In the present chapter, we survey theory and research on attitude change that results from motivational rather than learning or judgmental processes. The impact of motivational forces on attitudes is illustrated by the observations of three social psychologists who joined a doomsday group to find out what happens when a group's belief is disconfirmed ( Festinger, Riecken, & Schachter, 1956).
The group was a private and cohesive band of individuals who believed that the world would end by flood before the sun rose on 21 December. This belief was based upon a "message" received from aliens on the planet Clarion by the group's leader, Mrs. Keech. The aliens also indicated that they would use their flying saucer to save the members of the group on the eve of the flood. Following the flood, the group would be returned to earth to create a better world.
The eve of the great flood arrived. The eve turned to night, then to early morning. The aliens and flood failed to materialize, and the group was downcast. Suddenly, Mrs. Keech received another "message" from the aliens saying that the world had been spared because of their faith. Hearing this, the group members rejoiced, reaffirmed their faith in their purpose, and set out to recruit new members for the group. The undeniable disconfirmation of their beliefs left them not only unshaken, but more convinced of their truth than ever before ( Festinger et al., 1956, p. 3). As illustrated in this case, people sometimes think, feel, and act in ways that don't appear plausible. People sometimes hold or change attitudes despite the objective facts.
We saw in the preceding chapter that perceptual processes can cause a person to distort judgments and thereby influence attitudes. Here we review several motivational theories that posit an automatic, homeostatic system, akin to a central heating system in a house, that maintains an internal state of harmony (equilibrium) within a person.
The internal mapping of a person's world consists of elements of knowledge called cognitions. These cognitions are interconnected and organized into cognitive systems. For instance, the word "bread" probably reminds you of the word
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Publication information: Book title: Attitudes and Persuasion:Classic and Contemporary Approaches. Contributors: Richard E. Petty - Author, John T. Cacioppo - Author. Publisher: Westview Press. Place of publication: Boulder, CO. Publication year: 1996. Page number: 125.
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