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Attitudes and Persuasion Summary

Attitude: A cognitive representation that summarizes an individual's evaluation of a particular person, group, thing, action, or idea

Persuasion: The process of forming, strengthening, or changing attitudes via communication


Attitudes can vary in their direction and intensity. Explicit attitudes can be measured using explicit measues which can be readily controlled (self reports, observations and bogus pipeline) and implicit attitudes can be measured using implicit measures which can not be readily controlled (muscle activity, reaction time, implicit association test).

Subtle or Direct

An attitude is a reaction to an attitude object that can range from a subtle (unconscious) evaluative reaction, to a more direct expression in words or deeds. Implicit attitudes can differ from explicit attitudes.


Western: IISU... Independence, Individualism, Success, Uniqueness

Eastern: GSCS... Group, Social, Community, Sharing


Attitudes are useful because they help people to master their social environment (appraisal knowledge and utilitarian behaviour) and to express important connections with others (need for accuracy and self relevance).


Attitudes are assembled from beliefs about the object, feelings and emotions, and information (past or present) about actions toward the object. The attitude must fit consistently with the current self. Negative information and accessible information are weighted more heavily. An attitude must also be accessible (for example, via salience). Once an attitude forms, it becomes (closely) linked to the representation of the object. Therefore, it can be activated automatically by thinking of the attitude or object. It can also be used as a source of knowledge in interpreation

Superficial Processing

People often do not give persuasive communications much thought. Superficial processing is based on salient informaton, and is quick, simple and evaluative. Therefore, superficial aspects of the persuasive appeal can lead to attitude change (persuasion heuristics). Some examples are positive associations, mood, familiarity, attractiveness, expertise and length.

Systematic Processing

When people do pay attention to a message (motivated by concerns about mastery and connectedness), understand its content, and react to it (a process called elaboration), systematic processing can change attitudes. Attitudes resulting from such careful consideration last longer and are much more resistant to later change than most attitudes produced by superficial processing.

Which and When?

People process messages systematically only when they have both the motivation and the cognitive capacity to do so. Messages that match people's motivational goals and their capacity states are most persuasive (need for accuracy and self relevace). Cognitive capacity is available when people have adequate ability to process and can do so without distraction. Positive and negative emotional states influence persuasion because they have motivational and capacity consequences. Individual differences such as need for cognition, self monitoring and promotion/prevention also have an effect.


People often seek to resist persuasion, and one of their best weapons is awareness. People protect established attitudes by ignoring or resisting information that threatens them. Being forewarned of a persuasion attempt and having previous experience with related arguments can help resistance. However many people overestimate their ability to resist persuasive appeals.


Systematic processing can be wrong, processing can be biased and therefore leading to more bias. It is what and how we process that determines whether or not our attitudes change. We literally persuade ourselves. We accept consistent information and reject and criticise inconsistent image, therefore building a coherent view of the self.


Subliminal persuasion gains some of its power because people do not realize they are the target of a persuasive attempt. Information presented outside of conscious awareness can influence attitudes and persuasion, but careful consideration of attitude objects can weaken the influence of subliminal information.



Construction of Reality

We construct attitudes, based on our beliefs, feelings, and behaviours about objects

Pervasiveness of social influence

In this construction process, we draw heavily on persuasive communications from others

Striving For Mastery

Attitudes helpless master our environment and obtain rewards

Seeking Connectedness

Attitudes help express our connectedness with groups or ideas we value


An existing attitude shapes our interpretations in ways that confirm the attitude

Superficiality versus depth

Attitude change may result when we process persuasive messages superficially or when we think about them in more depth.

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