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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2008 Sep;95(3):489-509. doi: 10.1037/a0012559.

The mere perception of elaboration creates attitude certainty: exploring the thoughtfulness heuristic.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Howard University, Washington, DC 20059, USA.


Attitude theory has long proposed a mechanism through which antecedents of message elaboration produce attitude strength consequences. However, little direct evidence exists for the intervening process. The proposed thoughtfulness heuristic holds that perceiving that more thought has taken place leads to greater attitude certainty. Two roles were established for this heuristic: first as a mediator of the impact of antecedents of elaboration on attitude certainty and second as a way to influence attitude certainty independent of actual elaboration. In Studies 1 and 2, antecedents of elaboration (need for cognition, distraction) impacted attitude certainty because they impacted the actual amount of processing, which in turn affected perceptions of the amount of processing. In Studies 3 and 4, a manipulation of perceived thought impacted certainty independent of actual thought (i.e., after thinking had already occurred). Furthermore, the thoughtfulness heuristic was shown to influence behavioral intentions, establishing perceived amount of processing as both a mediator and an independent cause of attitude strength consequences.

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