Debbra E. Colman
University of Southern California
The preceding chapters have presented the foundations of the cognitive response approach to the study of persuasion. The measurement of attitudes, cognitive responses, and the role that thoughts might play in the mediation of attitude change have been discussed. In the last two chapters, the questions of how external and internal factors could affect the processing of persuasive communications were addressed. In this chapter we: alert the readers to some problems that arise when we attempt to understand the mediating events in the persuasion process. We begin by critically evaluating the concepts of attitude and cognitive response and end by discussing the advantages, disadvantages, and potential pitfalls of some common strategies for assessing the causal role of cognitive responses in the mediation of persuasion.
Perhaps the most important feature of an attitude is temporal stability. An attitude is extended in time and space. When formed, it persists, applying to other specific objects in the same concept: class but also to the same object next week or next month. Subsequently acquired information and new experience as well as future action must be integrated with it. Virtually no experimental research on attitudes formally or explicitly includes this temporal feature in its measurement procedures. Yet without it, attitude does not differ from a single evaluative judgment about any specific object at a single point in time. It is this temporal stability that gives attitude a basic similarity to personality; both are conceived as