Affect and cognition in attitude formation toward familiar and unfamiliar attitude objects

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Abstract

At large attitudes are built on earlier experience with the attitude object. If earlier experiences are not available, as is the case for unfamiliar attitude objects such as new technologies, no stored evaluations exist. Yet, people are still somehow able to construct attitudes on the spot. Depending on the familiarity of the attitude object, attitudes may find their basis more in affect or cognition. The current paper investigates differences in reliance on affect or cognition in attitude formation toward familiar and unfamiliar realistic attitude objects. In addition, individual differences in reliance on affect (high faith in intuition) or cognition (high need for cognition) are taken into account. In an experimental survey among Dutch consumers (N = 1870), we show that, for unfamiliar realistic attitude objects, people rely more on affect than cognition. For familiar attitude objects where both affective and cognitive evaluations are available, high need for cognition leads to more reliance on cognition, and high faith in intuition leads to more reliance on affect, reflecting the influence of individually preferred thinking style. For people with high need for cognition, cognition has a higher influence on overall attitude for both familiar and unfamiliar realistic attitude objects. On the other hand, affect is important for people with high faith in intuition for both familiar and unfamiliar attitude objects and for people with low faith in intuition for unfamiliar attitude objects; this shows that preferred thinking style is less influential for unfamiliar objects. By comparing attitude formation for familiar and unfamiliar realistic attitude objects, this research contributes to understanding situations in which affect or cognition is the better predictor of overall attitudes.

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Van Giesen, R. I., Fischer, A. R. H., Van Dijk, H., & Van Trijp, H. C. M. (2015). Affect and cognition in attitude formation toward familiar and unfamiliar attitude objects. PLoS ONE, 10(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0141790

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