Emerging Views of Attitudes and Attitude Processes: Conceptual and Empirical Perspectives on Attitude Strength

Ida E. Berger, Queen's University
Linda F. Alwitt, DePaul University
[ to cite ]:
Ida E. Berger and Linda F. Alwitt (1994) ,"Emerging Views of Attitudes and Attitude Processes: Conceptual and Empirical Perspectives on Attitude Strength", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 21, eds. Chris T. Allen and Deborah Roedder John, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 95.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 21, 1994      Page 95


Ida E. Berger, Queen's University

Linda F. Alwitt, DePaul University

Attitudes occupy a very important position in consumer theory serving as both dependent measures of the effects of marketing stimuli and as independent variables or inputs to consumer decision making. Consequently, consumer researchers have historically been very receptive to new developments in attitude theory or new conceptualizations of the attitude construct. This special topic session explored the implications of an exciting, though potentially controversial, emerging "view" of attitudes.

Over the last decade researchers in social cognition and consumer behavior have been examining "qualitative properties" of attitudes. These properties have included attitude accessibility (Fazio in press; Alwitt and Berger 1992), confidence (Berger 1992), affective-evaluative consistency (Berger 1993; Chaiken et. al. in press), conviction (Abelson 1988), extremity (Judd 1989), ambivalence (Zanna et. al. in press) and many others. Most of these "properties" gauge or tap the strength with which an attitude is held. Attempts to bring structure to this burgeoning list of strength properties have led to a new 'view' of the attitude construct and a new perspective on attitude processes. A growing number of theorists now suggest that attitudes have both a valence and a strength dimension. (See Petty and Krosnick in press.)

Although some consensus exists regarding the importance of considering attitudes in this light there is considerable controversy over how best to measure and model this new aspect of a well researched construct. This session invited researchers to discuss the antecedent processes that lead to variability in attitude strength as well as the cognitive and behavioral consequences of attitude strength, defined in a number of different ways. Researchers considered the structure of the attitude strength construct and the implications of strength in the cognitive representations of consumer brands.

Using Petty and Cacioppo's Elaboration Likelihood framework Curt Haugtvedt discussed some of the antecedent processes that lead to strongly held attitudes. The series of experimental results that he reviewed used the ELM to understand some of the consequences of attitude strength. In particular he showed how elaboration can be used to create attitudes that are both persistent over time and resistant to counter persuasion.

The second paper by Joe Priester and Richard Petty introduced the theoretical and practical implications of examining attitude ambivalence. They discussed the theoretical limitations of considering attitudes as a single bi-polar construct and described the benefits of broadening our perspective to include both positive and negative dispositions. Importantly, their empirical work showed that attitude ambivalence is related to other measures of strength, but in a non-linear way.

The third paper by Ida Berger and Linda Alwitt presented a general view of the attitude strength construct and introduced the notion of attitude conviction. The paper presented the results of a study that operationalized this self-reflective dimension of attitude strength in two consumer relevant domains (environmentally safe products and convenient products). The results showed that attitude conviction is domain and not individual specific and that it is related to some, but not all cognitive measures of attitude strength.

In the fourth paper Clark Leavitt extended the notion of "strength" to the entire cognitive representation of a brand, not just the attitude. Drawing on the results of three empirical studies he concluded that an aspect of strength is the likelihood that an object will be a part of a motivated behavioral sequence. He showed that the likelihood of being chosen is greater when the object is automatically brought to mind by component cues of various sorts (including situational cues). He further suggested that the notion of image or image-schema is a more congenial framework than is attitude.

Ida Berger concluded the session by suggesting a framework that could integrate the four papers. She argued that the papers could be seen in terms of whether they considered antecedents of strength (elaboration for instance), the structure of strength itself (ambivalence, conviction) or consequences of strength (resistance etc.). She suggested that the research challenge is to understand more fully the relationships within this kind of framework.