Thanh Lu & Christopher Leone
Dr. Christopher Leone | College of Arts and Sciences | Department of Psychology
Given thought, favorable attitudes become more favorable and unfavorable attitudes become more unfavorable (Tesser, Martin, & Mendolia, 1995). Thought-induced polarization is moderated by “schema tuning”; polarization is more likely with well-developed (e.g., individuals) than less developed (e.g., groups) schemas (Leone & Ensley, 1985). We examined whether belief consistency mediates the interactive effects of mere thought and schemas on attitude polarization. Using a 15-point scale (-7 = extremely unfavorable, +7 = extremely favorable), 123 participants indicated their initial attitudes about 30 different sets of personality descriptions. For each of four descriptions (two for initially favorable attitudes, two for initially negative attitudes), participants were given (a) either 30 or 90 seconds (opportunity for thought) to think of a description as (b) either an individual terrorist or groups of terrorists (schema tuning). They listed their beliefs about these people and then indicated their post-thought attitudes about each description. Using Hayes’ (2013) PROCESS program, we found that belief consistency was a mediator of thought-induced attitude polarization but only for initially negative attitudes and only for the group schema. This negative impact of thought on polarization may reflect a fear of invalidity (Clarkson, Valente, Leone, & Tormala, 2013). Nonetheless, this differential mediation (favorable vs. unfavorable initial attitudes) reflects a schema (terrorists) which is consistent with negative attitudes but inconsistent with positive attitudes. In future investigations, researches should (a) replicate this effect with groups for which people have favorable attitudes and (b) examine personality variables (e.g., intolerance of ambiguity) as moderators of thought-induced attitude polarization.