The Effects of Imagery on Attitude-Behavior Consistency

Jolita Kisielius, University of Michigan
Deborah L. Roedder, University of Wisconsin
ABSTRACT - The availability view of attitude-behavior consistency is examined by considering the role of imagery in attitude-behavior relationships. According to the availability interpretation, attitude-behavior consistency is enhanced when the same information is available at the time that attitude and behavioral judgments are rendered. This paper suggests that the imagery construct can be used to examine the availability interpretation of attitude-behavior consistency because of its ability to affect the availability of information. The dual role hypothesis of imagery is presented as a means of explaining the various effects of imagery on attitude-behavior consistency using an availability framework. Directions for future research on the dual role of imagery on attitude-behavior consistency are discussed.
[ to cite ]:
Jolita Kisielius and Deborah L. Roedder (1983) ,"The Effects of Imagery on Attitude-Behavior Consistency", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 10, eds. Richard P. Bagozzi and Alice M. Tybout, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 72-74.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 10, 1983      Pages 72-74

THE EFFECTS OF IMAGERY ON ATTITUDE-BEHAVIOR CONSISTENCY

Jolita Kisielius, University of Michigan

Deborah L. Roedder, University of Wisconsin

ABSTRACT -

The availability view of attitude-behavior consistency is examined by considering the role of imagery in attitude-behavior relationships. According to the availability interpretation, attitude-behavior consistency is enhanced when the same information is available at the time that attitude and behavioral judgments are rendered. This paper suggests that the imagery construct can be used to examine the availability interpretation of attitude-behavior consistency because of its ability to affect the availability of information. The dual role hypothesis of imagery is presented as a means of explaining the various effects of imagery on attitude-behavior consistency using an availability framework. Directions for future research on the dual role of imagery on attitude-behavior consistency are discussed.

INTRODUCTION

Attitude-behavior consistency or the lack of it, has been the focus of continual debates among behavioral res.archers. Evidence regarding the strength of the attitude-behavior link has failed to resolve the question of whether attitudes can be expected to predict behavioral acts. A large number of studies shows little or no relationship between attitudes and behavior (see Wicker 1969) whereas other investigations provide evidence for substantial attitude-behavior relationships (see Schuman and Johnson 1976).

Recent investigations in the area have changed the focus of attention from the issue of whether an attitude-behavior link exists to the question of when an attitude-behavior relationship should be expected. Emphasis is now being placed on defining the conditions under which attitudes can be expected to correlate significantly with behavioral actions. One promising explanation implicates information availability as the factor responsible for the strength of attitude-behavior relationships (Fazio and Zanna 1981). According to this view attitude-behavior consistency is likely to be observed when the same information is available at the time that attitudes and behavioral judgments are rendered. Factors affecting information availability can therefore be expected to affect attitude-behavior consistency.

Evidence congenial to the availability interpretation has been obtained in several studies investigation the role of direct experience and self-monitoring on attitude-behavior consistency. Researchers have found that attitudes formed on the basis of direct experience predict behavior better than attitudes formed on the basis or indirect experience (Regan and Fazio 1977). Assuming that direct experience strengthens the associations that are formed about an object in memory, attitudinal information regarding the object is apt to be more accessible and utilizable when behavior is contemplated. Also consistent with the availability view is the finding that low self-monitors exhibit higher attitude-behavior consistency than high self-monitors (Zanna, Olson and Fazio, 1980). High self-monitors are more sensitive to situational cues than low self-monitors who are apt to consider internal dispositions. To the extent that situational cues can be expected to differ at the time attitudes and behavior are considered, high self-monitors are likely to have different types of information available at the attitude and behavioral phases.

Although these results are consistent with the availability interpretation, they do not provide a strong test of the availability explanation. Differences between direct and indirect experience and between low and high self-monitors can be attributed to factors other than information availability. Evidence is required which demonstrates differences in attitude-behavior consistency as a function of variables thought to affect information availability.

The purpose of this paper is to examine the availability explanation by considering the impact of imagery on attitude-behavior consistency. Imagery is thought to affect information availability by eliciting multiple associations in memory concerning the information being presented. Because imagery has an effect on information availability, imagery should also affect attitude-behavior consistency.

In examining, the role of imagery in attitude-behavior consistency, evidence regarding the influence of imagery on information availability will be considered first. Based upon this evidence, the specific role that imagery may play in facilitating or inhibiting attitude-behavior consistency will he discussed. The final section provides some suggestions for future research on the hypothesized effects of imagery on attitude-behavior consistency.

IMAGERY AND AVAILABILITY

Imagery is thought to enhance the availability of information by stimulating greater cognitive elaboration (Power, 1972; Kisielius, 1982; Nisbett and Ross, 1980). Elaboration results in the development of more storage locations and sensory pathways which render information easier to access or retrieve.

Extensive support for the view that imagery affects the availability of information can be found in verbal learning and cognitive psychology studies. The most pervasive finding emerging from these studies is the superiority of imagery in learning. Consistent with the availability view of imagery, highly imaginal stimuli have been found to yield significantly higher levels of learning than less imaginal stimuli (e.g., Paivio and Csapo, 1969).

The superior memorability of imaginal information has been found for the various operationalizations of imagery. Perhaps the largest body of this research has focused on the pictorial operationalization of imagery. Substantial evidence has been found for the contention that the highly imaginal pictorial stimuli are learned more extensively than the less imaginal verbal stimuli (e.g., Dallet and Wilcox, 1969; Paivio and Csapo, 1971; Shepard, 1967). The superior memorability of imagery has also been documented for the concreteness operationalization of imagery in which hi<>h and low levels of imagery are represented, respectively, by concrete and abstract words and sentences (e.g., Paivio, Yuille, and Rogers, 1969). In addition, imagery has also been manipulated by the use of imagery instructions. Typically in these studies, subjects in the high imagery condition are instructed to create mental pictures or images of the information they are being presented with; whereas in the low imagery condition, no such instructions are given. The advantage of using imagery instructions for learning information has been reliably shown in a number of studies (e.g. Bower, 1972).

IMAGERY AND ATTITUDE-BEHAVIOR CONSISTENCY

Evidence regarding the relationship between imagery and availability suggests that imagery should also affect attitude-behavior consistency. The availability view of attitude-behavior consistency predicts that consistency will be enhanced when he same information is considered at the time of attitude and behavioral judgment. Thus, in order to make specific predictions regarding the effects of imagery in moderating attitude-behavior consistency, attention needs to be directed towards recognizing the type of information that is being made available through imagery. Specifically, it is predicted that if imagery increases the availability of similar information at the attitude and behavior phases, imagery should have a facilitative effect on attitude-behavior consistency. Conversely, if imagery has the effect of making different information available at either the attitude or behavior stage, imagery should inhibit attitude-behavior consistency.

An important issue that needs to be considered in predicting the effect of imagery on attitude-behavior consistency is understanding the means by which the different types of information can be made available through the use of imagery. It is contended that imagery can affect the availability of thoughts regarding a focal object by promoting well-formed associations to the focal object at the time attitudes are formed. In turn, the existence of well-formed associations in memory should increase the probability that attitudinal information regarding the focal object will be retrieved sand considered at the time behavioral aces toward the focal object are being considered. Imagery, in this case, would have the effect of promoting the consideration of similar information at both the attitude and behavior stage. As a result, imagery should facilitate attitude-behavior consistency (Kisielius, 1981).

Imagery could also affect the availability of differing thoughts regarding the focal object or alternative objects at the time behavioral actions are considered. In this case, imagery could actually inhibit attitude-behavior consistency by increasing the probability that different information would be considered at the behavior stage than that available at the time attitude judgments were rendered. If imagery elicits different associations to the focal object at the behavior phase than those available at the attitude phase, attitude-behavior consistency should be negatively affected. Imagery which increases the availability of thoughts regarding objects other than those connected with the focal object should have a similar effect. Assuming that detailed information regarding alternative objects or options was not likely to be considered at the time an attitude judgment was rendered for the focal object, imagery would decrease the probability that similar information is considered at the attitude and behavior stage (Roedder, 1980).

The dual roles that imagery may play in attitude-behavior consistency can be easily illustrated in a product purchase situation. The facilitory effects of imagery in the attitude formation stage could be realized through the use of imagery in a commercial for a new product. The use of highly imaginal stimuli, such as pictures or concrete language in a commercial, should enhance the formation of well-developed associations to the advertised product. The existence of well-developed associations should, then, increase the probability that attitudinal information regarding the advertised product would be accessed at the time the purchase decision is considered.

Imagery could be used in the same purchase situation to inhibit attitude-behavior consistency. Point-of-purchase displays for produces, utilizing pictures and vivid package designs, are a common sight in grocery stores. Such displays may evoke a number of different associations at the time purchase is being contemplated. To the extent that information different from that considered at the time of attitude judgments is being mate available through produce displays, imagery should adversely affect attitude-behavior consistency.

DIRECTIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH

To assess the usefulness of the dual role conceptualization of imagery, future research is needed that would focus on examining the effect of imagery on yielding consistency between attitudinal and behavioral judgments. Such research should attempt to examine both high and low levels of imagery. Perhaps the most feasible approach would involve manipulating imagery through the presentation format of information. This operationalization of imagery has been found to have a significant impact on attitudes in the marketing literature (e.g., Mitchell and Olson, 1981; Rossiter and Percy, 1980).

Imagery as a Facilitator

The presentation format operationalization of imagery could serve as an independent variable in research investigating the dual role of imagery on attitude-behavior consistency. The facilitory effects of imagery could he studied by varying the presentation format of information at the attitude-formation stage. -Subjects would be presented with product information in either a pictorial or verbal format.

In one such study, subjects could be exposed to an advertisement composed of either pictures and sentences or sentences alone. After being presented with the advertisement, subjects' attitudes toward the product presented in the advertisement could be measured by asking subjects to evaluate the product on a series of dimensions. To assess subjects' behavior, subjects could be given the opportunity to choose the advertised product among other products. In another scenario that corresponds to a product purchase situation, subjects could either be presented with pictorial displays of various products or not be given such displays prior to assessing subjects' attitudes and behaviors concerning the products. By manipulating imagery at the attitude-formation stage, it is expected that attitude-behavior consistency would be greater in the high imagery than the low imagery conditions. As a result, evidence would be generated for the existence of a facilitory effect of imagery.

Imagery as an Inhibitor

To examine the inhibitory effects of imagery, the presentation format operationalization of imagery could be manipulated at the behavioral judgment stage. In this case, subjects' attitudes would be measured prior to the imagery induction. The imagery manipulation could consist of the presence or absence of pictorial information at the time that the behavioral judgment is being made. Using the product purchase situation discussed above, subjects could be asked a series of questions to assess their attitudes toward a number of food products. Then subjects' behavior would be assessed by giving them a chance to win a grand prize for their participation in the experiment. The grand prize could consist of products selected from the group of products subjects had evaluated earlier.

One group of subjects would make their choices while viewing a display of product packages corresponding to the products available for the prize. A second group of subjects would make their selections in the absence of the display. To the extent that the display could be expected to make different information available at the time of choice than that likely to be considered when products were evaluated earlier, the display would be expected to reduce the consistency between attitudes and choice.

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

Recent examinations of attitude-behavior consistency have implicated information availability as the mechanism responsible for observed differences in attitude-behavior relationships. In this paper, imagery was examined as a variable thought to affect attitude-behavior consistency through its effects on information availability. Imagery was discussed as facilitating consistency to the extent that it increases the probability that similar information will be considered at the time attitude and behavior judgments are rendered. The opposite effect was considered for situations in which imagery serves to make different information available at the attitude and behavioral phases. Future directions for research in this area were discussed. Examples of studies examining the facilitory and inhibitory effects of imagery were presented.

Two issues are worthy of further investigation. The first issue concerns providing a more detailed explanation of how availability affects attitude-behavior consistency. The availability interpretation needs to be developed conceptually in order to provide more researchable hypotheses. A second direction is the examination of variables other than imagery that should affect attitude-behavior consistency. Evidence regarding different variables and different operationalizations could provide strong support for the availability view or provide direction for modifying and extending the availability interpretation.

REFERENCES

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