Cognitive Responses in Persuasion

By Richard E. Petty; Thomas M. Ostrom et al. | Go to book overview

III
THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES
IN THE ANALYSIS OF
COGNITIVE RESPONSES

Thomas M. Ostrom Ohio State University

Attitudes are embedded within and conveyed through a wonderful diversity of thoughts. It might be well for the reader at this point to return to the illustration of that diversity provided in Table 1.2 at the beginning of Chapter 1. The table illustrates the wide differences that can exist between the cognitive responses of three different persons, each of whose attitudes would be called identical when measured by a simple rating scale. When people are invited to express their attitudes in informal conversation, they rarely are satisfied with a simple statement of pro-ness or con-ness. In fact, people sometimes resist being labeled as pro or con. For some, such labels are misleading, and for other people, the labels are viewed as simply missing the point. Since most attitude objects are multifaceted, and because people have a sizable store of information about and experiences with the object, it is likely that they will be focusing on those features of the attitude object rather than on some overall pro-con categorization of the self.

There can be little question that such cognitive responses are actively evoked when a person is in a persuasion setting (or any other context in which the attitude object is salient). Attitude-relevant thoughts arise whether a person is passively listening to a persuasion message or actively engaged in a discussion about the attitude object with one or more other persons. Indeed, the need to discuss and share attitud

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