Attitudes and Opinions

By Stuart Oskamp; P. Wesley Schultz | Go to book overview

10
Attitude-Change
Theories and Research
Methodology; Learning
and Judgment
Approaches

We are incredibly heedless in the formation of our beliefs, but find ourselves filled with an illicit passion for them when anyone proposes to rob us of their companionship.—James Harvey Robinson.

Some praise at morning what they blame at night But always think the last opinion right.—Alexander Pope.

If you give me any normal human being and a couple of weeks… 7 can change his behavior from what it is now to whatever you want it to be, if it's physically possible.—James McConnell.

These three statements about attitudinal and behavioral change illustrate the widely discrepant viewpoints that different authors have held on this subject. The topic of attitude change has probably occupied the attention of psychologists more than all the other aspects of attitudes put together. One reason for this is the great importance of attitude changes in human affairs—for example, in events such as religious conversions, political persuasion, commercial advertising campaigns, and changes in personal prejudices. Another major reason for interest in attitude change was expressed by Kurt Lewin: To really understand something, such as the concept attitude, one must study it as it changes—not while it remains stable. For instance, in studying prejudiced attitudes, it is not enough to know that prejudice exists; to learn more, we must study situations in which the amount of prejudice differs, or create programs and educational activities aimed at reducing prejudice.

This chapter and the following one summarize the major theories about attitude change and some selected portions of the huge body of research evidence in this field. We organize our discussion primarily around six broad theoretical orientations toward attitude change—learning, judgment, consistency, dissonance, attribution, and cognitive-response approaches. However, before beginning those topics, we must briefly summarize various kinds of attitude-change research and the major methodological problems involved in doing research in this area.

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