Perceiving attitude change: How qualitative shifts augment change perception

Christopher J. Bechler*, Zakary L. Tormala, Derek Rucker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Attitude change and persuasion are among the most studied topics in social psychology. Surprisingly, though, as a field we have virtually zero insight into perceived attitude change—that is, how people assess the magnitude of a shift in someone's attitude or opinion. The current research provides an initial investigation of this issue. Across 6 primary experiments and a series of supplemental studies (total N = 2880), we find consistent support for a qualitative change hypothesis, whereby qualitative attitude change (change of valence; e.g., from negative to positive) is perceived as greater than otherwise equivalent non-qualitative attitude change (change within valence; e.g., from negative to less negative or from positive to more positive). This effect is mediated by ease of processing: Qualitative attitude change is easier for people to detect and understand than non-qualitative attitude change, and this ease amplifies the degree of perceived change. We examine downstream consequences of this effect and discuss theoretical, methodological, and practical implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-175
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - May 1 2019


  • Attitude change
  • Attitudes
  • Perceived change
  • Persuasion
  • Qualitative change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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