importance o Certainty – not necessarily important  Extent to which person is convinced that the attitude is correct  Confidence with which the person holds the attitude  Measured by subjective rating of certainty o Ego-involvement  Extent to which the attitude is linked to core aspects of self  Sometimes measured by size of latitude of rejection • (bigger = more ego involvement)  Sometimes measured by subjective rating of ego-involvement o Direct experience  Attitude is based on personal interaction with object  Object has been encountered directly  Usually measured by self-reports of behavioural experience with object • Some of these attributes are conceptually related to one another 13 o Extremity and Accessibility – intensity of attitude o Ambivalence and certainty and direct experience – confidence in attitude o Importance and ego-involvement – personal significance of attitude • One label has been used to encompass many of these attributes: o Attitude strength  Strong/weak  Has impact/does not have impact  Consequential/inconsequential • Jon krosnick and Richard petty (1995) o Proposed that attitude strength is best defined in terms of its effects or consequences o Many specific attributes can generate these consequences perhaps in different ways Attitude Strength • Strong attitudes: o Stable over time o Resistant to change o Guide information processing o Predict behaviour • Attributes that may be associated with attitude strength (7 of 8 previous): o Ambivalence (low) o Extremity o Accessibility o Importance o Certainty o Ego-involvement o Direct experience • All of these attributes have been shown to be associated with all of the defining features of attitude strength: o Stability over time, resistance to change, impact on info processing and prediction of behavior • Perhaps they all reflect a single underlying dimension: attitude strength • Krisnick et al., 1993 o Measured 13 variables potentially related to attitude strength o Included 6 of the attributes defined earlier:  Extremity  Accessibility  Importance  Certainty  Ego-involvement  Direct Experience • The different attributes were moderately intercorrelated, except ego involvement • Suggests that the attributes do not all reflect the same underlying dimension 14 • Factor analysis indicated a multi-factor model fit the data best • Thus the dimensions are similar to one another in some respects but can be treated as distinct concepts Personality and attitudes  Personality traits – broad patterns of feelings, thoughts and actions which are relatively stable across time and settings and make the individual different from other people  Seems likely that many personality traits can influence specific attitudes eg. o Sensation-seeking affects liking for thrilling activities o Extraversion affects liking for parties o Intelligence affects liking for chess  Two personality traits have more broad implications for attitudes: o Need to evaluate  Jarvis and Petty, 1996 • The chronic tendency to engage in evaluative activity • The chronic tendency to form attitudes  Self-report measure, eg. • I form opinions about everything • I often prefer to remain neutral about complex issues • I pay a lot of attention to whether things are good or bad  Study 1: Measured attitudes toward 29 social and political issues • Eg. Legalized abortion, mandatory national service • Participants could respond no opinion for any time • High need to evaluate (top 1/3) • Moderate and low need to evaluate (bottom 2/3)  Study 2: participants looked at slides of 24 painting, some attractive and some unattractive • Listed thoughts for 30 seconds • Participants’ thoughts were coded as evaluative (eg. I like it; it’s awful) or as nonevaluative (there is meat hanging around a man, the colors are dark) • High need to evaluate: M = 1.05 evaluative thoughts per paintings • Moderate and low need to evaluate: M = 0.75 evaluative thoughts per painting • The need to evaluate indicates the spontaneous tendency to form attitudes o Some people come to evaluation expressions quickly o Need for cognition  Cacioppo and Petty, 1982 • The extent to which people are motivated to engage in thinking and enjoy complex thought  Self report scale eg: • Thinking is not my idea of fun 15 • I prefer to be filled with puzzles that I must solve  How might this trait affect attitudes? • High need for cognition should make people more sensitive to the strength of arguments in e message (eg. Less persuaded by weak arguments) • High trait should make people’s attitudes more strong o More resistant to influence attempts once an attitude is formed from strong arguments o More predictive of behavior  Cacioppo et al., 1986 • Participants listened to audio tape arguing for a substantial increase in tuition o Either 8 strong arguments, eg:  Would reduce teacher- student ratio  Would improve quality of laboratories o Or 9 weak arguments, eg:  Would beautify campus  Would improve travel opportunities for students • Participants then rated agreement with message • High N cognition participants were more sensitive to strength of arguments  Haugtvedt and Petty, 1992 • Participants completed attitude survey including attitude towards good additives • Then read strong message arguing to ban saccharin from a prof • Reported attitude toward saccharin again • Participants then read a response to the first message containing moderately strong arguments • Reported attitude toward saccharin again 16  Cacioppo 1986 o Surveyed students 8 weeks before presidential election o Measured attitudes toward Regan and Mondale and formed a preference index that reflected more favourable attitude toward Regan than Mondale o Immediately after election, participants were contacted and asked who they voted for o Correlations between attitudes and voting behavior  High need cognition, r = .87  Low need cognition, 4 =.46 Environmental Attitudes • Individuals’ evaluative (good-bad) judgments of environmentally related activities or issues • People’s attitudes toward environmental issues are based one: o Beliefs about the benefits and costs of environmental actions or issues (eg. Recycling) o Affective reactions to environmental actions or issues (eg. Threat of global warming is frightening) o Past behaviours is in the environmental domain (eg. I do not turn down the thermostat at night) • What are the main environmental problems? o Overconsumption – we are consuming too many available resources  Deforestation (22% of original forest remain) • Loss of trees often causes desertification  Exhaustion of fisheries • Many species have declined by 70-80% • For some species, fisheries have been suspended  Depletion of freshwater 17 • Since 1950, the amount of freshwater available has been decreasing steadily in every continent, whereas demand has increased o Pollution - We are poisoning the atmosphere, soil and water  Global warming • Temperature increases over the next 50 years could have catastrophic consequences • Toxic chemicals in food, commercial products and ground o Rates of cancer might increase for current population • Air pollution and acid rain o Smog is a serious problem in many cities • Overpopulation o We are increasing the human population at unsustainable rates, thus increasing consumption and pollution • What are Canadians’ attitudes toward the environment? How concerned are they about global warming and other issues? o Harris/Decima survey 2007 18 • But do Canadians follow through on their attitudes and protect the environment? o Canada remains one of the highest per capita consumers/polluters in the world • Report released Jan 17, 2013 o Canada ranked 15 of 17 developed nations on overall environmental efficiency o Canada ranked 17 of 17 in garbage produced:  Canada 777 kg. of garbage per person per year  Japan 377 kg./p.p./p.yr. o Canada ranked 16 of 17 in water use:  Canada 1,131 cubic metres of water per person per year  Denmark 127 c.m./p.p./p.yr. • Who are more concerned about environmental issues? o Demographic variables – age, gender, education, income, ethnicity o Ideologies and Values – political views, new environmental paradigm • Demographic Variables: o Age – young people more concerned  Why? Personal relevance, lack of guilt o Gender – women more concerned 19  Why? Women more other-oriented; socialization o Education – more education, more concern  Why? More informed, stronger feelings of personal control o Income – inconsistent results  Sometimes lower income respondents most concerned  Sometimes higher income respondents most concerned  Perhaps relation is curvilinear? • Why? Lowest income more personally affected • Highest income more educated and informed o Ethnicity  Canadian data – visible minorities more concerned  Aboriginal peoples especially concerned  Why? Lifestyle more personally affected; lack of guilt • Ideologies and Values o Political affiliation/ideology  One of the strongest predictors of environmental concern is political affiliation  In U.S.: Democrats vs. Republicans  To a lesser extent, in Canada: Green/NDP/Liberals vs. Conservatives o Political affiliations predict:  concern about environment  concern about global warming  belief that environmental protections harm the economy o New Environmental Paradigm (NEP)  Dunlap & Van Liere (1978) proposed an emerging ideology/value framework that involves a new view of the environment • Nature/environment is a living organism/system • Nature is fragile and vulnerable • There must be limits to growth • People must live in balance with nature rather than “rule” it o NEP contrasts with historical foundation of Western culture, which they label:  Dominant Social Paradigm • Individualism • Materialism • Economic growth • Environment is a resource (not a living organism) o NEP measured with 14 items eg.  We are approaching the limit of the number of people the earth can support  Humans have the right to modify the natural environment to suit their needs Lecture 4: attitudes and informational processing; religious attitudes 20 Attitude and information processing • Information processing stages: o Exposure  Attention, inspection o Interpretation  Perception, labeling, construal, attribution o Memory  Retrieval from storage, ease of learning Effects of Attitudes on Attention • How do attitudes guide attention? • What kind of attitude-relevant information is most likely to be noticed? o We are more likely to notice things we expect o We are more likely to notice very unexpected events  Eg. If someone is extremely rude – that may surprise you • Information that is consistent with one’s attitudes may often be noticed more than inconsistent information • Dissonance Theory, Leon Festinger, 1957 (Lecture 8) • Selective Exposure Hypothesis: o (a) People seek out and are more likely to notice information that is consistent with their attitudes  Approach component o (b) People avoid and are less likely to notice information that is inconsistent with their attitudes  Avoidant component • Approach component: o Consistent information is pleasing, e.g.:  Decide to come to Western, feel good when learn that Western is “the best student experience” in Canada • Avoidance component: o Inconsistent information is distressing, e.g.:  Buy AMC Gremlin, do NOT want to see negative reviews of car • Early research largely nonsupportive o Didn’t appear to support predictions of dissonance theory o Not the only resonance that we seek out information, also seek out information useful to us • To test hypothesis fairly, must control: o Usefulness of information  E.g., negative reviews of Gremlin are useful to Gremlin owners o Novelty/curiosity value of information  E.g., pro-smoking pamphlet might arouse curiosity of nonsmokers o Personality variables  E.g., some people might show effects more 21 • Eg. Field of study Sweeny and Gruber, 1984 o Researchers used survey data collected in 1974, when the Watergate scandal occurred o Watergate scandal: President Richard Nixon was involved in a break-in at the Watergate Hotel in 1972, which he then attempted to cover up o Investigation dragged on two years, with evidence slowly coming to light that Nixon knew about the break-in into the Democratic Party offices in the hotel complex o When it appeared he would be impeached, Nixon resigned as President on August 9, 1974 o Very embarrassing for Republicans, but very rewarding for Democrats o Survey data collected in 1974 when scandal was at its peak o Some respondents had voted for Nixon in 1972 o Some had voted for George McGovern (democratic) o Some had not voted o Respondents were asked whether they were following the Watergate affair:  2.11 < 2.41 < 2.68 o Nixon < Undecided < McGovern (avoidance) (approach)  Those who supported Nixon were significantly less likely to follow the Watergate affair – evidence for avoidance  Those who supported McGovern were more likely to follow it – evidence for approach o Respondents were asked whether they were discussing the Watergate affair: o 1.70 = 1.73 < 2.25 o Nixon = Undecided < McGovern (approach) o Respondents’ knowledge of the Watergate affair was tested: 1.05 < 1.45 < 2.41 o Nixon < Undecided < McGovern (avoidance) (approach)  McGovern followers had significantly more, Nixon significantly less – evidence for approach and avoidance o Respondents were asked how interested in politics they were (not specific to the Watergate affair):  1.89 < 2.38 = 2.46 o Undecided < Nixon = McGovern  Selective exposure • Olson & Zanna, 1979 o Used visual attention (eye gaze) as measure of exposure  Thought selective attention would be different for different personality types o Compared repressors and sensitizers • Repressors: 22 o Use “avoidance” defensive strategies  Repress info that is inconsistent o Denial, repression, rationalization] • Sensitizers o Use “approach” defensive strategies  Try to move the affect by thinking about it in a cold why (“I wonder why I failed that test) rather than denying it and moving on o Intellectualization, rumination • Participants ranked 20 painting reproductions (variety of paintings) • Participants were offered one of two pairs of paintings: 3 and 15, or 5 and 17 • Participants looked at paintings to choose one pair; eye gaze recorded • After choice announced, spontaneous visual eye gaze continued to be recorded for 3 minutes o Ensured that each were far apart to tell where they were looking • Almost always they liked the one they chose 3 rd and disliked the 15 th • They should not look very much at 15 having chosen this pair • The 17 ranked that they disliked is consistent with their decision • Predicted that people would srdnd moreth time after the decision looking at 3 and 17 – the one they chose they liked and rejected that they didn’t like • Repressors – the group believed to show selective exposure o They did – 9% increase in positive chosen one o Avoided looking at the one they chose but don’t like o Also avoided the one they rejected and the one they like – that would make them feel badly o Looked more at the one they rejected and disliked • Sensitizers: o Spent more time looking at negative chosen o Less time at positive rejection o They did not show selective exposure o Overall they showed a pattern opposite to selective exposure • Overall some tendency to look at the chosen pair Effects of Attitudes on Interpretation • How do attitudes influence the interpretation of information? • Attitudes serve as a framework that guides interpretation of information • Often, information is seen as more supportive of one’s attitudes than it actually is 23 o Clearest in the case of ambiguous information – may be interpreted as consistent with our behavior than inconsistent • Example of selective interpretation: o Evaluation of the performance of candidates in a debate o People always think their preferred candidate won the debate • Example of selective interpretation: o If we have a negative attitude toward a group, we will interpret actions by its members as threatening or negative • Vidmar & Rokeach, 1974 • Participants in London, Ontario watched an episode of “All in the Family” • Participants’ racial attitudes had previously been assessed • High-prejudice participants thought that the show affirmed the views of Archie, and Mike was the main target of sarcasm and humour • Low-prejudice participants thought that the show affirmed the views of Mike, and Archie was the main target of sarcasm and humour Edwards & Smith, 1996 • Participants reported their attitudes on many issues: o The death penalty should be abolished. [death pen] o It is appropriate, under certain circumstances, to strike a child. [hit child] o Employers should be required to hire a fixed percentage of minority applicants. [minorities] o Minors seeking abortions should be required to have parental consent. [abortion] o Gay-lesbian couples should not be allowed to adopt children. [adoption] • All participants read short arguments on each issue and rated each for strength (plausibility) o E.g.: Implementing the death penalty means there is a chance that innocent people will be sentenced to death. Therefore, the death penalty should be abolished. o E.g.: Sentencing a person to death ensures that he/she will never commit Ratings of Argument Strength  Time spent reading 
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