New Perspectives in Attitude Research

Youjae Yi, University of Michigan
Ken Gray, University of Michigan
ABSTRACT - This paper provides a summary of a special topic session organized to provide new perspectives in attitude research by reformulating old concepts, exploring new aspects, refining the specification of relevant variables, and utilizing more sophisticated methodology. By providing the audience with emerging novel approaches to the study of attitude, this session provides an impetus for making further developments in this important area. The theoretical and practical implications of these approaches are also discussed.
[ to cite ]:
Youjae Yi and Ken Gray (1992) ,"New Perspectives in Attitude Research", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 19, eds. John F. Sherry, Jr. and Brian Sternthal, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 319-322.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 19, 1992      Pages 319-322

NEW PERSPECTIVES IN ATTITUDE RESEARCH

Youjae Yi, University of Michigan

Ken Gray, University of Michigan

ABSTRACT -

This paper provides a summary of a special topic session organized to provide new perspectives in attitude research by reformulating old concepts, exploring new aspects, refining the specification of relevant variables, and utilizing more sophisticated methodology. By providing the audience with emerging novel approaches to the study of attitude, this session provides an impetus for making further developments in this important area. The theoretical and practical implications of these approaches are also discussed.

OVERVIEW

Attitude has been an important topic for consumer researchers for several decades. Despite its long history, however, many traditional theories of attitude have remained virtually intact over the years and there is a need for refinements or paradigm shifts (e.g., Bagozzi 1988, 1991; Tesser and Shaffer 1990). In this regard, we can note several conceptual and methodological developments emerging in recent research that challenge past research and provide potentially fruitful ideas for future research. It seems thus useful to have a forum for examining these advances in contemporary research and exploring directions for further development.

The purpose of this special session is to bring together researchers who provide new perspectives in attitude research by reformulating old concepts, exploring new aspects, refining the specification of relevant variables, and utilizing more sophisticated methodology. By providing the audience with perspectives on emerging novel approaches to the study of attitude, this session will provide an impetus for making further developments in this important area.

The four papers in this session reflect a variety of new perspectives on attitude research by challenging, modifying, and extending the traditional research paradigms. The first paper by Bagozzi provides several major challenges to the theory of reasoned action. The theory of reasoned action is modified by addressing the role of enactment processes with particular emphasis placed on cognitive and emotional self-regulatory mechanisms. The modified model is investigated in the context of fast food restaurant patronage and personal weight maintenance. The second paper by Janiszewski challenges the usefulness of the traditional attitude measurement methodology for predicting the potential sales of new products. To refine current methods of assessing consumer attitudes, a non-verbal, non-obtrusive, attention-based method of assessing consumer interest in products is developed with an eye-tracking system.

The next paper by Shavitt and Lowrey examines the interactive role of product type and personality type for attitude functions in advertising effectiveness. This paper extends the traditional theory of attitude functions by identifying personality and product characteristics associated with particular attitude functions (e.g., DeBono and Packer 1991; Shavitt 1990). It also develops a novel approach to measuring attitude functions. The final paper by Gray and Yi investigates a new way that one can influence consumers' attitudes toward the product. It is claimed that the diagnosticity of product attributes can affect the evaluation of the product by altering the perceived typicality. The diagnosticity of an attribute indicates how useful an attribute is in distinguishing instances from noninstances of the category (e.g., Smith and Gray 1991). It is thus proposed that one can change consumers' attitudes by emphasizing or priming attributes that are highly diagnostic of a product category.

The approach of this session is both theoretical and practical. Each paper provides a thorough discussion of the conceptual framework. Then, practical implications are drawn and tested with data collected for the respective studies. More detailed abstracts of individual papers are attached.

In summary, this session brings together a group of distinguished and emerging scholars with distinct viewpoints, backgrounds, and methodological approaches to studying attitude. The issues are investigated with several moderator variables (e.g., self-efficacy, product type, self-monitoring) in various contexts (e.g., fast food restaurant patronage, advertisements, new product purchase via catalogs, personal weight maintenance). Given substantial importance of this topic to many researchers and practitioners, the issues to be discussed in this session should stimulate interest among a broad range of ACR members. All of the participants have discussed some of the emerging issues in attitude research in a setting designed to spur an active participation from an audience.

ABSTRACT - S

 

ENACTMENT PROCESSES IN THE THEORY OF REASONED ACTION

Richard P. Bagozzi, University of Michigan

The theory of reasoned action (e.g., Fishbein and Ajzen 1975; Ajzen and Fishbein 1980) has remained remarkably untouched over the long course of its history. Notable developments such as the theory of planned behavior (e.g., Ajzen 1991) have resulted in the addition of variables to the model without altering its core relations among attitudes, subjective norms, and behavior. Consumer researchers have limited enquiry largely to applications of the model and have taken its content and form for granted.

It is argued in this paper that attitudes and subjective norms are not sufficient determinants of intentions, and intentions are not sufficient impetuses for action, as maintained by the theory of reasoned action. Nevertheless, attitudes, subjective norms, and intentions are essential elements in the explanation of behavior. To deepen the theory of reasoned action, we address the role of enactment processes with particular emphasis placed on cognitive and emotional self-regulatory mechanisms.

The theory of reasoned action says nothing about the conditions under which attitudes affect intentions. After concluding that the relation must be a contingent one to make logical and empirical sense, we discuss three cognitive and two emotional self-regulatory processes which are shown to moderate the relation. The former include self-efficacy, instrumental beliefs, and expectations of success and failure. The latter are conative processes related to wants or desires and emotional responses stemming from outcome-desire appraisals (i.e., outcome-desire conflict, fulfillment, avoidance, or pursuit).

The subjective norm-intention relation, which is also left uninterpreted in the theory of reasoned action, is hypothesized to be governed by cognitive and emotional self-regulatory processes surrounding perspective taking. Following Mead (1934; Joas 1985), we conceive of perspective taking as consisting of the use of symbols and images to bring about in one's own consciousness the expectations and response tendencies of, and emotional relationship to, significant others. Normative influence is then reconceptualized as the integration of one's own and a significant other's perceived expectations and feelings with respect to the shared moral or social meaning of performing a prospective act. When contemplating an action, a decision maker must come to grips with the implications of positive and negative emotions of conforming and not conforming to one's own and significant others' expectations. In a study of fast food restaurant patronage, three different emotions were found to reside in each of four categories formed by the relevant perspective taking cases: deviant other, deviant self, conforming others, and conforming self.

Finally, intentions are shown to be inadequate predictors of behavior, especially for goal-directed behaviors. It is proposed that the intention-behavior relation is predicated on decisions with regard to means, instrumental acts, motivation, and conditions particular to the actor (e.g., abilities, liabilities) or situation (e.g., facilitators, inhibitors). Some of the moderators and mediators are cognitive processes such as judgments of self-efficacy and instrumentalities concerning means, as well as planning, monitoring, and guidance and control activities. Others are emotional or motivational in content such as affect toward means, psychological commitment, and effort. The intention-behavior relation will be addressed from the point of view of a study on personal weight maintenance.

 

THE EYE IS BETTER THAN AN AYE

Chris Janiszewski, University of Florida

Consumer researchers have traditionally used verbal reports to assess the marketplace's attitude toward a product and the likelihood of purchase. These methods have proved to be commercially successful, especially when researchers have made an effort to achieve correspondence between the measurement instrument and the expected purchase context (Fishbein and Ajzen 1975). Nevertheless, the failure of 9 of 10 product launches suggest the attitude measurement methodologies used to predict the potential sales of new products could use some improvement. The need is particularly salient in industries that continually update a significant percentage of their product lines (e.g., retail apparel, direct mail).

One strategy for improving predictions of the sales potential of new products is to refine current methods of assessing consumer attitudes. For example, Fazio and his colleagues have found that the accessibility of an attitude, measured as reaction time, is a good predictor of the strength of the relationship between the attitude and behavior (Fazio, Powell and Williams 1989). When attitudes are strongly held, consumers make decisions based on information stored in memory and attitude-behavior consistency is high. When attitudes are weakly held, consumers make decisions based on stimulus information, minimizing the influence of stored attitudes. In these situations, stimulus information has a strong influence on behavior, minimizing the relationship between attitude and behavior.

Many new product purchase opportunities are characterized by weakly held attitudes, suggesting measures of stored attitudes may be a poor predictor of the sales potential products. Instead, a measure of the persuasiveness or appeal of the stimulus information is needed. This measure should provide insights into the consumer's interest in the product, as does the stored attitude. In addition, this measure should incorporate a measure of the automaticity of the process, as a parallel to the accessibility measure in standard research.

To accomplish these objectives, a non-verbal, non-obtrusive, attention-based method of assessing consumer interest in products was developed. An eye-tracking system was used to measure attention in a series of products. The primacy, frequency and length of attention to each product on a series of catalog pages was measured to provide indicators of the influence of the stimulus-based information on the consumer's perceptions of the products. When appropriate, these measures were standardized by individual and then each of the measure was correlated with sales data for the products. The correlations between the attention-based measures and sales were significant. In addition, each subject was asked to verbally rate an independent set of comparable products. The correlations between these ratings and sales were significant, but negative.

The findings suggest that when the purchase decision will be based primarily based on stimulus cues, attention-based measures of interest in a product can predict its sales potential. These measures may prove to be useful in industries that continually update a significant percentage of their product lines. The measures may also provide a useful diagnostic for researchers studying decisions that rely on memory-based and stimulus-based cues.

 

ATTITUDE FUNCTIONS IN ADVERTISING EFFECTIVENESS:THE INTERACTIVE ROLE OF PRODUCT TYPE AND PERSONALITY TYPE

Sharon Shavitt, University of Illinois

Tina M. Lowrey, University of Illinois

Several studies (e.g., DeBono and Packer 1991; Snyder and DeBono 1985) have shown that individuals who are high versus low in self-monitoring (Snyder 1974) differ in the types of messages they find persuasive: In the product domain, high self-monitors tend to prefer ads that focus on social image concerns, whereas low self-monitors tend to prefer appeals about product quality. These studies suggest that high and low self-monitors differ in the psychological functions their attitudes serve (Katz 1960; Smith, Bruner, and White 1956), such that the product attitudes of low self-monitors tend to serve a utilitarian function (maximizing rewards obtained from a product), whereas the product attitudes of high self-monitors tend to serve a social function (managing one's public image).

In addition to personality characteristics, research has shown that products differ in the extent to which they are associated with particular attitude functions (Shavitt 1990). For example, products that are intrinsically associated with rewards and punishments (e.g., Aspirin, air conditioners) tend to elicit utilitarian attitudes, whereas product that represent social classifications or reference groups (e.g., wedding rings, flags) tend to elicit social attitudes. Moreover, attitudes toward these different types of products respond to different types of advertisements (i.e., function-relevant appeals).

Based on these findings, we predicted that the effects of self-monitoring on advertising effectiveness should be apparent only for products that can serve different functions for high versus low self-monitors (i.e., products that are associated with both social and utilitarian outcomes). For highly utilitarian products, utilitarian ad appeals should be considered more persuasive by all individuals. However, for "multi-function" products, high self-monitors should prefer social appeals and low self-monitors should prefer utilitarian appeals.

We present two studies that tested this hypothesis with a unique methodology. Past research in this area has measured individual's attitudinal reactions to completed messages. In the present studies, individuals were asked to create their own advertisements. The functional content of these ads was subsequently coded by trained judges. Across the studies, our results were consistent. Regardless of their level of self-monitoring, subjects tended to write utilitarian ads for predominantly utilitarian products and social ads for predominantly social products. However, for multi-function products, high and low self-monitors differed as expected in the types of ads they wrote. This pattern became stronger when subjects were explicitly instructed to write ads that they themselves would find persuasive (rather than ads designed to appeal to a broad audience). Implications of these findings for the conditions under which personality and product characteristics influence attitude functions and advertising effectiveness are discussed.

 

THE EFFECTS OF ATTRIBUTE DIAGNOSTICITY ON ATTITUDES

Kenneth C. Gray, University of Michigan

Youjae Yi, University of Michigan

A product can often be perceived as a member of several product categories. For example, a granola bar with chocolate yogurt may be perceived either as a type of candy or as a health food (Loken and Ward 1990). Also, some periodical may be perceived either as a magazine or a newspaper. In such cases, understanding why a product will be perceived as a member of a particular category is important, because different products will be compared in evaluating the given product, depending upon how it is categorized. Prior research suggests that people judge instances of a category to vary in the degree to which they are typical of a category. The typicality of a product will affect how a product is categorized, which will in turn influence evaluations of the product. These suggest that one can influence attitudes toward a product by varying the perceived typicality of the product.

We investigate a particular way that one can influence the perceived typicality of product, and thereby affecting consumers' attitudes toward the product. It is proposed that the diagnosticity of product attributes can affect the evaluation of the product by increasing or decreasing the typicality. The diagnosticity of an attribute indicates how useful an attribute is in distinguishing instances from noninstances of the category (e.g., Smith and Gray 1991). It is thus expected that one can alter consumers' attitudes by emphasizing or priming attributes that are highly diagnostic of a product category.

We present two studies that examine the role of attribute diagnosticity in the context of advertisements. In one study, the diagnosticity of product attributes described in a target ad is manipulated (high versus low). It employes two versions of advertisements emphasizing attributes high or low in diagnosticity on the basis of pretest results. In a second study, subtler, indirect effects of attribute diagnosticity are investigated. Here, the target ad does not contain information about these attributes, but these attributes are primed through seemingly unrelated materials preceding the target ad. The theoretical and practical implications of the findings for understanding the attitude formation process are discussed.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The session chair thanks Bernd Schmitt of Columbia University for providing valuable comments as discussant.

REFERENCES

DeBono, Kenneth G. and Michelle Packer (1991), "The Effect of Advertising Appeal on Perceptions of Product Quality," Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 17 (2), 194-200.

Fazio, Russel H., Martha C. Powell and Carol J. Williams (1989), "The Role of Attitude Accessibility in the Attitude-Behavior Process," Journal of Consumer Research, 16 (December), 280-288.

Fishbein, Martin and Icek Ajzen (1975), Belief, Attitude, Intention and Behavior, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Katz, D. (1960), "The Functional Approach to the Study of Attitudes," Public Opinion Quarterly, 24, 163-204.

Loken, Barbara and James Ward (1990), "Alternative Approaches to Understanding the Determinants of Typicality," Journal of Consumer Research, 17 (September), 111-126.

Shavitt, Sharon (1990), "The Role of Attitude Objects in Attitude Functions," Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 26, 124-148.

Smith, M. B., J. S. Bruner, and R. W. White (1956). Opinions and Personality, New York: Wiley.

Snyder, Mark B. (1974), "Self-Monitoring of Expressive Behavior," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 30, 526-537.

Snyder, Mark B. and Kenneth G. DeBono (1985), "Appeals to Image and Claims about Quality: Understanding the Psychology of Advertising," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 586-597.

Smith, Edward E. and Kenneth C. Gray (1991), "Mechanisms of Conceptual Combination," Unpublished working paper, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan.

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