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Reading Summary- Consumer Attitudes Revisited: A Review of

Attitude Theory in Marketing Research

Market researchers give paramount importance to the attitude of consumers. They
estimate people’s responses towards marketing objects such as brands, products and
advertisements. Marketers need to comprehend the concept of attitude and the process of
attitude formation in order to influence consumers to behave in a particular manner. We come
across two main issues while understanding attitude. Firstly, is attitude related to object
association which is stored and recalled from memory or to spontaneous evaluation of the object
when the need arises? Secondly, is attitude cognitive (beliefs and thoughts related to an object)
or affective (based on feelings and emotions)? These research questions and studies have led to
two distinctive views of attitudes – functional and constructive.

Functional theory states that attitudes are memory-based object-related associations

that can be recalled. Constructive theory states that attitudes are more of on-the-spot decisions
than memory-based processing. These views mean that consumer attitude may not be entirely
dependent on the product attributes and may be influenced by factors such as consumers’ goals
and transient affective states. Attitude is closely related to evaluative categorization as it
activates distinct brain processes.

According to functional theory of the concept of attitude, consumers have certain

responses towards objects which they evoke from memory. People frame attitudes to summarize
large amount of information they have about an object. They store their first response to external
stimuli in memory, form an attitude and recover the same when encouraged by marketers,
researchers and advertisers. Attitude may be formed through two modes of processing –
deliberative model and associative model. Deliberative or rule-based models believe that
attitudes are formed from cognitive thoughts stored in memory. Spontaneous or associative
models assume that attitudes are due to affective factors. Modern functional theory supports
spontaneous modelling for attitude retrieval; specifically, attitude as an association stored in
memory between a given object and one’s evaluation of this object. Attitudes formed from direct
experiences are more strongly associated with behavior than those from indirect experiences. In

Group No. 4 | Consumer Behavior

order to get a positive response from consumers, marketers need to present objects in
functionally congruent ways. For example, socio-identity appeals are less favorable than
utilitarian appeals for products that serve utilitarian functions like coffee and air-conditioners.

Constructivists view attitude formation to be computed on the spot according to

contextual goals. Consumers do not retrieve their attitudes from memory. Goals give rise to
temporary motivations which may determine the prominence of internal and external
information in the process of attitude construction. Constructive theory doesn’t back automatic
knowledge retrieval in memory. It supports situated learning and cognition. It highlights tendency
to avoid putting in cognitive effort due to limited working memory capacity.

Contemporary functionalists agree with constructivists regarding the importance of

analyzing consumer attitudinal response at the exact position. Both consider information
processing perspectives but in different ways. Functional theory is about memory-based
processing and constructive theory is about heuristic and perceptual processing.

Multi-attribute cognitive models are often contrasted to affective responses theory.

Attitude research has given rise to dual-process models such as heuristic-systematic processing
and central-peripheral routes to persuasion. Attitudes are evaluative judgments of objects that
may be recollected, constructed or both. Research should focus on explicitly specifying the
conditions under which attitude measurement occurs and variables involved in order to deduce
the right process of attitude formation.

Group No. 4 | Consumer Behavior