Attitudes, Persuasion, & Behavior
General Attitudes that Cut Across Objects
Along with a former student (Hepler & Albarracín, 2013), I proposed and tested a simple possibility. On the one hand, attitudes have specific objects and perceivers evaluate the world. On the other hand, a person's component of attitudes may divide the world into “haters” and “lovers.” This idea led to the development of a general or dispositional attitude measure, which comprises the average of attitudes towards many disparate objects (Japan, bicycles, abortion, architecture). My studies in this domain have demonstrated that dispositional attitudes can be used to predict attitudes toward novel stimuli predicted by other traits (e.g., positive affectivity, need for cognition, etc.). Further research has revealed that general attitudes yield disposition-consistent expectations about stimuli and disposition-consistent selective exposure for stimulus information, both of which mediate the effect of dispositional attitudes on specific attitudes. “Haters” look for negative information and avoid many behaviors as they go through their day, whereas “lovers” do the opposite. These findings, in all of their parsimony, are useful to explain a variety of human reactions to objects, including information seeking. This seminal work is currently generating considerable research to explain whether these cross-cutting attitudes depend on the chronic accessibility of either positive or negative concepts, selective interpretation, selective exposure, or a combination of these processes.
Gauging the Critical But Highly Neglected Impact of Past Behavior
The importance of behavior contrasts starkly with the study of nonbehavioral inputs in social psychology. In this context, I have designed ways of studying the impact of behavior while controlling for the cognitive activity that often coincides with behavior (Albarracín & Wyer, 2000). I have shown that perceiving that one has executed a behavior can either lead to global, self-perceptual effects on attitudes, or detailed rationalizations about the outcomes one supposedly expected, even though the behavior preceded any possible thought about behavior. Additional support for the idea that action strengthens attitudes and related judgments comes from a meta-analysis on behavioral interventions (Albarracín, Gillette, Ho, Early, Glasman, & Durantini, 2005). Interventions that incorporate behavioral activities are found to be more successful than passive interventions. In summary, through acting, people acquire experience and skills that strengthen and consolidate behavioral patterns.