Social value and attitude concepts in semantic memory: Relational structure, concept strength, and the fan effect

Cynthia J. Thomsen, Howard Lavine, John Kounios

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

27 Scopus citations

Abstract

To assess cognitive-structural associations between attitudes and values, we measured the speed with which participants judged the truth of sentences asserting that particular attitude (e.g., affirmative action) and value (e.g., equality) concepts were related. Results were well-described by Anderson's (1983) ACT* model. First, sentences containing attitude-value pairs either high or low in semantic relatedness were responded to more quickly than those containing pairs moderate in relatedness. Second, we predicted and found stronger priming effects when either the prime or the target was strong (i.e., personally important) than when it was weak. Finally, our data revealed a classic "fan effect;" attitude and value primes produced more response facilitation when they had few, rather than many, cognitive associates. Moreover, values had more associates than did attitudes, and this difference accounted for the greater effectiveness of attitudes than values as primes. Our results document structural differences between and among attitudes and values and illuminate the consequences of these differences for information processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-225
Number of pages35
JournalSocial Cognition
Volume14
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 1996

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