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Chapter 7: Attitudes. Initial thoughts . Attitudes and expression of identity Identity function Utilitarian function Interdiscplinary analysis Behaviorism Other fields. Classic debate: attitude neutrality (?). Neutrality vs. Ambivalence vs. “No information” Measurement? Societal value

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Initial thoughts

  • Attitudes and expression of identity

    • Identity function

    • Utilitarian function

  • Interdiscplinary analysis

    • Behaviorism

    • Other fields

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Classic debate: attitude neutrality (?)

  • Neutrality vs. Ambivalence vs. “No information”

    • Measurement?

  • Societal value

  • Possible?

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Why Neutrality is Difficult

  • #1 Automaticity of attitudes

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#2: mere exposure effect

  • Zajonc (1968)

    • The “Turkish word” study

      • e.g., saricik, kadirga, ikitaf

      • 0, 1, 2, 5, 10, or 25 exposures

      • pronounce aloud each time

      • Guess good vs. bad meaning

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Moreland and Zajonc (1973)

  • Subliminal presentation (4 ms)

  • Test phase:

    • “old” vs. and “new” symbols

    • Recognition task: chance level

    • Liking: old symbols preferred

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Additional information about mere exposure effect

  • The effects of repeated exposure depend on initial appraisal of the stimulus

Initially liked, or neutral: increased liking, but:

Initially disliked: increased disliking

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Classic Problems in Attitude Measurement

  • Response alternatives not appropriate

  • Acquiescence (yea-saying) biases

  • Framing

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  • Examples

  • Abortion

    • Pro-life vs. pro-choice; “fetus” vs. “unborn child”, etc…

  • Cloning

    • “What is your attitude toward research on animal cloning?”

    • “If research on animal cloning could be used to advance our ability to prevent cancer, would you be in favor of such research?”

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4. Social desirability effects (Goffman, 1959).

Social desirability

“true” attitude

Fundamental problem: “how much” of response is due to one factor or other.

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“Classic” (older) approaches

  • Vary context in which responses are made

  • The “Bogus Pipeline” (Jones & Sigall, 1971)

    • Participants “practice” on machine, to convince that can detect truth from lying

    • Then asked to express honest attitudes toward mix of new attitudes, some mundane, some socially sensitive

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Older approaches, continued

  • Disguise/mask what’s being asked

    • “Symbolic” attitudes

Overtly expressed attitude A2

Underlying attitude A1

(socially unacceptable )

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examples of “symbolic” attitudes (Kinder, 1986)

  • “____ students receive too much financial assistance from the university” (Boneicki, 1998)

  • “Discrimination against Blacks is a thing of the past” (McConahay, 1986)

  • “Downtown St. Louis has too much crime”

Potential advantages vs. disadvantages?

Tradeoff: efforts to disguise question threaten construct validity

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Newer approach: Implicit Attitudes

  • Attitude object (prime)  target

    • Presentation of prime assumed to facilitate or inhibit response to the target

    • Semantic priming

      • “chocolate” “food” (semantic priming)

    • Evaluative priming

      • “chocolate”  “good” (direct)

      • “chocolate”  “flower” (indirect)

      • “chocolate”  “disgusting”

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Types of implicit priming tasks

Lexical decision tasks: decide whether target is a word or not

“Word or non-word?”







RT measured




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Lexical decision tasks, continued

  • Construct facilitation indices

    • RT (xxxxx  good) – RT (chocolate good)

    • (500 milliseconds) - (200 milliseconds) = 300 ms

    • 300 ms represents implicit attitude index

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Evaluative decision tasks

  • Very similar to lexical decision, but judgmental decision different

Is it a good or a bad word?










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  • If “A” and “B” are associated in memory, then presenting A should make B more accessible

  • Consequences of accessibility: faster to decide if B is

    • a word (lexical decision)

    • positive or negative (evaluative decision)

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Why implicit attitudes potentially interesting

  • Potential dissociation

  • Conscious vs. unconscious

  • Implicit attitudes less “contaminated” by self-presentational bias (?)

  • Implicit attitudes “purer” measures of true attitudes (???)

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Strong argument:separate systems view



Automatic (unconscious) system

Controlled (conscious) system



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The critics speak

  • “just another attitude measure”

  • predictive validity?

    • see Lambert, Payne, Shaffer, & Ramsey (2005)

  • assumptions may be incorrect

    • strong correlations sometimes found

    • controllability of reactions to implicit tasks?

  • “No such thing as a process-pure measure”

    • Larry Jacoby

    • No task 100% automatic

    • No task 100% controlled

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More realistic view?



Automatic system



Controlled system

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Historical Background

  • The James Vicary incident (late 1950s)

    • Popcorn sales increase by 50%, he says.

  • Media reaction:

    • Minds have been “broken and entered” (The New Yorker, 9/21/57)

    • “The most alarming and outrageous discovery” since the invention of the machine gun (The Nation, 10/5/57)

  • FCC bans subliminal advertising

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    People’s current views toward subliminal vs. “regular” advertising:

    • Subliminal ads feared more, believed to be more effective (Wilson et al. 1998)

    • Subliminal self-help tapes

      • $50 million as of 1990

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    • Vicary’s claims: fabricated!

    • No evidence that subliminal advertising works in real-life contexts

    • Note: Regular advertising EXTREMELY powerful, but people believe that they are immune to it (Wilson & Brekke, 1994)

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    Subliminal influence in laboratory settings—growing evidence

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    So why no evidence (yet) that subliminal advertising works outside of the laboratory?

    • “Noisy” contexts?

    • Temporal distance?

    • Fixed attitudes hard to change?

    • Maybe does exist, just harder to measure

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    Could subliminal priming be used to enhance self-esteem?

    • “I like myself, but I don’t know why: Enhancing implicit self esteem by subliminal evaluative conditioning” (Dijksterhuis, 2004)

    • Modified lexical decision task

    • The word “I” presented for 17 milliseconds, followed by…

      • 50% trials: positive adjectives (e.g. Warm, sweet, nice, sincere, honest, beautiful, cheerful, smart, strong, wise, healthy, funny, nice)

      • 50% trials: non words

    • Control participants: positive adjectives replaced with neutral words (e.g. table)

    • Results show enhanced self-esteem, immunity to failure feedback

      • Replicates across six experiments

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    Bush says 'RATS' ad not meant as subliminal message

    Gore calls ad 'disappointing development'

    September 12, 2000Web posted at: 9:04 p.m. EDT (0104 GMT)

    ORLANDO, Florida (CNN) -- Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush said Tuesday he was "convinced" an ad placed by the Republican National Committee that flashes the word "RATS" over a Gore prescription drug proposal was not intended to send a subliminal message.

    "We don't need to play cute politics. We're going to win this election based upon issues," Bush told reporters in Orlando.

    Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore's campaign contacted news organizations about an RNC ad in which the word "RATS" appears briefly on screen in a spot that criticizes Gore's prescription drug plan. A spokesman for the Texas governor on Tuesday brushed aside suggestions of subliminal advertising as "bizarre and weird," while the RNC had no immediate comment.