Attitudes represent object evaluations, comprising complex underlying cognitive and affective knowledge structures. When people are asked to judge an object, they can use their primary response (i.e., the immediate object-evaluation linkage) or underlying affective and cognitive knowledge structures. In many situations, a primary response satisfices, but if not, more elaboration is required. Both processes are fundamentally different but may lead to the same attitude. For monitoring underlying processes during attitude expression, we developed an innovative eye-tracking procedure using eye-gaze on response scale options. This procedure was applied in three studies to identify the extent to which elaboration differs for attitude objects with weak or strong, univalent or mixed object evaluations (i.e., univalent, neutral and ambivalent). In Study 1, the overall judgment preceded processing of more specific affective and cognitive linkage evaluations. In Studies 2 and 3, the order was reversed, and affective and cognitive bases were assessed prior to overall attitude outcomes. For attitude objects with strong univalent or strong mixed object evaluations, we found similar outcomes on underlying processes. For weak object evaluations, cognition was found to be more predictive and easily accessible if an overall judgment was required first; affect for these objects was more predictive if people had to elaborate on affect and cognition first. We concluded that both affective and cognitive attitudes may require substantial elaboration, albeit in different situations.
- Elaborateness of processing