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Encyclopedia of Psychology Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, Editor-in-Chief

ATTITUDES: An Overview

However, within contemporary psychological research, the term attitude is typically used to refer to a relatively general and enduring evaluation of some object, person, group, or concept along a dimension ranging from negative to positive. Thus, attitudes are global evaluations that can be differentiated from specific beliefs and emotions. Attitudes provide summary evaluations of objects and are often assumed to be derived from specific beliefs, emotions, and past behaviors associated with those objects. Additionally, attitudes are relatively enduring evaluations stored in long-term memory rather than transitory psychological states.

Impact of Attitudes on Behavior and Information Processing

Early research incorrectly suggested that attitudes have a minimal influence on information processing and behavior. Subsequent research, conducted in both field and laboratory settings, has been directed at clarifying when attitudes are consequential. For example, attitudes are more effective in predicting behavior when the attitude and behavior are assessed at comparable levels of specificity (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980).

First, rather than postulating a single process underlying change, these theories recognize that change can result from either thoughtful or nonthoughtful processes. Second, these theories suggest that the impact of a variable on attitude change can differ depending on if the attitude change process is thoughtful or nonthoughtful in nature. Third, these theories suggest that the strength of the attitude will vary as a function of the process by which the attitude was changed

ATTITUDES: Attitude Structure

For some time, attitudes were defined as predispositions to respond to an “object” in cognitive, affective, and behavioral ways.

Petty. R. E., Haugtvedt, C. P., & Smith, S. M. (1995). Elaboration as a determinant of attitude strength: Creating attitudes that are persistent, resistant, and predictive of behavior. In R. E. Petty & J. A. Krosnick (Eds.), Attitude strength: Antecedents and consequences (pp. 93-130). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Review of empirical work regarding the Elaboration Likelihood Model hypothesis that elaboration creates strong attitudes.

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