The study of attitudes and persuasion cuts across many academic disciplines and is of interest also because of its relevance to and pervasiveness in our daily lives. Our goal was to write a book that would not only provide students with an up-to-date background in the psychological theory and research on attitude change processes, but one that would also give an appreciation for how basic research can yield useful insights into the types of social influence situations that occur frequently in our day-to-day living.
Over the last forty years, a large number of theories have developed to explain how and why peoples' attitudes change. We have grouped these theories into seven major approaches, and each approach is presented and evaluated in a separate chapter in this text. We believe that each of the approaches contributes in an important way to a complete understanding of the persuasion process. Our subtitle characterizing the seven approaches as "classic and contemporary" is not meant to imply that some approaches are classic whereas others are contemporary, but that all of the approaches we discuss are classic and contemporary. The approaches are all contemporary in that all have their current advocates. They are classic in that we believe that they all have made--and will continue to make--a vital contribution to explaining certain attitudinal phenomena. None of the approaches, however, is capable of accounting for the full range of attitudinal phenomena that exists. In the concluding chapter of this book, we present an integrative framework for thinking about the persuasion process that synthesizes the various approaches into two distinct routes to persuasion. This framework provides a method for organizing and understanding the basic commonalities and differences among the seven approaches.
We have attempted to write this book at a level that will be understandable to undergraduates who have had an introductory psychology course and perhaps a course in social psychology, but the book contains material that should be informative to graduate students as well. Any material that would be of interest primarily to graduate students, however, has been placed in footnotes. Courses for which the book would be most appropriate are taught in psychology, sociology, and communication departments, usually under the titles Attitude Change, Attitude Theory, Persuasive Communication, and so forth. In addition, some instructors might find the book to be a useful supplement in such courses as the