Attitudes as prepared reflexes

Publication date: May 2020Source: Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 88Author(s): David E. Melnikoff, Robert Lambert, John A. BarghAbstractWhen people plan to respond to a stimulus S with an action R, they hold an S-R association in working memory. Such S-R associations are called prepared reflexes. In the present investigation, we explored the possibility that prepared reflexes play a central role in evaluative processing. Specifically, we tested the hypothesis that attitudes toward a given stimulus S (i) become more positive when prepared reflexes associate S with a positively valenced action representation R+, and (ii) become more negative when prepared reflexes associate S with a negatively valenced action representation R-. We found support for this hypothesis across 6 studies while ruling out alternative mechanisms including cognitive dissonance, self-perception, approach-avoid training, and biased scanning. We conclude by discussing the implications of our findings for the predictive validity of implicit attitude measures.
Source: Journal of Experimental Social Psychology - Category: Psychiatry & Psychology Source Type: research

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