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Research Interests

I research what social psychologists refer to as "attitudes." We define attitudes not as a general outlook on life (e.g., "Keep a positive attitude") or as a personality trait (e.g., "He's got a bad attitude") but rather as an evaluation about things in our social world. For example, if I like democracy, I have a positive attitude toward democracy. If I dislike pickled herring, I have a negative attitude toward pickled herring. Psychologists have spent a great deal of effort in attempts to better understand attitudes because attitudes have been shown to be, in many cases, predictive of our behavior. Within this realm, there are two areas in which I am most interested.

One deals with attitude framing. Let's say that there's an election coming up and you really prefer Candidate A over Candidate B. I can get you to frame that attitude in one of two ways. If I ask you, "What do you think about Candidate A being elected," you'd say that you support that. On the other hand, if I ask you, "What do you think about Candidate B being elected," you'd say that you oppose that. Note that it's the same exact attitude -- preference of A over B -- but framed in two different ways -- support for A or opposition of B. One might think that this simple change in framing wouldn't matter, but it does. My research has shown that getting people to think in terms of opposition -- in terms of whom they oppose instead of whom they support makes three things happen: People feel more certain about their opinions, people are more difficult to persuade, and people are more likely to indicate that they would behave in accordance with their opinions. (Bizer & Petty, 2005; Bizer, Larsen, & Petty, 2011; Bizer, Zezelj, & Luguri, 2012).

Another line of research deals with the strength of attitudes more generally. Some of the attitudes we hold are very weak. They're not durable and have very little impact on us. For example, my attitude toward Jack Dalrymple, the governor of North Dakota, is very weak. You could easily change my attitude toward him (not durable) and it really doesn't impact my behavior very much (not impactful). Conversely, my attitude toward Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, is stronger. It would be more difficult for you to change my attitude toward him (more durable) and it does impact my behavior (in particular, voting behavior; impactful). What makes some attitudes stronger than others? What are the consequences of strong versus weak attitudes? I have attempted to answer some of these questions in my line of research on attitude strength. (e.g., Bizer & Krosnick, 2001; Visser, Bizer, & Krosnick, 2006; Bizer, Tormala, Rucker, & Petty, 2006).

Finally, I have published other papers on the interplay between personality and political opinions (Bizer et al., 2004; Bizer, Kozak, & Holterman, 2009), consumer behavior (Bizer & Schindler, 2005; Wheeler, Petty, & Bizer, 2005), among others.

My full curriculum vitae is available here.