Cultivating+the+Opinionated+Postprint.doc

Attitudes temporary constructions or enduring

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Attitudes: temporary constructions or enduring dispositions? In attitude theory, the question whether and how evaluations are stored and retrieved remains debated. The conceptualization of second-order judgments in cultivation research clearly adheres to traditional formulations of attitudes as enduring dispositions (e.g., Fazio, 2007; Petty & Cacioppo, 1986). Wilson and Hodges (1992) coined this perspective the file-drawer model of attitudes: “When people are asked how they feel about something, such as legalized abortion, Uncle Harry, or anchovies on a pizza, presumably they consult a mental file containing their evaluation. They look for the file marked abortion, Uncle Harry, or anchovies, and report the evaluation it contains” (p. 38). Some scholars have objected to this view and define evaluative judgments as episodic constructions (Schwarz, 2007; Schwarz & Bohner, 2001; Wilson & Hodges, 1992). Schwarz (2007), for example, argues that respondents use whatever information is most accessible to construct an answer each time an evaluation is required. This construal model better accounts for
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NEED TO EVALUATE MODERATES CULTIVATION EFFECTS 8 the well documented instability of attitude reports because it gives a prominent role to temporarily accessible information in memory and non-evaluative factors during response (e.g., question context: Schwarz, 1999). In turn, however, constructionist views do not adequately address the issue of attitude consistency (Fazio, 2007). Several authors have therefore underlined the importance of considering both retrieval and ad-hoc construction when examining attitudinal judgments (Kruglanski & Stroebe, 2005). Even adherents of a strong constructivist view acknowledge attitudes are not always computed from scratch (Schwarz & Bohner, 2001). Likewise, dispositional models also allow for memory-based judgments when object-evaluations are not easily accessible from memory (Fazio, 2007). For this reason, the belief sampling model describes an attitude as a general database of “considerations”, consisting of “beliefs, feelings, impressions, general values, and prior judgments about an issue” (Tourangeau et al., 2000, p. 179). As in a file-drawer perspective it argues that respondents may simply retrieve an accessible evaluation when prompted for their opinions, but their judgments can also vary if they focus on different considerations on different occasions (cf. construal models). So far, cultivation research has implicitly considered memory-based processes to be irrelevant for second-order effects (e.g., Morgan, Shanahan, & Signorielli, 2014). This may be surprising given Shrum’s (2004) remark that assuming “all second-order judgments are made on- line is clearly false” (p. 339), but he argues that the judgments measured in cultivation research occur often enough for the assumption to hold: as crime and violence are so commonplace, almost every viewer should have formed and maintained strong issue-relevant opinions over time. Answering attitude questions therefore only entails retrieval, and no construction (Shrum et al., 2004).
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