The effect of strength of cognitive linkages on attitude change in a communication situation



Implicitly or explicitly, linkage is a basic concept in all theories of cognitive consistency — consistency or inconsistency can exist only with reference to entities which are cognitively linked through association or dissociation. The nature of cognitive linkages has not been systematically studied, but it seems evident that they may vary in many ways. One is the strength or intensity of perceived relationship between cognitive entities. The basic hypothesis in the present two experiments was that the effect of a communication in terms of attitude change would depend on the strength of linkage between concepts mentioned in the message. Results show no such effect when strength was manipulated through combination of linkages, whereas the hypothesis was confirmed when linkage strength was varied semantically. Also, previous studies on direct and mediated generalization of attitude change towards consistency were successfully replicated. Finally, it was found that amount of attitude change towards consistency was significantly higher for linkages involving affect (L-relations) than for linkages simply expressing unit formation (U-relations).