What is attitude accessibility?
Fazio et. al. describe attitude accessibility as the ease with which an attitude can be retrieved from memory. The more accessible an attitude is, the more likely it is to influence behavior.
In their research paper, Russell H. Fazio, Martha C. Powell, and Carol J. Williams explored the connection of attitudes influencing behavior. Attitudes are important because they shape our behavior, but not all attitudes affect behavior to the same extent. The concept of being able to come to retrieving an attitude explains why some attitudes are more likely to influence behavior than others.
What factors influence attitude accessibility?
The strength of an attitude influences its accessibility. Strong attitudes that are based on personal experience or knowledge are more likely to be accessible than weak attitudes based on secondhand information. The context in which an attitude is expressed also influences its accessibility. Attitudes that are expressed in a context similar to the behavior are more likely to be accessible.
External cues can also influence where our attitudes end up. Exposure to persuasive messages that are consistent with an attitude can increase its accessibility. Our ability to switch on an attitude or even access it can vary across individuals and situations.
How does our attitude accessibility affect behavior?
Even in the presence of conflicting attitudes, the more ease you have in turning to an attitude, the more it will be linked to how your behavior is affected. When an attitude is harder to reach, it is less likely to influence behavior, even in the absence of conflicting attitudes.
Why the retrieval so important?
Attitudes that are more reachable are more likely to be reliable predictors of behavior when compared to attitudes that are less easily remembered. By manipulating attitude accessibility and focusing on ways to increase it, peoples behavior can be better understood – and most valuably, predicted. This is why so many large brands turn to emotional advertising where they try to create an emotional link to their brand – it makes it easier to remember! One step up from this is evaluative conditioning. This is when a bland brand links itself to something that has favorable pre-existing feelings. Think of milk or toilet paper brands and their use of something like a puppy as a mascot!