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J Exp Soc Psychol. 2008 Mar;44(2):386-396.

Distinguishing automatic and controlled components of attitudes from direct and indirect measurement methods.

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University of Virginia.


Distinct automatic and controlled processes are presumed to influence social evaluation. Most empirical approaches examine automatic processes using indirect methods, and controlled processes using direct methods. We distinguished processes from measurement methods to test whether a process distinction is more useful than a measurement distinction for taxonomies of attitudes. Results from two studies suggest that automatic components of attitudes can be measured directly. Direct measures of automatic attitudes were reports of gut reactions (Study 1) and behavioral performance in a speeded self-report task (Study 2). Confirmatory factor analyses comparing two-factor models revealed better fits when self-reports of gut reactions and speeded self-reports shared a factor with automatic measures versus sharing a factor with controlled self-report measures. Thus, distinguishing attitudes by the processes they are presumed to measure (automatic vs. controlled) is more meaningful than distinguishing based on the directness of measurement.

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