Attitudes in Associated Systems Theory
Russell H. Fazio Indiana University
Carlston's Associated Systems Theory (AST; see chap. 1, this volume) provides an intriguing framework for considering the multiple representations that an individual can form of a target person. AST concerns the nature and source of these representations and, probably most importantly, their relations with one another. By postulating the existence of four primary mental systems -- sensory, verbal, action, and affective -- whose unique representations can combine to form hybrid representations, AST advances a 3 x 3 taxonomy. Representations vary from concrete to abstract along one dimension of the taxonomy (the columns in Carlston's Fig. 1.2).
The other dimension involves representations that vary from a focus on the target to a focus on the perceiver's reactions to the target (the rows in Carlston's Fig. 1.2).
As one who has devoted much time to the study of attitudes, I find the lower right portion of the taxonomy (affective responses, evaluations, and orientations) especially interesting. This area includes relatively abstract representations of the perceiver's reactions to the target person. The focus is on the affective system and its hybrids. Thus, these reactions necessarily involve valence -- positivity or negativity that the perceiver associates with the target. Essentially, then, the lower right portion of the taxonomy refers to representations of the perceiver's attitude toward the target person.
Carlston makes a number of provocative references to attitude theory and research at various points in his chapter. To emphasize the relationship between the attitude literature and AST more strongly, this chapter focuses on the attitude construct.