Attributions of emotion and reduced attitude openness prevent people from engaging others with opposing views

Jacob D. Teeny*, Richard E. Petty

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


People exhibit a general unwillingness to engage others on social issues for which they disagree (e.g., political elections, police funding, vaccine mandates, etc.), a phenomenon that contributes to the political polarization vexing societies today. Previous research has largely attributed this unwillingness to the perception that such counterattitudinal targets are extreme, certain, and/or difficult to change on these topics. However, the present research offers an additional theoretical explanation. First, we introduce a less studied perception of targets, their affective-cognitive attitude basis (i.e., the degree to which an attitude is seemingly based on emotions versus reasons) that is critical in determining engagement willingness. Specifically, perceivers are less willing to engage with targets who are perceived to hold an affective (vs. cognitive) attitude basis on a topic, because these targets are inferred to have low attitudinal openness on it (i.e., expected to be unlikely to genuinely “hear out” the perceiver). Second, we use a series of multimethod studies with varied U.S. samples to show why this person perception process is central to understanding counterattitudinal engagement. Compared to proattitudinal targets, perceivers on both sides of an issue ascribe more affective (vs. cognitive) attitude bases to rival (counterattitudinal) targets, which cues inferences of reduced attitudinal openness, thereby diminishing people's willingness to engage with these individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104373
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Affective
  • Attitudes
  • Cognitive
  • Counterattitudinal
  • Engagement
  • Openness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Attributions of emotion and reduced attitude openness prevent people from engaging others with opposing views'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this