Attitude certainty and attitudinal advocacy : how certainty shapes people's motivation to share their views and persuade others

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From their positions on controversial policies or current-events to their enthusiasm for new products or services, individuals frequently advocate on behalf of their own beliefs and opinions. On social networking sites such as Facebook, for example, friends, acquaintances, and total strangers bombard each other with countless posts commenting about and espousing views on political candidates, gun control, vaccinations, or even new restaurants or movies. Advocacy behavior can manifest in numerous ways, including expressing beliefs on social media, sharing opinions with others, or attempting to persuade friends, colleagues, or complete strangers to adopt one's view. What drives a person to advocate on behalf of his or her beliefs and opinions? Although there is an extensive literature exploring the antecedents and consequences of attitude change and persuasion, surprisingly little is known about the determinants of attitudinal advocacy. Broadly speaking, advocacy can be viewed as an expression of support for or opposition to something—for example, a person, product, policy, or cause. Although it can assume many forms—writing messages or reviews online, recommending a product, signing a petition, arguing for one's position in a public setting, and so on—at its core attitudinal advocacy involves expressing an opinion to share it with others or to persuade them to adopt it themselves. Advocacy is of central relevance to understanding information transmission, persuasion, and social influence, but its attitudinal determinants have been relatively unexplored. One factor that has been examined, and has been shown to play a crucial role in advocacy behavior, is attitude certainty. In Chapter 1, I provide more nuanced insight into the relationship between attitude certainty and advocacy by (a) exploring the unique roles of attitude clarity and attitude correctness, and (b) mapping clarity and correctness onto different forms of advocacy (sharing intentions and persuasion intentions). Across four studies, I find that attitude correctness but not attitude clarity plays an important role in promoting persuasion intentions, whereas both attitude correctness and attitude clarity help shape sharing intentions. Thus, this research unpacks the certainty--advocacy relation and, in so doing, helps identify experimental manipulations that uniquely drive persuasion and sharing intentions. In Chapter 2, I seek to reconcile disparate findings in the literature regarding the relationship between attitude certainty and advocacy. On the one hand there is considerable past research suggesting that people are more likely to advocate when they feel highly certain. However, there also is evidence for the opposite effect—that people advocate more aggressively when they experience a loss of attitude certainty. I explore the possibility that the relationship between attitude certainty and attitudinal advocacy is curvilinear. Consistent with this hypothesis, I find evidence for a J-shaped curve: Advocacy intentions (and behavior) peak under high certainty, bottom out under moderate certainty, and show an uptick under low (relative to moderate) certainty. I document this relationship and investigate its potential mechanisms in three studies by examining advocacy intentions and the actual advocacy messages participants write when they feel high, moderate, or low certainty. Together, this research suggests that the role of attitude certainty in shaping advocacy motivation and behavior is more nuanced than previously believed. Chapter 1 reveals that the relationship between attitude certainty and advocacy behavior varies depending on the type of certainty and type of advocacy in question. Chapter 2 reveals that the relationship between attitude certainty and advocacy is curvilinear. These insights expand existing understandings of the certainty-advocacy relationship.


Type of resource text
Form electronic; electronic resource; remote
Extent 1 online resource.
Publication date 2017
Issuance monographic
Language English


Associated with Cheatham, Lauren B
Associated with Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
Primary advisor Tormala, Zakary L
Thesis advisor Tormala, Zakary L
Thesis advisor Levav, Jonathan, 1975-
Thesis advisor Wheeler, S. Christian
Advisor Levav, Jonathan, 1975-
Advisor Wheeler, S. Christian


Genre Theses

Bibliographic information

Statement of responsibility Lauren B. Cheatham.
Note Submitted to the Graduate School of Business.
Thesis Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2017.
Location electronic resource

Access conditions

© 2017 by Lauren Bertha Cheatham
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license (CC BY).

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