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Chapter 8

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McGill University
PSYC 215
John Lydon

PSYC 215 Chapter 8 Book notes FUNCTIONS OF ATTITUDES A. The Utilitarian Function of Attitudes a. Utilitarian function- an attitudinal function that serves to alert people to rewarding objects and situations they should approach and costly or punishing objects or situations they should avoid b. Attitudes make us evaluatively ready to achieve goals that matter to us c. We make objects relative to our goal positive d. Eg. Food preferences-preference for sweet foods help us identify foods of nutritional value vs. disgust for bitter foods to avoid toxins e. Pairing neutral objects with stimulus that generates a strong positive or negative reaction changes attitudes toward that object B. The Ego-Defensive Function of Atitudes a. ego-defensive function-an attitudinal function that enables people to maintain cherished beliefs about themselves and their world by protecting them from contradictory information b. death is a source of many of our stringest attitudes and deepest values c. John Jost argued that political conservatism is a form of motivated or ego-defensive cognition that helps people ward off certain anxieties i. Found 2 core values of political conservatism: 1. Resistance to change 2. Endorsement of inequality ii. these core values are attempts to manage fear and uncertainty C. The Value-Expressive Function of Attitudes a. Value-expressive function-an attitudinal function whereby attitudes help people express their most cherished values—usually in groups in which these values can be supported and reinforced b. We join groups to express our attitudes c. Reference groups-groups whose opinions matter to us and that affect our opinions and beliefs d. Our commitment to idea that people in the groups we join share our attitudes can lead to certain forms of bias, eg. In political groups, people tend to overestimate the similarity between own attitudes and that of their leaders. e. Study: students brought up in protestant republican families who attended liberal school changed their political conservatism dramatically —changes these women went through stayed whole life D. The Knowledge Function of Attitudes a. Knowledge function—an attitudinal function whereby attitudes help organize people’s understanding of the world, guiding how they attend to, store, and retrieve information b. Most typically we pay attention to and recall information that is consistent with our preexisting attitudes c. Exp: Carter vs Reagan supporters watched debate-each thought own candidate had won, most undecided voters thought Reagan had won d. Theme: our attitudes lead us to seek out and selectively attend to information that bolsters our preexisting attitudes Our attitudes serve four functions that are vital to our daily living. They help us identify rewards and threats, they help us avoid unpleasant realities about ife and who we are, they are part of why we belong to different groups, and they are powerful guides to our construal of the social world. PERSUASION AND ATTITUDE CHANGE A. A Two-Process Approach to Persuasion a. Heuristic-systematic model-a model of persuasion that maintains that there are two different routes of persuasion: the systematic and the heuristic routes b. Elaboration likelihood model (ELM)-a model of persuasion that maintains that there are two different routes of persuasion: central route and peripheral route c. Central (systematic) route- A persuasive route wherein people think carefully and deliberately about the content of a message, attending to its logic, cogency, (how convincing argument is) and arguments as well as to related evidence and principles. i. Elaborate thinking can lead ind to change an attitude or not based on careful sifting of arguments d. Peripheral (heuristic) route- A persuasive route wherein people attend to relatively simple, superficial cues related to the message, such as the length of the message or the expertise or attractiveness of the communicator i. When persuasion happens through this route ind swayed by these cues w/o giving much thought to the message itself e. Three factors make central route to persuasion more likely: i. Personal relevance of message ii. Our knowledge about the issue iii. Whether the message makes us feel responsible for some action or outcome f. Factors that trigger peripheral processing: i. Reduced motivation ii. Interfere with our ability to attend to the message carefully; eg. Tired, distracted—pay more attention to peripheral cues g. Study: Participants read eight weak/strong arguments in support of comprehensive exam to be implemented at their school; Personal Relevance controlled by telling participants exam to be changed either next year or in ten years; Source expertise: half told it was done by high school class, and other half by Princton Committee i. When message not relevant to students, expertise of source mattered, but argument strength didn’t ii. When relevant, students more persuaded by strong arguments, less influenced by source expertise h. Central route of persuasion thought to bring about more enduring attitude change, more resistant to persuasion, and more predictive behavior i. Three components to oersuasive message: source, content, target B. Source Characteristics a. Source characteristics-characteristics of the person who delivers the message, including the person’s attractiveness, credibility, and expertise b. Attractiveness-attractive people are more persuasive than others c. Credibility i. Target may interpret high source credibility as strong argument in favor of changing his attitude toward position source endorses d. The Sleeper Effect i. Messages by noncredible sources, fall on deaf ears? ii. Study: Rated likelihood that nuclear submarine would be built in near future; later read essay about imminence of nuclear submarine, told either written by highly credible physicist or noncredible journalist—essay content was the same, but Oppenheimer led to greater attitude change than journalist iii. 4 weeks later, participants who had read Pravda essay shifted attitudes toward position he advocated iv. sleeper effect-an effect that occurs when messages from unreliable sources initially exert little influence but later cause individuals’ attitudes to shift C. Message Characteristics a. Message characteristics-aspects of the message itself, including the quality of the evidence and the explicitness of its conclusions
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