Associate 2011-12

Dolores Albarracin


Action and Inaction Goals and Change in Socially Relevant Attitudes

Methods of achieving psychological change can be seen as a continuum that reaches from action goals with a high cognitive or motor output (e.g., increased exercise) to inaction goals with a low cognitive or motor output (e.g., meditation and relaxation). Professor Albarracin has proposed that priming participants with action or inaction goals will affect how quickly they retrieve a preexisting attitude on a given subject, and thereby affect how they respond to persuasive messages about that subject.

For example, participants primed with action words such as go and energy might retrieve preexisting attitudes more quickly and then pay less attention to the subsequent message suggesting a different attitude. Conversely, inaction words such as rest and still might reduce the speed of attitude retrieval, leading to greater openness to the subsequent message and a greater degree of attitude change.

During her Center appointment Professor Albarracin will conduct seven experiments to investigate various effects of action and inaction goals on the resulting changes in attitudes. Her results should help to identify the motivational states that maximize attitude change in response to persuasive communications and behavioral interventions. In practice, this knowledge could inform efforts to achieve social goals such as behavior changes that reduce the risk of HIV infection.