The Dynamics of Persuasion: Communication and Attitudes in the 21st Century

By Richard M. Perloff | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
Attitudes: Functions
and Consequences

Leslie Maltz regards herself as a California housewife, “virtually a byword for conventionality, ” as a magazine reporter put it (Adler, 1999, p. 76). But she recently did something a little different. She had her navel pierced and put “a diamond-studded horseshoe through it. ” As a result, she no longer regards herself as a housewife. “I feel like a sex symbol, ” she says (Adler, p. 76).

Leslie's bodacious decision illustrates a theme of this chapter: Attitudes serve functions for people, and people must decide whether and how to translate attitudes into behavior. As we will see, the issues of attitude functions and attitude-behavior consistency are intricate, complicated, and filled with implications for persuasion. This chapter continues the exploration of attitudes launched in chapter 2, focusing first on attitude function theory and research. The second section examines the venerable issue of attitude-behavior consistency, more colloquially expressed as: Do people practice what they preach?


FUNCTIONS OF ATTITUDES

Overview

Functional theories of attitude examine why people hold the attitudes they do. These approaches explore the needs attitudes fulfill and motives they serve. Functional approaches turn attitudes on their head. Instead of taking attitudes as a given and looking at their structure, they ask: Just what benefits do attitudes provide? What if people did not have attitudes? What then? Bombarded by numerous stimuli and faced with countless choices about issues and products, individuals would be forced to painstakingly assess the costs and benefits of each particular choice in

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