Predicting Prejudicial Attitudes: the Importance of Affect, Cognition, and the Feeling-Belief Dimension

Geoffrey Haddock, University of Waterloo
Mark P. Zanna, University of Waterloo
ABSTRACT - Zanna and Rempel (1988) have suggested that an attitude be viewed as an overall evaluation of a stimulus object which is based on affective, cognitive, and behavioral information. The present study applied this formulation of the attitude concept to the domain of intergroup attitudes, in order to discover the relative importance of affect and cognition in predicting prejudice. In addition, the study also served as a preliminary test of the hypothesis that there are individual differences in the tendency to use affective and cognitive information in guiding attitudes. Subjects completed measures of attitudes, affect, stereotypic beliefs, and symbolic beliefs toward five groups. As well, they completed a preliminary version of the Feeling-Belief Measure (FBM), a scale intended to assess individual differences in the extent to which an individual's attitudes are guided by their feelings and thoughts. The results revealed that the relative importance of affect and cognition in predicting prejudice was a function of not only the target group, but also the subject's score on the FBM. The implications of the results are discussed.
[ to cite ]:
Geoffrey Haddock and Mark P. Zanna (1993) ,"Predicting Prejudicial Attitudes: the Importance of Affect, Cognition, and the Feeling-Belief Dimension", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 20, eds. Leigh McAlister and Michael L. Rothschild, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 315-318.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 20, 1993      Pages 315-318

PREDICTING PREJUDICIAL ATTITUDES: THE IMPORTANCE OF AFFECT, COGNITION, AND THE FEELING-BELIEF DIMENSION

Geoffrey Haddock, University of Waterloo

Mark P. Zanna, University of Waterloo

ABSTRACT -

Zanna and Rempel (1988) have suggested that an attitude be viewed as an overall evaluation of a stimulus object which is based on affective, cognitive, and behavioral information. The present study applied this formulation of the attitude concept to the domain of intergroup attitudes, in order to discover the relative importance of affect and cognition in predicting prejudice. In addition, the study also served as a preliminary test of the hypothesis that there are individual differences in the tendency to use affective and cognitive information in guiding attitudes. Subjects completed measures of attitudes, affect, stereotypic beliefs, and symbolic beliefs toward five groups. As well, they completed a preliminary version of the Feeling-Belief Measure (FBM), a scale intended to assess individual differences in the extent to which an individual's attitudes are guided by their feelings and thoughts. The results revealed that the relative importance of affect and cognition in predicting prejudice was a function of not only the target group, but also the subject's score on the FBM. The implications of the results are discussed.

One of the most important areas of investigation in the field of social psychology is the study of attitudes. The attitude concept is clearly an important one, because attitudes, under some circumstances, guide behavior (Fazio, 1990; Fazio & Zanna, 1981). For years, researchers have sought to discover the sources of information that are most influential in predicting attitudes. Until recently, the source of information that has been most frequently examined in terms of its relation to attitude is what is typically referred to as the cognitive component (Abelson, Kinder, Peters, & Fiske, 1982; Zajonc, 1980). Indeed, many popular attitude models have reflected this preoccupation with cognition by suggesting that attitudes are based on evaluations of the characteristics associated with the attitude object (e.g., Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980). Although this focus on cognition has led to many important findings concerning the role of cognitive information in guiding attitudes, it has come at the expense of studying other sources of information (e.g., affective and behavioral information) that also serve as important antecedents of attitudes (Zanna & Rempel, 1988). In line with this multicomponent perspective of the attitude concept, researchers studying a wide range of phenomena have started to venture "beyond the cognitive," to discover the extent to which affective and behavioral information serve as important sources of information in guiding individuals' attitudes (and behaviors) (e.g., Abelson et al., 1982; Allen, Machleit, & Kleine, 1992; Breckler & Wiggins, 1989; Cohen, 1990; Edwards, 1990).

The research presented in the present paper was performed to serve as a replication and extension of previous research in which we (Esses, Haddock, & Zanna, in press) found that both affective and cognitive information serve as important correlates of intergroup attitudes (i.e., prejudice). [In the research presented in this paper, information concerning past behaviors was not assessed. However, we have recently begun to study the role played by past experiences in predicting prejudice (see, for example, Haddock, Zanna, & Esses, 1992).] In addition, the present study also served as a preliminary investigation of the validity of the Feeling-Belief Measure (FBM), a scale constructed by the authors and designed to assess individual differences in the tendency to base attitudes upon affective and cognitive information. In introducing this measure, we were interested in examining whether some individuals rely primarily upon affective information in determining their intergroup attitudes, whereas others typically base their prejudice on cognitive information.

The Zanna and Rempel (1988) Formulation of the Attitude Concept

The framework from which our research is derived comes from theorizing by Zanna and Rempel (1988). They have suggested that an attitude be viewed as an overall categorization of a stimulus object along an evaluative dimension. The process of evaluation is viewed as being based upon three general sources of information: (i) cognitive information (e.g., beliefs about the attitude object), (ii) affective information (e.g., feelings about the attitude object), and (iii) information concerning past behaviors or behavioral intentions. In addition, they have stated that consistency across the different sources is not necessary (implying that they are to some extent independent), and that an individual may have more than one attitude toward a stimulus object (if, over different occasions, the evaluative judgment is based on different sources of information).

How does the Zanna and Rempel (1988) formulation of the attitude concept lend itself to the study of intergroup attitudes? With regards to the cognitive component, we (Esses et al., in press) have postulated that two separate types of beliefs are relevant. One type of cognitive information is stereotypic beliefs, that is, the characteristics attributed to typical members of a target group. For instance, an individual may believe that typical members of a group are unfriendly and/or intelligent. A second type of cognitive information involves more general, abstract beliefs, including what we refer to as symbolic beliefs. Adapted from the concept of symbolic racism (Sears, 1988), these are beliefs that social groups violate or promote the attainment of cherished values, customs, and traditions. For example, an individual might believe that members of a certain group violate the expression of freedom and/or promote the attainment of peace.

In contrast, the affective component of intergroup attitudes focuses on the emotions that are elicited by target groups. For instance, typical members of a social group may evoke feelings of fear and/or admiration within an individual. Although not entirely independent of the cognitive component of prejudice, our past research has revealed that assessing the emotions elicited by typical group members provides information that increases our ability to predict individuals' attitudes (Esses et al., in press; Haddock, Zanna, & Esses, 1992).

In our initial study, we assessed the relative importance of affect, stereotypes, and symbolic beliefs in predicting attitudes toward five groups (English Canadians, French Canadians, Homosexuals, Native Indians, and Pakistanis). In this study, we asked 71 subjects to indicate their attitude toward each of the five groups. In addition, they were asked to complete, independently for each target group, three open-ended measures. To assess affect, they were asked to indicate the emotions they experience when they see, feel, or think about members of the target group. They were then asked to rate each of these affective responses on the extent to which it is positive or negative (i.e., a valence rating), and, finally, to indicate the percentage of group members that produce each emotion (i.e., a percentage rating). An affect score was then created for each target group by multiplying each valence rating by its corresponding percentage rating, summing these products, and dividing by the number of characteristics listed (Esses et al., in press).

Stereotypes were assessed by asking individuals to list the characteristics they would use to describe typical members of each group. Having completed this task, they were asked to rate each characteristic on the extent to which it is positive or negative. They were then asked to indicate the percentage of group members who possess each characteristic. A stereotype score was calculated in the same manner as for the measure of affect.

To assess symbolic beliefs, subjects were asked to list the values, customs, and traditions that they believe are blocked or facilitated by typical group members. Upon the completion of this task, they were asked to rate the extent to which each value, custom, or tradition is blocked or facilitated by typical group members, and then to indicate the percentage of group members whom they believed block or facilitate each value. A symbolic belief score was calculated in the same manner as for the measure of affect.

Regression analyses, performed separately for each target group, revealed that both affective and cognitive information serve as important sources of information in predicting attitudes. Further, the interplay of affect and cognition was found to be dependent upon a variety of factors. For instance, attitudes toward those outgroups that were evaluated particularly negatively were based primarily upon symbolic beliefs. In contrast, attitudes toward outgroups that were evaluated more favorably were best predicted by affective information. Interestingly, stereotypes, upon the consideration of affect and symbolic beliefs, were not uniquely predictive of attitudes toward any of the five groups. This was somewhat surprising, because stereotypes have been persistently studied in regards to their relation with prejudice. Thus, we decided to replicate these results, in order to further examine the relative importance of affective and cognitive information in predicting prejudice. In addition, we also became interested in assessing whether there are individual differences in the tendency to use affect and cognition in predicting intergroup attitudes. Specifically, we wondered whether some individuals tended to use mainly affective information in this domain, while others tended to rely more upon their beliefs (either stereotypic and/or symbolic) in guiding their intergroup attitudes.

Are There Individual Differences in the Tendency to Use Affect and Cognition as Sources of Evaluative Information?

In light of our finding that both affect and cognition predict prejudice, we became interested in determining whether there are stable individual differences in the tendency to use these sources of information in predicting attitudes. Unfortunately, there is, to our knowledge, no psychological instrument that directly assesses individual differences in the tendency to use affective and cognitive information in forming attitudes. [There are, however, some existing measures that are related to what we wanted to investigate. For example, Cacioppo and Petty's (1982) construct of need for cognition, which measures individuals' tendency to engage in and enjoy cognitive activities, might be similar to our proposed construct, in that individuals high on this dimension might be more likely to base their attitudes on cognitive information. Similarly, Leary et al. (1986) have constructed a scale measuring individual differences in "objectivism," the tendency to base one's beliefs on empirical information and logical considerations. Highly objective individuals might be expected to base their attitudes on cognitive information. In contrast, individuals scoring high in affect intensity (Larsen & Diener, 1987), might be expected to base their attitudes more on affective information, because of their heightened emotional reactivity. Unfortunately, none of the scales were constructed to assess the underlying affective/cognitive structure of individuals' attitudes.] Thus, we have decided to create our own measure. In developing potential items for this questionnaire, we have included items that ask about a wide range of attitudinal domains, such as political and consumer attitudes. In that way, we hope to develop a measure that might be useful to researchers studying a wide range of attitudinal phenomena. In the present study, we wanted to examine whether a preliminary version of such of a scale might be helpful in differentiating individuals who base their intergroup attitudes primarily upon either affective or cognitive information.

OVERVIEW OF THE PRESENT STUDY

In this study, we had 65 undergraduates at the University of Waterloo complete the attitude, affect, stereotype, and symbolic belief measures for the five groups described earlier. In addition, they were asked to complete a preliminary version of the Feeling-Belief Measure (FBM), a scale intended to assess individual differences in the tendency to use affect and cognition as sources of information in forming attitudes. The scale used in this study consisted of 28 Likert-style items, in which subjects were asked to indicate the extent of their agreement/disagreement with items such as "I often buy products for how they make me feel rather than how useful they are" and "An individual's preference of a political party should be based upon the party's policies, rather than the image the leader conveys." The items were keyed so that low scores on the scale were representative of individuals whose attitudes tend to be based upon affect.

RESULTS

The Prediction of Prejudice

To determine the relative importance of affective and cognitive information in predicting prejudice, regression analyses were performed in which the affect, stereotype, and symbolic belief scores were entered simultaneously as predictor variables, with the attitude measure serving as the criterion variable. As in our first study, a separate analysis was performed for each of the five target groups. As can be seen in Table 1, the results of these analyses revealed that, as in our earlier study, both affective and cognitive information served as important determinants of attitudes, but that their relative importance was a function of the target group under examination. For instance, affective information was uniquely predictive of attitudes toward English Canadians, French Canadians, and Pakistanis. Symbolic beliefs were found to be uniquely predictive of attitudes toward French Canadians, Homosexuals, Native Indians, and Pakistanis. Once again, stereotypes, upon the consideration of affective information and symbolic beliefs, were not predictive of attitudes. Thus, this second study replicated our first study by showing that: (i) both affective information and symbolic beliefs serve as important sources of information in predicting intergroup attitudes, and (ii) stereotypes are not uniquely predictive of prejudice.

The Prediction of Prejudice as a Function of Individual Differences on the Feeling-Belief Measure

To what extent were scores on the FBM associated with the tendency to use affective and cognitive information in the prediction of intergroup attitudes? In order to assess the association between scores on the FBM and the affective/cognitive structure of individuals' attitudes, we needed to create an index that would allow us to quantify the consistency between individuals' attitudes, affective responses, and cognitive responses. [Due to our small sample size, it would not have been appropriate to perform a median split on FBM scores and run separate regression analyses for the split sample.] Following the work of Chaiken and her colleagues (Chaiken, Pomerantz, & Giner-Sorolla, in press), we computed a score that represented the extent to which individuals' affect and cognition scores were consistent with their attitudes. Such an index was created which examined the consistency between affective responses, symbolic beliefs, and attitudes (i.e., an "affect/symbolic belief" index). [Because stereotypes were not uniquely predictive of attitudes, an affect/stereotype index was not computed.]

TABLE 1

REGRESSION ANALYSES USING STEROTYPES, SYMBOLIC BELIEFS, AND AFFECT TO PREDICT ATTITUDES TOWARD FIVE SOCIAL GROUPS

The affect/symbolic belief index was created by first standardizing, independently for each target group, subjects' scores on the attitude, affect, and symbolic belief measures. Second, we calculated, separately for each target group, the absolute difference between the standardized attitude and affect scores ("A/A" scores) and the standardized attitude and symbolic belief scores ("A/SB" scores). These A/A and A/SB scores were then summed across the five target groups. Finally, the summed A/SB score was subtracted from the summed A/A score. Thus, a negative score on this index would represent a smaller discrepancy between individuals' attitudes and affective responses, implying greater consistency between their affective responses and their attitudes.

Scores on the FBM were indeed significantly related to scores on the affect/symbolic belief index, r=.26, p<.05. Individuals who scored low on the FBM (i.e., those subjects whose evaluations tended to be affect-based) had attitudes that were more consistent with their affective responses than with their symbolic beliefs, thus providing some preliminary evidence that there are individuals differences in the tendency to use affect and cognition in guiding attitudes, and that the FBM might be sensitive to assessing such differences.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION

For years, researchers studying the structure of attitudes have focused on the cognitive component of evaluation (e.g., Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980). However, more recent models of the attitude concept, such as that proposed by Zanna and Rempel (1988), have led researchers to reaffirm the role of affective information in guiding attitudes and behavior. In our research, we have sought to determine the importance of affective information in predicting prejudicial attitudes. In a series of studies, such as the one presented in this paper, we have discovered that the emotions individuals experience when they see, meet, or think about typical members of a target group serve as an important source of information in guiding their attitudes.

In light of our findings concerning the role of affective information in predicting intergroup attitudes, we became interested in determining whether there are individual differences in the tendency to use affect and cognition in guiding evaluations. In the present study, we obtained some preliminary evidence suggesting that there might be individual differences in the tendency to use affect and cognition, although it is obvious that much more work is required before the FBM can be used by researchers interested in studying its effects. If, as we believe, there are stable individual differences in the propensity to use affect and cognition in guiding attitudes, it would then be necessary to determine the effects of such differences. For instance, Edwards (1990) has found that affect-based attitudes exhibit greater change as a result of affective rather than cognitive means of persuasion. Thus, in the domain of intergroup attitudes, reducing prejudice by changing negative beliefs might be ineffective for individuals whose attitudes are primarily affective. Similarly, individuals whose attitudes are affective in nature might be especially influenced by advertisements that focus on the positive emotions elicited by a consumer product. Thus, the FBM, upon a rigorous investigation of its psychometric properties, could serve as an effective instrument in helping researchers determine the persuasive technique(s) most likely to be effective for a given individual.

Overall, it is an exciting time to be studying the structure of attitudes. For too long, researchers paid particular attention to cognitive information, relegating affect to a secondary role (cf. Zajonc, 1980). However, it is now clear that our emotions serve as an important source of information in the evaluative process. Future research should continue this trend, in order to better understand when, and for whom, affective responses play the primary role in guiding our attitudes and behavior.

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