Memory and Cognition
in Attitude Formation
John H. Lingle Livingston College Rutgers -- The State University
Thomas M. Ostrom Ohio State University
One important contribution of the cognitive response approach to attitudes is that it raises anew the question of what an attitude is. Our concern in this chapter is with the question of whether an attitude is conceptually distinct from its constituent beliefs. Several existing theoretical approaches (see the chapters by Anderson and by Fishbein and Ajzen in this volume) posit that attitudes derive from the information and beliefs people hold about attitude objects. These views argue that every thought about the attitude object, when considered by itself, falls along an attitude continuum. The overall attitude is viewed as being a statistical composite (e.g., a weighted average) of these separate attitude-relevant thoughts.
For example, if you were asked to form an attitude about Richard Nixon's ability as an international statesman, these theoretical approaches suggest that you might review relevant information such as: "He reestablished relations with mainland China"; "He opened disarmament talks with the Soviet Union"; or "He extended America's involvement in the Vietnam conflict into Cambodia." Accordingly, each such item of remembered information would be assigned a value depending on its position along the statesman continuum (running from "outstanding" to "inept"), and the several values would be weighted and algebraically combined (e.g., averaged or summed) to form an overall attitude concerning Nixon's effectiveness as a statesman.
What is not addressed by these theoretical approaches is whether or not such an attitude judgment (e.g., Nixon was a moderately effective statesman) has a cognitive representation that is in any way conceptually distinct from the beliefs