The Role of Affect in Attitude Change

Authored by: Richard E. Petty , David DeSteno , Derek D. Rucker

Handbook of Affect and Social Cognition

Print publication date:  November  2000
Online publication date:  November  2012

Print ISBN: 9780805832174
eBook ISBN: 9781410606181
Adobe ISBN: 9781135670061


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Affect and persuasion have long been intertwined. Although not by any means a prerequisite for attitude change, the experience of emotion has been believed since the dawn of rhetoric to be one of many variables capable of influencing a message's persuasiveness. Cicero (55 BCE/1970) noted that successful orators of the classical world believed that one important method of persuasion involved the evocation of emotion among listeners. In more modern times, some of the earliest empirical studies of persuasion examined the role of emotional versus rational messages in producing attitude change (e.g., see Chen, 1933; Hartman, 1936). In reviewing much of the more contemporary scientific work regarding the ancient but enduring belief that emotions have an impact on persuasion, McGuire (1985) concurred in the assessment that affect can play an important role in attitude change. The specific question, of course, for philosophers and empiricists alike has centered around the exact role for affect in persuasion. Until very recently, the form of this question and the associated resulting theories reflected what could be termed a main effect perspective. That is, the majority of investigations sought to determine what the one effect of mood or emotion was on persuasion. For example, does positive mood produce more attitude change than negative mood?

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