Special Session Summary Perspectives on Attitude Strength

Jaideep Sengupta, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
[ to cite ]:
Jaideep Sengupta (1998) ,"Special Session Summary Perspectives on Attitude Strength", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, eds. Joseph W. Alba & J. Wesley Hutchinson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 63-64.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, 1998      Pages 63-64



Jaideep Sengupta, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

While a vast amount of persuasion research has been devoted to the issue of attitude extremity, recent research in consumer behavior has increasingly concentrated on the equally important construct of attitude strength. In particular, researchers have focused on various dimensions of attitude strength, such as the attitude-behavior link (Berger 1992), attitude persistence (Sengupta, Goodstein and Boninger 1997), and attitude resistance (Haugtvedt et al. 1994), all of which carry clear practical and theoretical implications for persuasion research. The current session consisted of three papers which offer fresh perspectives on some important indicators of attitude strength.

The paper by Fitzsimons and Sengupta extends the well documented disruption effect to the consumer domain. The disruption effect states that when people are not fully aware of the reasons for their preferences, asking them to analyze reasons can disrupt the link between attitudes and behavior (see Wilson et al. 1989 for a review). In a set of two experiments investigating consumers’ attitudes and choice behavior towards a set of unfamiliar candy bars, the authors show that the disruption effect is likely to be observed in a consumer context when preferences are formed primarily on the basis of non-verbalizable cues such as packaging. This paper also reconciles the disruption effect with some opposing perspectives on attitude strength. Consistent with findings which suggest that greater elaboration leads to greater strength (Petty, Cacioppo and Schumann 1983), the authors show that analyzing reasons can increase the link between attitude and behavior when there is little or no lag between the attitude and behavior measures. Similarly, based on the premise that the process of justifying attitudes can lead to a bolstering of these attitudes (Tetlock, Skitka and Boettger 1989), the authors demonstrate a reversal of the disruption effect when consumers analyze reasons for preferences after reporting their preferences

The link between attitude and behavior is also a central theme of the paper by Morwitz and Fitzsimons. Prior research on the mere-measurement effect has found that the mere act of measuring purchase intent can bias the likelihood of purchase at both the category and brand level (e.g., Fitzsimons and Morwitz 1996). The current research attempts to clarify the underlying mechanism for the mere-exposure effect. The authors use an experimental methodology and replicate the finding that asking an intent question affects category choice. Importantly, the authors also obtain strong evidence that this effect operates through affecting attitude accessibility, which is an important mediator of attitude strength. Specifically, asking intent questions increases attitude accessibility, which in turn increases the link between attitude and behavior. Consequently, consumers who are asked an intent question are more likely to purchase positively evaluated brands, and less likely to purchase negatively evaluated brands, as compared to a control group of consumers who are not asked the intent question.

The paper by Muthukrishnan, Pham and Mungale offers a fresh perspective on another important indicator of attitude strength: attitude resistance. While earlier research has conceptualized resistance as a property that an attitude acquires prior to being challenged, Muthukrishnan et al. suggest that when a previously formed attitude is challenged, consumers may often opt to reconstruct a new attitude rather than retrieving and defending the existing attitude. A set of three experiments builds on this perspective to yield the counter-intuitive finding that amount of information available about the target brand may be irrelevant to resistance (experiment 1), or in some cases may actually be negatively related to resistance (experiments 2 and 3). Experiment 4 examines the role of elaboration on resistance. While prior research suggests that elaboration can increase resistance (Petty and Cacioppo 1986), the current paper identifies situations in which greater elaboration can actually lead to less resistance. Specifically, the authors build on the constructive preference theme to show that the degree of comparability between the target brand information and the competing brand information can moderate the elaboration-resistance relationship.

In his closing summary, the session discussant, Durairaj Maheswaran, highlighted the contributions made by the presented papers, and led an audience discussion which revolved around three major areas: a) relevant literature; b) methodological issues; and c) moderating variables. For example, recent literature relating to the antecedents and consequences of attitude strength (Petty and Krosnick 1995) can be used to clarify and integrate some of the issues raised by the current papers. In terms of measurement issues, it was suggested that process measures such as thought protocols would prove particularly useful in terms of providing stronger evidence for the observed findings. Finally, it would be interesting to examine the moderating influence of variables such as attitude commitment and initial attitude strength on the effects reported here. Implementing these ideas in the research frame provided by the presented papers should provide some fruitful avenues for further exploration into the attitude strength construct.


Berger, Ida E. (1992), "The Nature of Attitude Accessibility and Attitude Confidence: A Triangulated Experiment," Journal of Consumer Psychology, 1 (2), 103-123.

Fitzsimons, Gavan J. and Vicki G. Morwitz (1996), "The Effect of Measuring Intent on Brand-Level Purchase Behavior," Journal of Consumer Research, 23 (Jne), 1-11.

Haugtvedt, Curtis P., David W. Schumann, Wendy L. Schneier, and Wendy L. Warren (1994), "Advertising Repetition and Variation Strategies: Implications for Understanding Attitude Strength," Journal of Consumer Research, 21 (June), 176-189.

Petty, Richard E. and Jon A. Krosnick (1995), Attitude Strength: Antecedents and Consequences, Lawrence Erlbaum: Mahwah, NJ.

Petty, Richard E. and John T. Cacioppo (1986), Communication & Persuasion: Central and Peripheral Routes to Attitude Change, New York: Springer Verlag

Petty, Richard E., John T. Cacioppo, and David W. Schumann (1983), "Central and Peripheral Routes to Advertising Effectiveness: The Moderating Role of Involvement," Journal of Consumer Research, 10 (September), 135-146.

Sengupta, Jaideep, Ronald C. Goodstein and David S. Boninger (1997), "All Cues are Not Created Equal: Obtaining Attitude Persistence under Low-Involvement Conditions," Journal of Consumer Research, 34 (March), 351-361.

Tetlock, Philip E., Linda Skitka and Richard E. Boettger (1989), "Social and Cognitive Strategies for Coping with Accountability: Conformity, Complexity and Bolstering," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57 (4), 632-640.

Wilson, Timothy D., Dana S. Dunn, Dolores Kraft and Douglas J. Lisle (1989), "Introspection, Attitude Change, and Attitude-Behavior Consistency: The Disruptive Effects of Explaining Why We Feel the Way We Do," Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 22, 287-343.