Friday, April 28, 2006

Attitude Research over Time

We all know the importance of first impressions. But I am increasingly interested in how we form attitudes about brands over time. And here I use a pretty broad definition of brand.

There are many products that you will begin using 10 years from now. They are available now, and you cannot possibly avoid hearing about them. Some of that information is being stored in your neural network. We know, for example, of mere exposure affect. Even minimal exposure to a stimulus can produce mild positive affect -- even if you are not aware of it.

How much of a role does this play? Is there a flowchart in your brain such that an early negative encounter -- even a very trivial one -- makes it highly improbable that you will ever adopt that brand? Conversely, I wonder what happens to that little kernel of positive affect. Does it lay dormant in your brain like some kind of antibody ready to spring into action the moment you start using that product category?

Furthermore, how do these things relate to identity. As expressed here earlier, I have data that show that we strongly identify with the brands we like. Does our self concept continually update itself with respect to the things we like? Does this enable that dormant positive affect by subconsciously reinforcing it?

In academics, almost everyone will tell you that we need to do more longitudinal work. But the schedule is not conducive, and today never seems like the appropriate day. Thus, for many of these questions, I am left to wonder.


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