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Strengthening Implicitly-formed Attitudes: The Use of Evaluative Conditioning and Selective Exposure

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2020


Implicit attitudes are defined as unconsciously-formed evaluations towards an object or the self. Although the very nature of unconsciously formed attitudes may appear to be too weak to be significant to modern theories of attitudes, we challenge that these minute unconscious attitudes can inadvertently affect cognitive information processing which ultimately manifests into stronger attitudes. Here we demonstrate that implicitly formed attitudes can eventually lead to biased behaviors that can positively reinforce themselves which is consistent with the effects of strong attitudes suggested by contemporary research on attitudes. In order to mimic the formation of implicit attitudes, we developed an evaluative conditioning procedure that was designed to invoke attitudes without conscious memory of the conditioned stimulus. Students from a large southeastern university participated in the study, where they went through a process of evaluative conditioning. A group of randomly selected participants were then asked to complete a selective exposure task. Participants who were in the selective exposure task and had contingency memory of the pairing of the unconditioned stimulus and conditioned stimulus were shown to have strengthened attitudes.

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