Dual Attitudes Definition
Dual attitudes refer to the idea that an individual can have two different attitudes about something—both an implicit attitude and an explicit attitude. The implicit attitude refers to an intuitive response or gut reaction, whereas the explicit attitude refers to a more deliberate, thought-out response. Thus, a past love may evoke both a positive intuitive response (a positive implicit attitude) and a negative deliberated response (a negative explicit attitude). When an individual has different implicit and explicit attitudes toward something, he or she is said to have dual attitudes.
Dual Attitudes Context
Debate exists about whether intuitive and deliberated responses truly represent different attitudes. One alternative theory is that intuitive and deliberated responses are part of a single attitude. For example, a positive intuitive response to a past love could combine with deliberated thoughts to form a single negative attitude. Another alternative theory is that intuitive responses represent true attitudes, whereas deliberated responses are inauthentic and tainted by conscious concerns with appearance. For example, an intuitive positive response to a past love would be the true attitude, whereas a more negative deliberated response would be inauthentic, perhaps tainted by concerns with appearing to be over it. In contrast to these theories, the view endorsed by dual attitudes is that intuitive responses are one type of attitude (implicit attitudes), deliberative responses are another type of attitude (explicit attitudes), and individuals may have both implicit and explicit attitudes toward a single object or idea.
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Dual Attitudes Evidence
The strongest evidence in favor of dual attitudes is that implicit attitudes and explicit attitudes are related to different types of behavior. Implicit attitudes appear to be most strongly related to nonverbal behaviors and behaviors that are not consciously controlled. Thus, an individual with a positive implicit attitude toward a past love would be expected to lean toward, and maintain eye contact with, that past love during conversation. In contrast, explicit attitudes appear to be most strongly related to verbal behaviors and behaviors that can be consciously controlled. Thus, an individual with a negative explicit attitude toward a past love would be expected to complain about and not return the phone calls of that past love. The fact that some behaviors can be predicted on the basis of implicit, but not explicit, attitudes is consistent with the view that implicit attitudes are indeed distinct from (not part of) explicit attitudes.
Other evidence consistent with the dual attitudes perspective is that there is often little relationship between measures of implicit and explicit attitudes. If implicit attitudes were actually a component of (or a pure form of) explicit attitudes, then some relationship between the two would be expected. Although a dual attitudes model does not prohibit a relationship between implicit and explicit attitudes, such a model does not require a relationship between the two.
Dual Attitudes Distinctions
The clearest distinction between implicit and explicit attitudes is that the former are effortlessly and unintentionally activated in the presence of the attitude object. For example, for an individual with a positive implicit attitude toward candy, passing the candy store on the drive home should elicit a positive response, even when the individual is busy driving and is trying to concentrate on the road. In contrast, explicit attitudes are only activated with effort and intention. Thus, implicit attitudes can be ascertained even if a target person is busy or does not wish to express an attitude; explicit attitudes can only be ascertained if the target has resources and motivation to express an attitude.
Equally as important and related to these distinctions is that implicit attitudes, in contrast to explicit attitudes, are extremely difficult to bring into conscious awareness. Thus, people are often unaware of their implicit attitudes but are typically quite aware of their explicit attitudes.
A final distinction is that implicit attitudes reflect long-term, habitual responses, whereas explicit attitudes reflect more recently learned responses. A spouse whom one loved for many years may become disliked after one learns of the spouse’s infidelity. However, the new explicit attitude of dislike does not necessarily replace the old and habitual positive attitude. Instead, the latter continues to exist as an implicit attitude. Ultimately, explicit attitudes are easier to change than are implicit attitudes.
Dual Attitudes Applications
Dual attitudes have been applied to the study of prejudice with results that mirror those described earlier in this entry. First, several studies have shown that there is little correspondence between implicit and explicit attitudes toward people of a different ethnicity. Second, implicit and explicit attitudes are related to different types of behaviors. For example, White people with prejudicial implicit attitudes are more likely than other White people to blink and look away from Black people during a social interaction. White people with prejudicial explicit attitudes are more likely than other White people to verbally denigrate a Black person and to say that Black people are guilty of crimes. Thus, different types of prejudiced behavior are related to different types of prejudiced attitudes.
Dual attitudes have also been applied to the study of self-esteem with results that mirror those described earlier. First, several studies have shown that there is little correspondence between implicit and explicit attitudes about the self. Second, implicit and explicit self-attitudes are related to different types of behaviors. For example, people with low implicit self-esteem are more likely than their high self-esteem counterparts to appear anxious in social situations. In contrast, people with low explicit self-esteem are more likely than their high self-esteem counterparts to report anxiety felt during a social situation.
Dual Attitudes Implications
Contrary to popular opinion, gut reactions, slips of the tongue, and nonverbal behaviors may reveal only an implicit attitude, not a person’s true nature. A person’s explicit attitude may be revealed through more direct means. Indeed, many of the behaviors that make a difference in life, such as decisions about whom to call back, who to hire, or who to convict are more closely related to explicit attitudes.
- Wilson, T. D., Lindsey, S., & Schooler, T. Y. (2000). A model of dual attitudes. Psychological Review, 107, 101-126.