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Attitudes ProSem Week 3/5
1. Katz discusses how attitude adjustment is either a means for reaching the desired goal or
avoiding the undesirable one. This implies that attitude change is a cognitive process. Chen and
Bargh, show how automatic attitude activation appears to have behavioural consequences, in
that participants either automatically approach or avoid a stimulus, dependent on its positive or
negative attitude solicitation. Similarly, the authors show response latency in their response
when forced to respond in a way that differs from how they might automatically react. This
could support Katz’s argument, because it shows how people are motivated to respond in a
certain way based on the rewards or their needs. It would be interesting to build on these
findings to show more explicitly that initial automatic behavioral responses can be changed, but
that this involves more cognitive processing (which results in latency responses). I would also
like to see more on the strength of initial attitudes and how stronger attitudes are harder to
change, involving higher cognitive processing.
2. Katz discusses the value-expressive function, and notes how group membership can influence an
individual such that the individual will often take over and internalize the values of a group. This
is interesting because likely the individual is attracted to this group because of their inherent
values and personality. Thus, it appears that the motivation to change one’s attitudes towards
the group’s attitudes is already present before engaging with a group. I’ve been thinking a lot
about whether or not you can force yourself to like something - whether through the mere
exposure effect, or otherwise. This idea of motivation prior to the exposure, helps to round out
this idea that if you are attempting to force yourself to like something, you are more likely to
end up liking it because you already are motivated to make this change, despite your negative
attitude in the beginning.
3. Chen and Bargh, as noted above, show how respondents behaviorally react to a stimulus based
on whether or not it is good or bad. Cacioppo, Gardner and Berntson argue that positive and
negative evaluative processes are not bipolar, but rather there are underlying motivational
systems that underlie these evaluative processes, such that attitudes should be represented in a
bivariate space rather than along a bipolar continuum. Unfortunately for Chen and Bargh, it
would be difficult to avoid using a bipolar continuum because of the behavioral measure they
use. How might we use Cacioppo, Gardner and Berntson’s findings when measuring automatic
evaluations? Is there a way to measure to these automatic evaluations within a bivariate space?
1) Chen & Bargh (1999) use experiments of automatic attitude activation to conclude that positive
evaluations produce immediate approach tendencies and negative evaluations produce
immediate avoidance tendencies using push/pull reactions. Although an interesting study, I
cannot help but wonder about cross-cultural implications of this study. After living in a highly
communitarian culture where positive reactions are indicated by different verbal, and physical,
reaction, I would hypothesize that a different reaction may take place for good vs bad automatic
evaluations. Have there been such generalizations across cultures?
Attitudes ProSem Week 3/5
2) Cacioppo et al (1997) presentation of the bivariate framework present a notion that challenges
researchers to use this framework in future studies. Yet, Chen & Bargh do not
acknowledge/adopt this framework in their evaluations of implicit behaviors. It would have
been interesting to see the two studies they conducted as one of measuring the bivariate
framework to better understand if there were any ambivalent/neutral responses to the
reactions. Is there a major difference in the work done by Chen & Bargh as it regards to the
automatic, nonconscious behaviors compared to potentially conscious and intentional behaviors
as it relates to attitudes and how we can measure them? Are there two different frameworks, or
can this framework still be applicable to this study?
3) Cacioppo et al (1997) conclude with the statement that, “it may simply be that self-evident
truths may not always be what they seem, and that common sense should not be awarded any
privilege in theory and research on the governance of the social world,” (23). Similarly, Katz
(1960) touches on this when he mentions that “influences in the real world are not as a rule
directed toward a single type of motivation,” (78) and cautions researchers against generalizing
attitude formation based on one or two studies. It seems as though both are cautioning against
generalizing our findings and claiming external validity without truly understanding the
reliability of our measures and methods. Is this criticism still evident today in both lab and field
research of attitudes, attitude function, and attitude change?
In the Chen and Bargh (1999) paper, the researchers discuss the varied findings related to
associations of attitudes and predicted behaviors. They suggest that some attitudes are more
pervasive; that is, they are more available to us from memory and/or have a stronger influence
on behavior. According to Chen and Bargh (1999), “Fazio, Sanbonmatsu, Powell, and Kardes
(1986) advanced this argument by proposing that some attitudes are so accessible in memory
that they become active at the mere presence of the attitude object; these should show the
strongest predictive relation to behavior toward the object” (p. 216). What factors influence
those attitudes that become more accessible in memory than others? Do we call on certain
attitudes more frequently as determined by our in group or social settings? Are these attitudes
less likely to change if we frequently call on them and they have the potential to automatically
influence behavior?
In discussing possible limitations of the paradigm used in their experiments, and particularly, of
the instructions given, Chen and Bargh (1999) posit that in different settings, individuals have
natural responses to withdraw from a positively-evaluated stimulus in the case of surprise, for
example. Chen and Bargh (1999) suggest that, in examining the approach and avoidance
behaviors of the current studies, they are interested in the “psychological definition.” According
to the researchers, “It is not the objectively observed behavior that is significant but, instead,
the internal ramifications to the actor that are to be measured” (p. 222). If this is true, then are
these “internal ramifications” merely predispositions of behavior? What then causes action or
impels actual behavior to occur? On the other hand, Cacioppo et al. (1997) seem to suggest that
individuals do not hold attitudes along a bipolar continuum of some good and some bad. Would
Cacioppo et al. agree that the actual behavior is not necessarily indicative of one’s attitudes?
Attitudes ProSem Week 3/5
Would they suggest that the approach/avoid task is too simplistic to measure behavior based on
On a seemingly large scale approach, Katz (1960) suggests a functional approach of attitudes
which argues that motivational processes underlie the formation, maintenance, and change of
attitudes. Katz (1960) called for research to examine the function of these attitudes as a means
to understand both attitudes and the way that attitudes impact behaviors. Do we regard any
amount of motivation in the formation or change of attitudes today? What role do motivational
processes play in forming and changes attitudes as we understand attitudes today? Would Chen
and Bargh (1999) agree that motivational processes are apparent in automatic evaluations? Are
we motivated to interpret stimuli in a valenced manner in order to maintain cognitive balance
(Katz, 1960)?
Cacioppo’s (1997) framework of attitudes as bivariate instead of bipolar functions raises the
question of complexity in attitudes. Most definitions of attitudes incorporate a basic valence
component (positive/negative, approach/avoid, like/dislike, etc). Accordingly, this is how most
experiments test attitudes: 2-option paradigms such as Bargh’s lever pushing and pulling.
However, does this oversimplify attitudes? The existence of highly negative/highly positive
(ambivalent) attitudes would argue it does. It seems to be more than a battle of valence
strengths. In fact, Bargh claims the strength of an automatic attitude should have no effect on
behavior. If this were the case, how would one behave under an ambivalent attitude? Also,
based on the rich diversity of emotions humans can feel, what higher-level affective/emotional
experiences play into attitudes? What level of nuance should we incorporate into attitude
Bargh (1999) cites Cacioppo et al.’s (1993) work in inducing attitudes through arm flexion and
extension as well as postural stances. This seems somewhat related to the recently publicized
work on “power posing” by Amy Cuddy. Her work is aimed at changes in feelings of power and
self-esteem more that attitudes, but where does the difference lie? Are power poses creating a
greater sense of approach which manifests as assertiveness, aggression, or simply confidence?
Assuming this follows similar mechanisms as those involved in attitude change, how does one
approach something they dislike? Do they make the object more likable, or build self-control
resources to overcome the dislike/avoidance tendency?
Katz breaks down attitudes cleanly into affective and cognitive components. He claims that
affect encompasses the like/dislike valence of an attitude (as well as its strength level) while
cognition provides the belief component. But are beliefs truly affect-free? This brings me back
to my “2+2=5” rambling from last week. Apparently I’m still curious about the
cognitive/affective relationship. One example that I feel should be incorporated into this
discussion is Capgras syndrome. The prototypical Capgras scenario involves a lesion patient who
encounters a familiar face (e.g., their doctor, a family member) but does not believe their
identity, and despite recognizing the face, thinks the person is an imposter. The main
explanation for Capgras claims that although the patient cognitively recognizes the face, there is
a disconnect between the cognitive and emotional centers of the brain (PFC and limbic system)
which does not produce the expected emotional arousal to familiar faces. This suggests a
Attitudes ProSem Week 3/5
crucial affective role in a seemingly cognitive task. What does this tells us about attitude
formation? What boundary conditions could exist?
wonder whether the context-specificity of an attitude might modulate the ambiguity of these
affective evaluations. That is, might highly context-specific attitudes have a more
straightforward positive or negative affective content?
es together, would the automatic approach or avoid
muscle movement preparedness depend on the sign of the net effect of the positive and
negative components’ contribution to an attitude? Given that the Chen article supposes both
affective components existing simultaneously in attitudes, might there be a way to emphasize
the salience of the more peripheral component to switch the directionality of the
approach/avoid preparedness? Would this require an attitude change on a whole, or might this
naturally occur, reflecting dynamic flexibility of attitudes?
Tamir that I read, describing a “Taxonomy of Motives in Emotion Regulation”. A broad category
of these motives was described as “instrumental”, similarly to Katz’s first function. A subset
within instrumental motives was “epistemic” motives, describing both the motivation to affirm
what you already believe about yourself and the world, as well as to push those beliefs in a
particular direction (such as improving your beliefs about yourself). I felt the second, third, and
fourth attitude functions all shared many elements with this idea of epistemic motives in
emotion regulation. Given this conceptual overlap and the significant focus of affect in attitudes,
how might attitudes inform emotion regulation and vice versa? These domains seem quite a bit
more related than I might have thought, from this functional perspective.
I appreciated Cacioppo et al. (1997) contrasting the bivariate model and the bipolar model of
positive and negative attitudes. I think as a basic heuristic we assume that positive and negative
attitudes are perfectly negatively correlated and that if we have negative attitudes towards a
particular attitude object, we cannot possibly have equivalent positive attitudes toward that
same object. That’s why ambivalence is so uncomfortable. It keeps us away from the simple
predisposition to approach or avoid as Chen and Bargh (1999) framed it as well. Ambivalence
prevents us from feeling certain of our own attitudes. I think a potential problem then is in
interpreting results of attitude assessments that essentially operate using an assumption of
bipolar attitudes. If taking an IAT results in a score that indicates no relative bias towards one
group in relation to another, is that because the subject feels equally positive about both
groups, equally negative about both groups, etc.? Can one buy in to the bivariate account whilst
also using measures that seem to tap a more bipolar conception of attitudes? Which attitude
measures are most capable of illuminating a more nuanced view of attitudes?
Chen and Bargh’s (1999) discussion of attitudes was very different from Katz’s (1960). While
Katz talked about four functions of attitudes that differed in origin and mechanisms of change,
Attitudes ProSem Week 3/5
Chen and Bargh simplified even further that there was one main function of attitudes: to tell
people whether to approach or avoid. Katz’s discussion was very much about the internal
functions of attitudes (defense of ego, validating of the self, etc.), while Chen and Bargh
discussed more external functions of attitudes (which behavior is most appropriate in a
particular context). I don’t see that they have to be entirely separate, though. A desire to
approach or avoid an attitude object could still be serving the various functions that Katz
proposes. One might choose to approach an attitude object because it meets his needs
(adjustment function) or because it enables him to validates his core values (value-expressive
function). One thing I wonder then is the temporal and causal relationship between these
various conceptualizations of attitude function. If I choose to avoid an attitude object, is it
because I know that it will afford me the opportunity to defend my ego and I therefore avoid it,
or is there a more rapid predisposition to avoidance and a post hoc rationalization based on the
basis of preserving my ego? Is there a causal relationship? Is there a mediator?
If a researcher has the goal of minimizing prejudicial attitudes towards a particular out-group or
out-groups more generally, what are the implications of Katz’s (1960) four functions for that
goal? To modify attitudes, one needs to know what function the attitudes serve. Can any largescale manipulations or interventions be used, or would they be futile unless groups of people
with the same attitude functions were brought together with a very specific, tailored
intervention? For instance, if I wanted to modify people’s attitudes toward Syrian refugees,
would a mass appeal of any specific type be doomed to failure because of these divergent
attitude functions? How can attitude researchers use these functions in the service of attitude
modification? In the past 50 years, have ideas about these functions changed at all?
1. Similar to past topics that have come up in the previous sections of social psychology, I wonder
what role free will/determinism has in the process delineated by Chen and Bargh (1999)? They
describe a nonconscious, automatic, evaluative process which predisposes an individual to
behave in some way. How does this process they propose interact with more conscious
processes in order to direct behavior? Are there superordinate cognitive processes which
moderate the nonconscious processes? Or, are the supposed superordinate cognitive processes
simply narrative processes?
2. Broadly speaking, what do people see as the utility within the bivariate conceptualization
presented by Cacioppo, Gardner, and Bernston (1997)? How does it improve our ability to
classify and predict attitudes/behaviors? Is this bivariate, evaluative process considered
conscious or nonconscious, based on the findings of Chen and Bargh (1999)? That is, given that
Chen and Bargh utilized a more bipolar conceptualization with the pushing/pulling of a lever,
how might these findings tie into one another?
3. Katz (1960) presents four functions which attitude perform for an individual: 1) the instrumental
or utilitarian function, 2) the ego-defensive function as to protect the individual from harsh
truths about himself or the world, 3) the value-expressive function for the individual to derive
satisfaction congruent to personal values, and 4) the knowledge function based on the
individual’s needs to provide structure to the world. Can any of these functions be deemed
Attitudes ProSem Week 3/5
more or less important than the others? And, based on the findings of Chen and Bargh (1999),
are these guiding individuals in conscious or nonconscious ways (or both)?
1. Katz discusses “action structure”, the idea that some attitudes differ in their mobilization of
actions and behaviors. He gives an example of someone who might be more inclined to vote in a
political election by his own accord, while another person might need a nudge to do so. This
seems to me a matter of individual differences, and I was also thinking of the role of individual
differences in reading the Cacioppo et al. piece, in that some people might just be more inclined
to positive or negative attitudes than others. Yet, neither of these papers goes into much detail
on the role of individual differences in attitude formation (unless I missed this?). Why would
these papers in particular not focus on individual differences?
2. I’m not sold on the measurement and manipulation of attitude strength from the Chen and
Bargh study. Specifically, attitude valence, let alone strength, seems to be (and we’ve discussed
this before in class) a subjective trait. Thus, might the attitude object primes used in these
studies have been received differently by all participants? This paper also discussed potential
recursive mechanisms that may augment how attitudes affect behaviors, and reciprocally, how
behaviors might affect attitudes. What would be a possible manifestation of behaviors affecting
3. Cacioppo et al.’s garment example of heteroscedacity of antecedents was helpful to me for
understanding the evaluative plane, but I’m having a hard time seeing how this applies to
attitudes and emotions. They claim that, “There may be many ways in which things can go
wrong, but most if not all have to be proper to be right.” Related to my first question about
individual differences, I would think this phenomenon should be a matter of an individual’s
personality: those who are more inclined to see things in a positive light don’t need “all to be
proper to be right”.
1. I like the ideas in Cacioppo, Gardner, & Berntson. The negativity bias seems fairly
uncontroversial. For example, faster reaction times to negatively valenced stimuli (such as those
found in Chen & Bargh) are commonly found in reaction time studies. Chen & Bargh ascribe this
to a higher level of surveillance for negative stimuli, but it seems very similar to the Cacioppo, et
al. idea of a negativity bias. It would be interesting to see the positivity offset emerge in a
paradigm like Chen & Bargh’s experiment 2. Neutral novel stimuli should result in faster pull
reactions than push reactions because at the lower end of the activation scale, positivity results
in stronger responses than negativity.
2. It’s interesting that the Katz article identifies at least 4 functions of attitudes, but the other
readings for this week (which seem reflect the current state of the field) have a very simplified
conceptualization of attitude function: avoid or approach motivation. Perhaps Katz was trying to
deal with far more complex phenomena than the other authors this week in as much as he was
writing to inform attitude change efforts, especially related to political opinion issues. I’m
curious to know what kind of thinking people find more useful. Lots of evidence and theory
Attitudes ProSem Week 3/5
seems to point to the idea that attitudes are at some basic level either positive or negative.
However, we think we know that attitudes can be elaborated on in complex ways. Which is
more helpful to think about for your research purposes?
3. It’s interesting to think about the fate of Katz’s functions in research today. Some examples of
utilitarian functions might include classical conditioning, or derivatives and relatives to CS (like
the evaluative conditioning stuff we read last week). Value-expression functions have certainly
been explored quite a bit in the frame of self-affirmation theory. What other recent research
can people think of that relate to Katz’s framework? Additionally, I’m not sure all of Katz’s
functions are real. For instance, ego-defensiveness seems to be based on Freudian ideas of
psychodynamic conflict resolution that have little support. Also, his race-based example of this
function is extremely reminiscent of the self-esteem hypothesis, in which outgroup derogation
results in higher self-esteem, or is motivated by the need to get it. This hypothesis has received
some support, but not complete validation (see Rubin & Hewstone 1998). In addition to
understanding where Katz’s theories have influenced current research, which parts are valid,
and which have been discounted?
The congruent/incongruent lever action in the Chen and Bargh article seem to fit into the ego
defense function by kats (protecting against external danger), as well as the adjustment
function, (maximizing rewards and minimizing punishments). Is timing the lever pull action a
measurement of implicit attitudes, explicit attitudes or expressed attitudes? Is it possible that
these different classifications of attitudes serve different functions?
I am especially curious about the fact all participants with times under 300ms were dropped out
of the Chen and Bargh experiments studies as anticipating the stimulus. This makes me think
that there is no possible way to measure implicit, first pass approach avoid attitudes absent of
second or third iterations of explicit contextual cognitive analysis. 300ms is time than the first
automatic pass and second or even third iterations of analysis. If we are measuring behavior of
any sort and cutting off observations based on time what are we really measuring? Maybe this
doesn’t matter. But given the complexity of attitudes within and across individuals, the stable
nature or implicit evaluations and the subsequently less stable nature of subsequent explicit
evaluations this seems problematic.
Side note. With people in our reaction time experiments having been raised on video
games (some times hundreds upon thousands of hours), reaction times might be
affected. Shooter video games are causing people to practice their reaction times to
visual and audio stimulus, particularly to highly valenced stimuli.
Seemingly bipolar psychological endpoints may not have bipolar underlying processes. I
absolutely agree but my mind comes back to the issue of context and control. Different
individuals can have different functions for the same attitudes. How do we parse that in our