Psychological Mechanisms of Desired Attitudes
Attitudes are people’s evaluations of specific objects as being good or bad. Sometimes people wish that they held attitudes other than the ones they actually do (desired attitudes). Previous work has demonstrated that desired attitudes are felt to be aversive when they differ from actual attitudes, and that people are motivated to collect information to eliminate these discrepancies. However, minimal work examines the antecedents of desired attitudes, and no previous work has shown desired attitudes predicting actual attitude change. Nor does existing scholarship empirically demonstrate the psychological mechanisms that lead people to create and pursue desired attitudes. In the present five experiments, I explored how identity-related concerns can prompt people to form desired attitudes distinct from their actual attitudes, as part of a larger framework in which attitude functions are posited as the root of desired attitudes (the functional hypothesis). For example, when people learned that a painting they formed an opinion of was made by an immoral (moral) painter, they were influenced towards negative (positive) desired attitudes. Several unique desired attitude constructs (structural evidence of desired attitudes; subjective experiences of desired/actual attitude discrepancies) arose from these identity-related pressures. Also, consistent with the functional hypothesis, when people were exposed to identity-related pressures but were prevented from forming appropriate desired attitudes, they experienced disruptions in moral clarity, implying that people sometimes form desired attitudes to maintain their moral identity. Furthermore, desired attitudes played an important role in guiding subsequent attitude change – even in contexts where participants had no access to new information that they could use to facilitate attitude change (the signpost hypothesis).
URI for this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/1974/28751
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