It is irrelevant, but it matters: Using confluence theory to predict the influence of beliefs on evaluations, attitudes, and intentions


Stephen Rice, Department of Psychology, MSC 3452, New Mexico State University, PO Box 30001, Las Cruces, NM 88003, USA.



The present research is based on the notion of confluence—that associated mental elements have a tendency to become more consistent with each other over time, even if some of them are logically irrelevant to the issue at hand. This idea was applied to a voting paradigm where participants were exposed to varying numbers of valenced beliefs about a candidate. Two experiments tested the idea that although valenced beliefs influence attributions and voting intentions, there is an additional process whereby evaluations of irrelevant beliefs also are influenced. Not surprisingly, as more positive or negative beliefs were presented, voting intentions became more positive or more negative, respectively. More dramatically, however, positive or negative evaluations of irrelevant beliefs became more extreme in the direction of the presented items as more of them were presented. An additional experiment tested alternative mechanisms. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.