Thinking and caring about cognitive inconsistency: when and for whom does attitudinal ambivalence feel uncomfortable?
The relation between conflicting evaluations of attitude objects (potential ambivalence) and associated unpleasant feelings (felt ambivalence) was investigated. Participants indicated their potential and felt ambivalence about capital punishment (Studies 1 and 2) and abortion (Studies 1-3). The simultaneous accessibility (J. N. Bassili, 1996) of participants' potential ambivalence (i.e., how quickly and equally quickly conflicting evaluations came to mind) was measured using response latency (Studies 1-3) and manipulated by repeated expression (Study 3). The relation between potential ambivalence and felt ambivalence was strongest when potential ambivalence was high in simultaneous accessibility (Studies 1-3). This pattern was most pronounced for participants who were high in preference for consistency (Study 3; R. B. Cialdini, M. R. Trost, & T. J. Newsom, 1995). Similarities of ambivalence and cognitive dissonance constructs are discussed.