The Effects of Dissimulation on the Accessibility, Confidence, Persistence and Predictive Power of Weakly Held Attitudes

EXTENDED ABSTRACT - This research examines the effects of repeatedly lying about one’s attitudes (attitude dissimulation) on the strength of the underlying Atrue@ attitude. It can be argued that repeated dissimulation, especially for weak attitudes, might either produce a weakening effect on the underlying attitude (if lying sets up a competing/interfering link to the false attitude) or a strengthening effect (if lying involves activation of the true attitude). Experiment 1 provides an empirical investigation of this issue by examining the effects of repeated lying on the accessibility of strongly-held vs. weakly-held product attitudes. We compare the time taken to report true attitudes for brands toward which participants hold strong versus weak attitudes under three conditionsBrepeated expression of true attitudes, repeated expression of false attitudes (i.e., dissimulation), and no prior attitude expression. The structural change/interference perspective predicts that dissimulation will decrease attitude accessibility (vs. control) for weak attitudes. On the other hand, the activation perspective predicts that for weak as well as strong attitudes, both truthful expression and dissimulation should lead to greater attitude accessibility compared to the control condition. Replicating earlier results (Maio and Olson 1995), we found that repeatedly lying about strongly held attitudes produced a strengthening effectBi.e., an increase in accessibility of te true attitude compared to a no-expression control group. More importantly, Experiment 1 showed that repeatedly lying about relatively weak attitudes also produced a beneficial effect on true attitude accessibility. Thus, the strengthening effect of dissimulation holds for weak attitudes as well, supporting the activation rather than the interference premise.



Citation:

Jaideep Sengupta and Gita V. Johar (2002) ,"The Effects of Dissimulation on the Accessibility, Confidence, Persistence and Predictive Power of Weakly Held Attitudes", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, eds. Ramizwick and Tu Ping, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 394.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, 2002      Page 394

THE EFFECTS OF DISSIMULATION ON THE ACCESSIBILITY, CONFIDENCE, PERSISTENCE AND PREDICTIVE POWER OF WEAKLY HELD ATTITUDES

Jaideep Sengupta, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong

Gita V. Johar, Columbia University, U.S.A.

EXTENDED ABSTRACT -

This research examines the effects of repeatedly lying about one’s attitudes (attitude dissimulation) on the strength of the underlying "true" attitude. It can be argued that repeated dissimulation, especially for weak attitudes, might either produce a weakening effect on the underlying attitude (if lying sets up a competing/interfering link to the false attitude) or a strengthening effect (if lying involves activation of the true attitude). Experiment 1 provides an empirical investigation of this issue by examining the effects of repeated lying on the accessibility of strongly-held vs. weakly-held product attitudes. We compare the time taken to report true attitudes for brands toward which participants hold strong versus weak attitudes under three conditionsBrepeated expression of true attitudes, repeated expression of false attitudes (i.e., dissimulation), and no prior attitude expression. The structural change/interference perspective predicts that dissimulation will decrease attitude accessibility (vs. control) for weak attitudes. On the other hand, the activation perspective predicts that for weak as well as strong attitudes, both truthful expression and dissimulation should lead to greater attitude accessibility compared to the control condition. Replicating earlier results (Maio and Olson 1995), we found that repeatedly lying about strongly held attitudes produced a strengthening effectBi.e., an increase in accessibility of te true attitude compared to a no-expression control group. More importantly, Experiment 1 showed that repeatedly lying about relatively weak attitudes also produced a beneficial effect on true attitude accessibility. Thus, the strengthening effect of dissimulation holds for weak attitudes as well, supporting the activation rather than the interference premise.

In addition to the effects on attitude accessibility, it is possible to argue that dissimulation, even for weak attitudes, can result in increased attitude confidence, as a result of increased thought about the true attitude. Further, increases in attitude accessibility and attitude confidence can lead to enduring effects of lying (by increasing attitude persistence), and can also affect actual behavior (by strengthening the attitude-behavior link). Experiment 2 examined the effects of dissimulation on these consequences of attitude strength. We manipulated four levels of attitude expression (truthful expression, false expression, false expression-plus-activation, and no attitude expression) in a between-subjects design. Thus, three groups of participants were asked to repeatedly express true, false, or no attitudes towards a set of four candy bars, while a fourth group was asked to think about true attitudes at the time of providing false attitudes. Dependent variables included initial and delayed attitude measures (to tap into attitude persistence), attitude confidence, and also a choice-based measure of behavior. Repeatedly lying about attitudes was found to significantly increase attitude confidence, attitude persistence over time, and also attitude-behavior correspondence (as compared to a no-activation control group).

Taken together with earlier findings on attitude accessibility, these results provide convergent evidence for the somewhat paradoxical premise that dissimulation actually increases the strength of the underlying true attitude. Further, these findings provide additional support for the notion that repeated dissimulation, even for weak attitudes, involves repeated activation of the true attitude, rather than direct retrieval of the false attitude and the subsequent formation of a competing link in attitude structure. Support for the activation perspective also comes from the finding that the increased accessibility in the false expression condition is equivalent to that obtained in the false expression-plus-activation condition where participants are expressly asked to think about their true attitudes at the time of dissimulation.

Our results also highlight the substantive implications of dissimulation. In particular, we show that lying about one’s feelings can produce enduring effects (as manifested in attitude persistence) and also influence actual behavior. These results possess interesting implications both for the effects of lying in consumer contexts (e.g., lying about whether one likes a friend’s outfit; or misrepresenting one’s views on consumer surveys) as well as more general contexts (e.g., lying about socially sensitive issues, such as attitudes towards minority groups). In all these cases, lying about one’s actual opinions may be more consequential than is commonly supposed.

REFERENCES

Maio, G.R., & Olson, J.M. (1995). The effect of attitude dissimulation on attitude accessibility. Social Cognition, 13 (2), 127-144.

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Authors

Jaideep Sengupta, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong
Gita V. Johar, Columbia University, U.S.A.



Volume

AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5 | 2002



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