chapter  4
24 Pages

The neural bases of attitudes, evaluation, and behavior change: Emily B. Falk and Matthew D. Lieberman


Attitudes encompass long-standing evaluations of people, places, and ideas, and may influence a range of behaviors, including those that directly impact political behavior, intergroup relations, and health behaviors, among other consequences. Attitudes are central in answering questions such as: Where should we invest community resources? Whom should we vote for in the next election? Where will we spend our paychecks? As such, the study of attitudes has captivated thinkers for centuries, and scientists for decades (Allport, 1935; Aristotle, 1924/1954; Hovland, 1949; Hovland, Janis, & Kelley, 1953). Gordon Allport (1935) called attitudes “the most distinctive and indispensable concept in contemporary American social psychology” (p. 798), and suggested that understanding attitudes would allow us to understand not only the preferences and behaviors of individuals, but would also provide broader insight into the actions of groups and cultures. With this in mind, Allport (1935) defined an attitude as “a mental and neural state of readiness, organized through experience, exerting a directive or dynamic influence upon an individual’s response to all objects and situations with which it is related” (p. 810).