Special Session Summary Attitude Formation and Change Processes: Simplicity Or Multiplicity?


Michael J. Barone and Paul W. Miniard (1998) ,"Special Session Summary Attitude Formation and Change Processes: Simplicity Or Multiplicity?", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, eds. Joseph W. Alba & J. Wesley Hutchinson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 53.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, 1998      Page 53



Michael J. Barone, Iowa State University

Paul W. Miniard, Florida International University

This special session was organized around a series of Journal of Consumer Psychology articles that debate the nature and diversity of attitude formation and change processes. In their 1995 article, Fishbein and Middlestadt challenge the literature purporting to show attitudinal effects arising from processes other than the belief-based process underlying Fishbein’s expectancy-value conceptualization (Fishbein and Ajzen 1975). This paper formed the basis of the session’s initial presentation, in which Fishbein and Middlestadt attributed evidence viewed as supporting nonbelief-based attitudinal change to methodological artifacts. They argued that earlier conclusions reached in favor of nonbelief-based attitudinal processes were limited by inadequate assessment of cognitive structure (i.e., beliefs and evaluations).

The provocative nature of Fishbein and Middlestadt’s (1995) article sparked a series of commentaries published in JCP (Haugtvedt et al. 1997; Herr 1996; Miniard and Barone 1997; Priester and Fleming 1997; Schwarz 1997) that question the ability of the singular, belief-based process advocated by Fishbein and Middlestadt to fully account for the range of findings reported in the literature. The authors of three of these commentaries presented their primary concerns with Fishbein and Middlestadt’s (1995) position. Miniard and Barone summarized the empirical evidence from the persuasion literature. They found that only two studies (Miniard, Bhatla, Lord, Dickson, and Unnava 1991; Mitchell 1986) purporting nonbelief-based effects had included measures of cognitive structure. Cognitive structure did not mediate attitudinal effects in either study, thereby implicating a nonbelief-based process.

Schwarz examined research delineating the processes by which mood influences attitude. Schwarz argued that, while certain mood effects are consistent with belief-based processes, other effects support a nonbelief-based process. In particular, he noted that results indicating that mood serves as a relevant input in forming evaluative judgmentsCunless its relevance to the attitudinal object is made salientCare difficult to account for with a belief-based theory of attitude.

Haugtvedt reviewed various moderator variables that have been demonstrated to influence attitude formation and change processes. He further noted that this evidence of moderation is conistent with attitudinal theories allowing for multiple processes, but not with single process theories such as Fishbein’s expectancy-value model.

In responding to the commentaries, Fishbein and Middlestadt (1997) note that much of the research offered in support of a nonbelief-based process is limited by its failure to assess the plausibility of a belief-based process. From their perspective, compelling evidence of a nonbelief-based process requires showing that any observed attitudinal effect is not mediated by cognitive structure. And even in those studies that assessed (but did not support) the mediating role of cognitive structure, Fishbein and Middlestadt raise the possibility that such unsupportive findings are simply an artifact of cognitive structure being operationalized inappropriately.

Terry Shimp, in his role as discussion moderator, reviewed several of the points raised as part of this exchange. A significant part of the "open" discussion focused on the methodological challenges (e.g., the requirements for a valid operationalization of cognitive structure) associated with obtaining evidence of noncognitive attitudinal effects.


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

Fishbein, Martin and Susan Middlestadt (1995), "Noncognitive Effects on Attitude Formation and Change: Fact or Artifact?" Journal of Consumer Psychology, 4 (2), 181-202.

Fishbein, Martin and Susan Middlestadt (1997), "A Striking Lack of Evidence for Nonbelief-Based Attitude Change: A Response to Five Commentaries," Journal of Consumer Psychology, 6 (1), 107-115.

Haugtvedt, Curtis P. and The Consumer Psychology Seminar (1997), "Attitude Change Processes: A Moderated View," Journal of Consumer Psychology, 6 (1), 99-106.

Herr, Paul M. (1995), "Whither Fact, Artifact, and Attitude: Reflections on the Theory of Reasoned Action," Journal of Consumer Psychology, 4 (2), 371-380.

Miniard, Paul W. and Michael J. Barone (1997), "The Case for Noncognitive Determinants of Attitude: A Critique of Fishbein and Middlestadt," Journal of Consumer Psychology, 6(1), 77-91.

Miniard, Paul W., Sunil Bhatla, Kenneth R. Lord, Peter R. Dickson, and H. Rao Unnava (1991), "Picture-based Persuasion Processes and the Moderating Role of Involvement," Journal of Consumer Research, 18 (June), 92-107.

Mitchell, Andrew A. (1986), "The Effect of Verbal and Visual Components of Advertisements on Brand Attitudes and Attitude Toward the Advertisement," Journal of Consumer Research, 13 (June), 12-24.

Priester, Joseph R. and Monique A. Fleming (1997), "Artifact or Theoretically Meaningfully Constructs?: Examining Evidence for Nonbelief- and Belief-Based Attitude Change Processes," Journal of Consumer Psychology, 6(1), 67-76.

Schwarz, Norbert (1997), "Moods and Attitude Judgments: A Comment on Fishbein and Middlestadt," Journal of Consumer Psychology, 6 (1), 93-98.



Michael J. Barone, Iowa State University
Paul W. Miniard, Florida International University


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25 | 1998

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