Evaluation of the cognitive component of political issues by use of classical conditioning.
ABSTRACT The direct use of verbal and physiological response measures to assess the cognitive component of a sociopolitical attitude is made difficult by the multiple meanings of sociopolitical stimuli. In the present study a modified differential classical conditioning procedure was used to produce an unambiguous physiological (skin conductance) response to stimuli related to a discrete social concept (black relatedness and not black relatedness). It was demonstrated that conditioned stimuli clearly related to this specific concept produced a conditioned response. The results also showed that a series of more ambiguous test stimuli related to the 1972-1974 election campaigns produced a gradient of skin conductance responses that was related to the degree of black relatedness or not black relatedness of each stimulus as measured by other means. The implications of the results of this study to further research and other indicators of the cognitive component of attitude are discussed.