The catastrophe theory of attitudes (Latané and Nowak, 1994) predicts that unimportant attitudes act as continuous dimensions, with normal distributions and gradual changes in evaluation, while important attitudes act as categories, with bipolar or unipolar extreme distributions and catastrophic (abrupt) changes in evaluation. A major derivation from this theory is that attitude importance and extremity should be correlated, with more important attitudes being more extreme. This prediction was confirmed for 14 specific political issues at both the group and the individual level, as well as for political involvement and general liberalism. However, general political involvement was not related to the extremity of evaluation for specific issues; similarly, partisanship predicted extremity of general liberalism but not extremity on specific issues. Results suggest that attitude importance and extremity must be measured at corresponding levels of specificity in order for a relationship between them to hold. These results have implications for attitude change in both individuals and societies.
Political Behavior – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 7, 2004
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