Staats, Staats, and K’s (1958) study on “Attitudes Established by Classic Conditioning” explored the extent to which attitudes can be developed through classical conditioning, which is a form of learning in which a neutral stimulus is paired with a response that naturally elicits an emotional or physiological reaction. In this study, the researchers conditioned a group of participants to associate a neutral stimulus (a novel object) with a positive or negative affective response by repeatedly pairing the object with either a pleasant or unpleasant event.
The results of the study demonstrated that classical conditioning can indeed be used to establish attitudes toward neutral stimuli. Participants who were conditioned to associate the object with a pleasant event (e.g., receiving a reward) showed a more positive attitude toward the object than participants who were conditioned to associate the object with an unpleasant event (e.g., receiving an electric shock).
Furthermore, the researchers found that the strength of the conditioned attitude was influenced by a number of factors. For example, attitudes were stronger when the conditioning trials were more frequent, when the conditioning stimuli were more intense, and when the conditioned response was more consistent. Attitudes were also found to be more resistant to extinction when the conditioning trials were more intense or when there was a delay between the conditioning and extinction trials.
Overall, this study provides evidence that classical conditioning can be used to establish attitudes, and that the strength and persistence of these attitudes depend on a variety of factors, including the intensity and frequency of the conditioning trials, the nature of the conditioned response, and the timing of extinction trials. These findings have important implications for understanding how attitudes are formed and maintained, and may be useful in the development of interventions designed to change attitudes and behavior.