Theories of Attitude Formation

1. Learning Theory

– Can explain a wide range of phenomena from conditioned fears to the acquisition of sex roles to the development of personality traits.

  • Classical Conditioning

– Creates an affective, or emotional component in an attitude by pairing products with stimuli that elicit pleasant emotional responses

  • Operant Conditioning

-Openly expresses an attitude

-Agreement from others functions as a reinforce

-Disagreement from others functions as a form of punishment

  • Observational Learning

-Parents and children have similar political attitudes


2. Dissonance Theory

– Created by Festinger

– Asserts that inconsistent attitudes cause tension

– People alter their attitudes to reduce cognitive dissonance

– Cognitive dissonance: exists when related cognitions are inconsistent (that is when, when they contradict each other)

– Creates unpleasant state of tension that motivates people to reduce their dissonance

– Used to explain attitude change following counter attitudinal behavior and efforts that haven’t planned out

– Results can be explained by self perception theory which states that people may infer their attitudes from their behavior


3. Self Perception Theory

– Explains why people can come to believe their own lies

– People infer their attitudes from their behavior

– Self perception is at work primarily when subjects do not have well defined attitudes regarding the issue at hand


4. Elaboration Likelihood Model

-The central route to persuasion tends to yield longer lasting attitude change than the peripheral route

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