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toward exercise. We now know that our reasons for exercising are to improve cardio-
vascular function, to enhance our sense of well-being, and, in short, to save our lives.
Now we change our schedule around to exercise every day, subscribe to Runnerʼs World
magazine, invest in better exercise shoes, and so on.
In sum, then, our behavior is more likely to be consistent with our attitudes when
the attitudes concern an area that is important to us and when the behavior helps us
achieve clear and strong social needs. Attitudes we hold with conviction are not vulner-
able to uncoupling because we have expressed those attitudes in a variety of situations
and have thought deeply about them.


Why We Donʼt Like Those Who Think Differently
Than We Do: Naïve Realism and Attitudes
There is a con¬rmed tendency to question the motives of those who disagree with us,
particularly when the topic is of high importance (Reeder & Tramifow, 2005, in Malle
& Hodges, 2006). One big reason for this observation has to do with the power of what
the great Swiss developmentalist Jean Piaget called naïve realism. For Piaget, naïve
realism was the last stage of the childʼs cognitive development before adulthood. It was
the last remnant of egocentrism, when our thought processes are concerned ¬rst and
naïve realism The beliefs
foremost with ourselves and our own views of the world.
that we see the world
Naïve realism involves three intertwined processes. First is the belief that we are
objectively, while others are
seeing the world objectively, and second, that other people who are rational will also
biased, and that if others do
see the world as we do. And ¬nally, if those others donʼt see the world as we do, then not see the world as we do,
either they do not have the right information or they are not rational and harbor ulterior they are not rational.
Social Psychology
180

and bad motives (Reeder, Pryor, & Wohl, & Griswell, 2005). In essence, we are moti-
vated to see ourselves as free of bias and objective, and we have what might fairly be
called a “bias blind spot” (Cohen, 2003).
Therefore, if we examine any hotly contested controversial issue in the American
political scene, we will see evidence of thinking that has elements of naïve realism.
From the perspectives of the opponents of the Iraq War, the Bush administration is
accused of cooking the intelligence books to get what they wanted (a reason to invade)
and of lying repeatedly and maliciously about the situation on the ground. From the
point of view of the partisans of the war, anyone with his or her eyes open could see
that Saddam was a terrible man, a threat to the United States, and that bringing democ-
racy to the Arab Middle East was a worthy goal. Anyone who disagrees with that has
motive and thought processes that are not objective. Recall that from the view of the
naïve realist, if your opposition had got the right information, they would see the
righteousness of your view. In the event of Iraq, anyone who has not been exposed to
information about the war is likely brain-dead and not worthy of a response. Thus, the
only explanation left to the naïve realist is to question the rationality and the motive
of oneʼs opponents.
Reeder et al. (2005) explored the attitudes of Americans and Canadians (who have
almost uniformly been against the Iraq War from the start) toward Iraq. Please note
this study was conducted in 2004. The experimenters were interested in studying the
tendency (the bias, really) for people to attribute negative motive to those who disagree
with them. In fact, they found that those against the Bush administration policies (pri-
marily, but not only, Canadians) considered their opponents as having sel¬sh and biased
motives. The same general ¬nding was true of issues such as abortion and gay mar-
riage. Individuals on each side consider their opponents to be biased and not rational.
However, as you might expect, the bias held only for those individuals highly involved
in the issues. One reason we know this is that the respondents in the Reeder et al. study
seem to have formed their opinions themselves ¬rst and then passed judgment on their
fellow citizens who agreed or disagreed with them (p. 1505).
Our tendency to ascribe bad motives to our staunch opponents on big issues does
not mean that we ignore or dismiss their views. It just means that we think they are
wrong for the wrong reasons (irrationality and multiple biases). Eagly and colleagues
have challenged the notion that we attend to and select information that we agree with
and reject and indeed ignore information that we ¬nd uncongenial to our most strongly
held beliefs (Eagly, Kuleas, Chen, & Chaiken, 2001). Eagly et al. examined a total of
70 experiments that tested the “congeniality hypothesis” (to wit, that we only examine
carefully congenial information and ignore the rest). They found that the assumption
was untrue. People do attend to information that disagrees with their strong view. But
they examine it in a speci¬c way. What they do is a kind of “skeptical and active scru-
tiny” as compared to information they agree with, which is approached with a view
to con¬rm the congeniality of that information. Our view of arguments that offend or
challenge us is to ¬gure out what the “devilʼ is saying and devise counterarguments to
that view. We know what they are saying, but we will not be convinced by them because
that is not the purpose of our examination. We want to know how to beat the heck out
of those who would hold such views. At least, some of us see it that way.
Chapter 5 Attitudes 181


IDA Tarbell Revisited
Today, Ida Tarbell is not a well-known historical ¬gure, but she held her attitudes with
conviction and expressed them courageously. Although she didnʼt like being called
a muckraker at ¬rst, she realized that there was a lot of “muck” in American life that
needed to be raked. President Roosevelt and the American public came to agree.
Tarbell followed her beliefs with a powerful sense of purpose. Her early experi-
ences, her familyʼs support, and her own strong education and temperament combined
to produce a woman whose attitudes and behavior were consistently in accord. No doubt
this is an unusual situation. Ida was a rational actor; the coupling of her attitudes and
her lifeʼs work was ¬erce and unshakeable.



Chapter Review
1. What is an attitude?
An attitude is a mental and neural state of readiness, organized through
experience, exerting a directive or dynamic in¬‚uence upon the individualʼs
response to all objects and situations with which it is related.
2. What is the relationship of attitudes to values?
A value is a conception of what is desirable; it is a guideline for a personʼs
actions, a standard for behavior. Our attitudes ¬‚ow from and express our values.
Freedom, equity, and similar concepts are values, and attitudes toward free
speech, voting rights, and so on ¬‚ow from those values.
3. What are implicit and explicit attitudes?
Explicit attitudes operate on a conscious level, so we are aware of them”aware
of the cognitive underpinnings of them”and are conscious of how they relate
to behavior. They operate via controlled processing and take some cognitive
effort to activate. For example, you may know how you feel toward a given
political candidate and match your behavior (e.g., voting for him or her) to that
attitude. It is these explicit attitudes that we often ¬nd having a directive effect
on behavior.
Implicit attitudes affect behaviors automatically, without conscious
thought, and below the level of awareness. For example, an individual may
have a quick negative reaction toward a member of a minority group, even
thought the individual professes positive and tolerant attitudes toward that
group. The “gut-level” reaction occurs without thought and is often distasteful
to the individual.
4. How are attitude surveys conducted?
The most commonly used techniques for measuring attitudes are attitude
surveys. In an attitude survey, the researcher mails a questionnaire to a potential
respondent, conducts a face-to-face interview, or asks a series of questions on
the telephone. Because respondents report on their own attitudes, an attitude
survey is a self-report measure. A respondent indicates his or her attitude by
answering a series of questions.
Social Psychology
182

5. What are the potential sources of bias in a survey?
Among the greatest biases in attitude surveys are badly worded questions as
well as the lack of a random sample of suf¬cient size.
6. What are behavioral measures of attitudes?
Behavioral measures are used to overcome some of the problems inherent in
attitude (paper-and-pencil) measures. The idea is that an individualʼs actions
are the truest re¬‚ection of how he or she feels. For example, rather than asking
people how they feel about a new ethnic group moving into their neighborhood,
a researcher might use the “lost letter technique,” in which stamped
envelopes are apparently accidentally lost near mailboxes. The letters have
a foreign-sounding name on them, and one compares the proportion of those
mailed with other letters having more conventional names on the envelopes.
7. What is the Implicit Attitude Test (IAT)?
The IAT is an online test of implicit attitudes. The IAT measures the
relationship of associative strength between positive or negative attitudes and
various racial and ethnic groups.
8. What does the IAT tell us about our prejudices?
The results of the millions of tests on IAT Web sites show that a large
proportion of the test-takers display unconscious biases against other social,
racial, and ethnic groups.
9. How are attitudes formed?
The basic mechanisms of attitude formation are the same as those for
the acquisition of other behavior: classical and operant conditioning and
observational learning. In addition, the mass media have had a profound effect
on our attitudes and behavior. Since its entry into American homes 50 years
ago, television has altered our conception of everything from our notions of
“the good life” to sexual behavior. Research has also shown that changes in
music genres and the advent of video games and cellular telephones have had
signi¬cant in¬‚uences on what people consider to be acceptable behavior.
10. Can attitudes be inherited?
Yes, indirectly. Genetic differences in sensory structures, such as hearing and
taste, could affect our preferences for certain kinds of music and foods. Also,
aggressiveness, which has a genetic component, can affect a whole range
of attitudes and behaviors, from watching violent TV shows and movies,
to hostility toward women or members of other groups, to attitudes toward
capital punishment
11. What is agenda setting?
Many researchers suggest that the topics foremost in the mass media tend
to set the public agenda. This agenda setting occurs because the topics most
prominent in the news shape the publicʼs cognitions, increasing the focus on
certain issues as opposed to others.
Chapter 5 Attitudes 183

12. What impact do social networks have on attitude formation and change?
When you are part of congruent social networks (people with similar views),
your attitude becomes more resistant to change because you have strong social
support for that attitude. However, if you are embedded in a heterogeneous
social network with lots of people who have different views, individuals are
less resistant to change. It appears that when you are with people who think as
you do, not surprisingly, you become more certain of your attitudes, and any
doubts you may have had are removed.
13. What is the relationship between attitudes and behavior?
Researchers have found only a modest relationship between attitudes and
behavior. One reason is that more than one attitude may be involved in deciding
whether to do something or not to do it. Second, while you might like to
express a particular attitude in some circumstance, other factors may stop you
from doing so. For example, you may think that your best friend made a grave
mistake in marrying Jane, but you would have to be an oaf to express that
opinion in your wedding toast.
14. What is the notion of the nonrational actor?
Some attitude theorists have criticized the theory of planned behavior because
it assumes that individuals are always rational when attitudes are concerned.
Other theorists maintain that humans are nonrational actors and that sometimes
attitudes are totally irrelevant to our behavior. In many cases, according to
this view, people behave habitually, unthinkingly, and even mindlessly in
everyday life.
15. How has the controversy over the rational and nonrational actor been resolved?
The short answer is that sometimes we are rational actors, and our attitudes
are coupled with our behavior. Other times we are nonrational actors, and our
behaviors and attitudes are uncoupled. Uncoupling is likely to occur when an
attitude is not particularly important to us or if we donʼt have a clear sense of
our goals and needs.
16. What is naïve realism, and how does it in¬‚uence our political attitudes?
Naïve realism involves three intertwined processes. First is the belief that we
are seeing the world objectively, and second, that other people who are rational
will also see the world as we do. And ¬nally, if those others donʼt see the world
as we do, then either they do not have the right information or they are not
rational and harbor ulterior and bad motives.
Persuasion and
Attitude Change
With reasonable men I will reason; with humane men
I will plea; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor
waste arguments where they will certainly be lost.
”William Lloyd Garrison




Chicago, 1924: Jacob Franks, a wealthy businessman, answered the Key Questions
telephone and listened as a young but cultivated voice told him that his As you read this chapter, ¬nd
14-year-old son, Bobby, had been kidnapped and could be ransomed for the answers to the following
$10,000. The next morning, while Mr. Franks arranged for the ransom, questions:
he was noti¬ed that the nude and bloody body of his son had been found
1. What is persuasion?
in a culvert on Chicago™s South Side. Franks was sure that the boy in the
2. What is the Yale
morgue was not Bobby, because the kidnappers had assured him that this
communication model?
was simply a business proposition. He sent his brother to the morgue to
3. What factors about the
clear up the misidenti¬cation. Unfortunately, the body was that of his son;
communicator affect
his head had been split open by a blow from a blunt instrument.
persuasion?
The case was solved quickly. The police found a pair of eyeglasses
4. What message factors
near the body and traced them to Nathan Leopold, Jr., the 20-year-old son
mediate persuasion?
of a prominent local entrepreneur. Leopold denied any connection to the
murder, claiming he had spent the day with his friend, Richard Loeb, the 5. What is the elaboration
likelihood model of
son of a vice president of Sears, Roebuck, and Company. However, both
persuasion?
men soon confessed. Loeb, it seemed, had always dreamed of committing
the “perfect crime.” He had enlisted Leopold, and together they had gone 6. What is the impact of
vividness on persuasion?
to their old school playground and followed several different boys around.
They ¬nally settled on Bobby Franks and pushed him into their car. Loeb 7. What is the need for
hit Bobby over the head with a chisel, and then he and Leopold drove in cognition?
a leisurely fashion to the culvert, stopping along the way for a bite to eat. 8. What is the heuristic and
The trial was a media circus. The Leopold and Loeb families hired the most systematic information model
of persuasion?
famous trial lawyer of that time, Clarence Darrow, to plead for their sons.
The men had already confessed, so the issue was not whether they were 9. What is cognitive dissonance
guilty. It was whether they would spend the rest of their lives in prison”or theory, and what are its main
ideas?
hang. The prosecution argued for hanging the murderers. Darrow pleaded
for mercy.
185
Social Psychology
186


Darrow had a tough ¬ght: He needed all his persuasive skills to convince
10. What is self-perception Judge Caverly of his point of view (a jury was not required). He spoke for 12
theory? hours, trying to provide the judge with a rationale for sentencing the men to life
imprisonment. He argued that life sentences would serve a better, more humane
11. What is self-af¬rmation
theory? purpose than bowing to public opinion and hanging those two “mentally diseased
boys.” Darrow also claimed disinterest in the fates of his clients, an interesting
12. What is psychological
ploy for a lawyer who spoke from morning to night on their behalf. In fact, he
reactance?
suggested that life in prison would be a worse fate than death. At the end of

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