Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1986, Vol. 31, No. 3, 505-514
Copyright 1986 hy the American Psychological Association, Inc. 0022-35l4/86/$00.75
Attitude Accessibility as a Moderator of the Attitude-Perception and Attitude-Behavior Relations: An Investigation of the 1984 Presidential Election
Russell H. Fazio and Carol J. Williams Indiana University
It was hypothesized that the extent to which individuals' attitudes guide their subsequent perceptions of and behavior toward the attitude object is a function of the accessibility of those attitudes from memory. A field investigation concerning the 1984 presidential election was conducted as a test of these hypotheses. ...view middle of the document...
Yet another approach to the attitude-behavior issue has been initiated recently. This approach centers on the process(es) by which attitudes guide behavior, what Zanna and Fazio (1982) referred to as the How? question. Within this context, it has been suggested that the accessibility of an individual's attitude from memory assumes crucial importance. In fact, Fazio and his colleagues have proposed a model of the attitude-to-behavior process that focuses specifically on the chronic accessibility of the attitude from memory (Fazio, 1986; Fazio, Powell, & Hen; 1983). In brief, the model views behavior in any given situation as stemming from individuals' perceptions of the attitude object and the situation in which the attitude object is en-
The present research was supported by Grant MH 38832 from the National Institute of Mental Health. The authors thank David Brown, the manager of the shopping mall where the attitude data were collected, for his cooperation; Sheri Rieth for her skillful assistance with all the phases of data collection; and Michael Bailey for designing and building the apparatus that was used to measure and record attitudes and response latencies. In addition, the authors are grateful to Paget Gross, David Sanbonmatsu, and Steven Sherman for their comments on an earlier draft of the article. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Russell H. Fazio, Department of Psychology, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana 47405.
countered. Consistent with the object appraisal function that attitudes presumably serve (Katz, 1960; Smith, Bruner, & White, 1956) and with the constructive nature of perception, individuals' attitudes may guide such perceptions. That is, selective processing of the qualities of the attitude object in the immediate situation can occur. However, selective processing in a manner that is congruent with the valence of the attitude is conceivable only given that the attitude has been activated from memory upon observation of the attitude object. Hence, the accessibility of the attitude is postulated to be a critical determinant of whether the attitude-to-behavior process is initiated. In this way, attitude accessibility is thought to affect both the attitude-perception and the attitude-behavior relations. The present research involves both the when and the how approach in that it centers on attitude accessibility as a moderator of the attitude-behavior relation. Attitude accessibility was measured for each of the respondents in an attitude survey. The consistency between attitudes and later behavior toward the attitude object (as well as the consistency between attitudes and perceptions of the attitude object in a later situation) was examined as a function of attitude accessibility scores. In this way the present investigation serves as both a test of the proposed process model (the how question) and as an attempt to identify a variable that moderates the attitude-behavior relation...