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Persuasion and Attitude Change

Part Three. Social Psychology

  1. Richard E. Petty PhD1,
  2. S. Christian Wheeler PhD2,
  3. Zakary L. Tormala MA1

Published Online: 15 APR 2003

DOI: 10.1002/0471264385.wei0515

Handbook of Psychology

Handbook of Psychology

How to Cite

Petty, R. E., Wheeler, S. C. and Tormala, Z. L. 2003. Persuasion and Attitude Change. Handbook of Psychology. Three:15:353–382.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Ohio State University, Department of Psychology, Columbus, Ohio

  2. 2

    Stanford University, Graduate School of Business, Stanford, California

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2003


This chapter reviews contemporary issues in attitudes and persuasion. We describe controversies regarding the underlying bases of attitudes and the debate over whether attitudes are stored memorial representations or constructed on the spot. We review the notion of implicit attitudes with particular attention paid to the various ways in which researchers conceptualize this construct. Next, we review current research on attitude change using the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) as an organizing framework. The ELM postulates that various motivational and ability factors affect the likelihood of thinking about a persuasive message in either a relatively objective or a biased way. When the likelihood of thinking is low, processing such as classical conditioning, affective priming, mere exposure, balance, self-perception, persuasion heuristics influence. When the likelihood of thinking is high, more cognitively effortful processes are responsible for attitude change. When thinking is high, the number, valence, and confidence in thoughts are important determinants of persuasion. Attitude change can occur in the absence of an explicit persuasive message as research on role playing, mere thought, and dissonance processes demonstrate. A number of theories describe the processes by which information is integrated and combined into an overall summary evaluation. The chapter concludes with a discussion of whether attitudes literally change, or whether old and new attitudes can coexist and jointly influence behavior.


  • attitudes;
  • cognitive response;
  • influence;
  • persuasion