An experimental evaluation of attitude change for attitudes serving combinations of the utilitarian and value-expressive attitude functions



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A before-after, with control experiment was conducted to determine the effect of attitude function being served on attitude change. Katz's typology was used to define combinations of the utilitarian (U) and value-expressive (VE) functions. Depending upon three functional combinations— U, VE, or UVE—respondents were assigned to one of three message treatments: reinforcing message; utilitarian based message; or value-expressive based message. This randomized complete block design was accomplished in two administrations separated by about two weeks. Two hypotheses were the foundation of the research: a) The function being served by an individual's attitude acts as a mediating variable during the process of attitude change. b) During the process of attitude change there is an interaction between functions which affects the amount of attitude change. Both hypotheses were supported by the results of the experiment. Covariance analysis was used to test the first hypothesis. More attitude change was observed for those whose attitude served only the value-expressive function. Maximum attitude change occurred when the message matched the functional combination being served. The second hypothesis was tested by using multiple regression analysis and a cross-validation procedure. A model was developed which related attitude change to the functional combination being served. This model showed the importance of an interaction between the U and VE functions. This interaction resulted in different amounts of attitude change depending upon the levels of both functions. The predictions of this model were shown to have external validity based upon the results of cross-validation. The results of this investigation showed the viability of the functional approach, and recommendations were made to study brand loyalty and innovativeness from a functional viewpoint.