Document Type

Theoretical Article


In the present article we re-examine one of the most deeply entrenched assumptions in modern attitude research, namely, that implicit social cognition is a product of associations between mental representations. More precisely, we argue that the analysis of implicit social cognition in psychology is curtailed by the widespread adoption of the associative assumption. We open with a brief overview of the attitude literature, with a particular emphasis on the fundamental structure, measurement, and conceptual differences that have emerged between implicit and explicit attitudes in recent times. Thereafter we address the influence of the associative assumption in shaping our methodologies, research questions, and theories regarding implicit and explicit attitudes. In the third and final section, we offer two alternative and perhaps complementary nonassociative models for understanding implicit cognition. While the first model situates its explanation at the mental (propositional) level of analysis and the second at the functional, each potentially allows for novel theoretical and empirical predictions and insight into attitudes above and beyond the boundaries of traditional associationism.