Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
First Committee Member
Catherine A Cole
Second Committee Member
Gary J Gaeth
Third Committee Member
William M Hedgcock
Fourth Committee Member
The proposed research explores a contextual perspective in multiple object situations. Specifically, I focus on the context effect created by an object associated with strong attitude on the subsequent evaluative judgment of a target object. Through five studies, I find that the context effect of a strong attitude object is greater for objects with neutral-strength attitudes than for the objects with very strong or very weak attitudes, which result in a curved relationship between the magnitude of the context effect and the strength associated with attitudes towards targets. In addition, I find that the direction of the context effect of a strong attitude object is determined by the valence of the attitudes towards the target objects: targets with positive attitudes become less positive, and those with negative attitudes become less negative. That is, the results of the context effects represent as a form of decreased extremity of the attitudes towards targets. More importantly, it is found that these differing magnitudes and directions of the context effect of an object with strong attitude finally result in evaluative space distortion. I trace the underlying process mechanism of theses effects and find that: 1) the divergent magnitudes of the context effects are the result of the differing level of comparison difficulty between a contextual object and target objects; and 2) the divergent directions of the context effects are the product of perceived uncertainty about the attitude towards target objects.
People hold attitudes toward nearly everything around them, and they hold these attitudes either strongly or weakly in their mind. Strongly held attitudes are beneficial in our lives. Actually, it is difficult to imagine life without strong attitudes. Without them, we would re-evaluate things that we encounter every day from scratch; strong attitudes help us easily reach daily judgments and decisions so that we can live more efficiently.
In the current research, however, I propose that a strong attitude is not always functionally beneficial. Through five experiments, I find that strongly held attitudes toward specific brands or products can distort one’s evaluations on other products and brands. For example, if an individual has a strong attitude toward Samsung, his or her evaluations toward other brands, such as Sony and LG, would vary, depending on whether or not the individual happened to encounter Samsung products before evaluating Sony and LG. Thus, an individual’s evaluations of the products/brands toward which his or her attitudes are held relatively weakly can vary by situation.
An interesting finding in the current research is that this variation is greater in neutral–strength attitudes rather than in very weak attitudes. For example, the presence of Samsung is likely to distort one’s evaluations more toward Sony or LG rather than toward other unfamiliar, or never–heard–of-before brands.
publicabstract, Attitude, Attitude Strength, Context Effect, Evaluative Judgment, Evaluative Space
x, 80 pages
Includes bibliographical references (pages 77-80).
Copyright 2015 Jaehwan Kwon
Kwon, JaeHwan. "Distorted evaluative space: the theory of relativity in evaluative judgment." PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) thesis, University of Iowa, 2015.