Attitude Strength: Antecedents and Consequences

Attitude Strength: Antecedents and Consequences

Attitude Strength: Antecedents and Consequences

Attitude Strength: Antecedents and Consequences

Synopsis

Social psychologists have long recognized the possibility that attitudes might differ from one another in terms of their strength, but only recently had the profound implications of this view been explored. Yet because investigators in the area were pursuing interesting but independent programs of research exploring different aspects of strength, there was little articulation of assumptions underlying the work, and little effort to establish a common research agenda. The goals of this book are to highlight these assumptions, to review the discoveries this work has produced, and to suggest directions for future work in the area. The chapter authors include individuals who have made significant contributions to the published literature and represent a diversity of perspectives on the topic. In addition to providing an overview of the broad area of attitude strength, particular chapters deal in depth with specific features of attitudes related to strength and integrate the diverse bodies of relevant theory and empirical evidence. The book will be of interest to graduate students initiating work on attitudes as well as to longstanding scholars in the field. Because of the many potential directions for application of work on attitude strength to amelioration of social problems, the book will be valuable to scholars in various applied disciplines such as political science, marketing, sociology, public opinion, and others studying attitudinal phenomena.

Excerpt

Philip E. Converse

It has been a pleasure for me to read this collection of essays, for at least two reasons: one generic and the other more frankly personal. The generic reason has to do with the importance of the topic. Attitude strength is a crucial concept for the social psychologist. Presented with an individual holding some positive or negative disposition toward an attitude object, the very first thing we want to ask is whether the attitude is held with overpowering conviction, is merely some passing fancy, or lies somewhere in between. For if we can assess the strength of an attitude reliably, then we should possess an important kind of predictive power about the attitude's effects on the holder. Both high theory and common sense converge to say that a strong attitude is one that will endure, will resist attempts at persuasion in contrary directions, will exert influence on the formation of related perceptions and beliefs, and--perhaps most important--will predict behavioral decisions with highest fidelity.

My second and more idiosyncratic ground for pleasure taken in this volume stems from a certain disillusionment I had suffered in the 1960s, 1970s, and even early 1980s with respect to exactly the expectations about the consequences of strong attitudes we have just rehearsed in the preceding sentence. These intuitive expectations about the multiple effects of strong attitudes are so self-evident and clear-cut that I was much bemused, once I had dabbled in the area with the "nonattitude" papers, to encounter in studies reporting from both lab and field on one or more of these phenomena a confusing mix of confirmations, usually weak in magnitude, and full-blown nonreplications. Of course it has never been shown on any persistent basis that attitudes identified as weakly held tend to . . .

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