Implicit attitude

Implicit attitudes are evaluations that occur without conscious awareness towards an attitude object or the self. These evaluations are generally either favorable or unfavorable. They come about from various influences in the individual experience.[1] The commonly used definition of implicit attitude within cognitive and social psychology comes from Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin Banaji's template for definitions of terms related to implicit cognition (see also implicit stereotype and implicit self-esteem for usage of this template): "Implicit attitudes are introspectively unidentified (or inaccurately identified) traces of past experience that mediate favorable or unfavorable feeling, thought, or action toward social objects".[2] These thoughts, feelings or actions have an influence on behavior that the individual may not be aware of.[3]

An attitude is differentiated from the concept of a stereotype in that it functions as a broad favorable or unfavorable characteristic towards a social object, whereas a stereotype is a set of favorable and/or unfavorable characteristics which are applied to an individual based on social group membership.

Causes and manifestations

A number of different theories have been proposed relating to the formation, development, and influence of implicit attitudes.

Halo effect

Based on many empirical findings, Greenwald and Banaji et al. (1995) generated the fundamental idea of implicit attitude definitively for the first time, disambiguating attitude into explicit and implicit types. Halo effects are an example of the empirical research used by Greenwald and Banaji in their chapter on implicit social cognition. Understanding halo effects set the foundation for understanding other theories regarding implicit attitudes. For example, it is possible to explain implicit partisanship or implicit egotism in terms of a halo effect, however these concepts will be discussed more in subsequent sections.

Pioneered by Edward Thorndike in 1920, the halo effect is the judgement of attribute "A" being influenced by a known but irrelevant attribute "B". For example, subsequent replications commonly use physical attractiveness as attribute "B" and attribute "A" being a judgement of the subject. More specifically a study Landy and Sigall et al. (1974) found that essays written by female essayists were found to be of higher quality when a photo showed the essayist as being attractive (rather than unattractive) when rated by male judges.[2]

Greenwald and Banaji et al. (1995) have suggested that attribute "B" is in fact an implicit attitude when the judge or subject cannot identify attribute "B" as the source of the judgement for attribute "A". Moreover, when attribute "B" is associated with a positive or negative attitude and additionally is unknowingly and automatically transferred onto attribute "A", that attitude of attribute "B" is known to be an implicit attitude.[2]

Experiences and socialization

Earlier research findings on implicit attitudes show that socialization[4] and reflections of past experiences[2] may be responsible for the development or manifestation of longer lasting implicit attitudes. As an example, Rudman and Goodwin et al. (2004) found that individuals who were primarily raised by their mothers showed a more positive implicit attitude towards women rather than men. Furthermore, Olson and Fazio et al. (2001, 2002) suggest that these implicit attitudes are a result of repeated pairings of positive or negative stimuli with an object; more pairings of positive stimuli would result in a more positive implicit attitude and vice versa. This finding supports the fundamental principals of classical conditioning.[1]

Implicit attitudes are also developed by more recent experiences as well. For example, Rudmore, Ashmore, & Gary et al. (2001) found that implicit attitude of prejudice against African Americans could be shaped through diversity training intervention using variables at an emotional level rather than increased awareness of bias which helped explicit attitude more.[1]

Implicit attitudes related to the self

Self-related objects are anything that pertains to the self; including in-groups and self-esteem (attitude towards the self).

Early research by Nuttin et al. (1985) suggested that people generally have an implicit preference for letters in their own name, known as the Name letter effect. Further replications of this same effect with varying independent variables (e.g., attractiveness to people with the same letters contained in their names) suggest that people have an implicit preference towards themselves. This manifestation of implicit attitude has come to be known as Implicit egotism. Implicit egotism additionally manifests itself in in-groups.[1]

Implicit partisanship is the heightened attractiveness and identification to a self-related group and negative or neutral attitudes towards non-self-related groups. Greenwald, Pickrell, and Farnham et al. (2002) demonstrated this effect even when the groups were cooperative and when the members of the groups were non-human. Much of the research on implicit partisanship suggests that this is an uncontrollable process, or an implicit attitude towards self-related groups.[1]

Culture and social norms

Generally speaking, culture and social norms have an effect on implicit attitude in the same way experiences and socialization have an effect on implicit attitude. However, culture has a very noticeable effect on implicit attitude in the way implicit attitude differs from one's explicit attitude. Livingston et al. (2002) examined the effect of mainstream culture on one's implicit attitude towards their social group. Implicitly, one will follow the cultural attitudes towards their social group that they perceive from mainstream culture in their society whether that be positive or negative. With that said, a strong cultural disadvantage (e.g., negative attitude) can effectively eliminate in-group favoritism when tested at the implicit level. However it may be important to note that at the explicit attitude level, these individuals still showed positive attitudes towards their social group. Olson and Fazio et al. (2004) have suggested that at an implicit level one's personal attitude can be influenced by the social or cultural norms that one perceives. Furthermore, this may be due to a weak distinction between one's personal attitude and extrapersonal associations (e.g., one's cultural evaluations) towards an attitude object at the implicit level. From this we can conclude that implicit attitudes are indeed reflective of experiences but can also be shaped by the cultural context.[1]