A fundamental goal of consumer psychology research is to shed light on the underlying psychological factors that drive consumer behavior. With this objective in mind, consumer psychologists have long emphasized the importance of understanding attitudes. Attitudes refer to the general and relatively enduring evaluations people have of other people, objects, or ideas. Stated differently, attitudes represent the extent to which one likes or dislikes something—for example, a product, company, or brand. Because attitudes can be one of the core drivers of consumer behavior (e.g., choosing one product over another, purchasing now versus later, spending more versus less, and so on), they have been the subject of considerable scrutiny in consumer psychology. Not surprisingly, perhaps, consumer psychologists have been especially interested in understanding the means by which consumers’ attitudes can be shaped or changed, particularly in the context of persuasive messages.
In this chapter, we provide an overview of past, present, and future research on attitude change and persuasion. More specifically, we (1) review some of the classic research on persuasion to provide an overview of this area, (2) highlight what we view as some of the crucial recent developments in this field, and then (3) discuss several unanswered questions and opportunities for future research. Our goal is not to be exhaustive in our coverage of any of one of these topics, but rather to offer an illustrative review of the field and, hopefully, some encouragement to pursue what we see as some of the novel and important next steps. Before turning to our review, it is useful to consider some general background issues.