The Implicit Misattribution Model of Evaluative Conditioning


  • David S. March
  • Micheal A. Olson
  • Russell H. Fazio


Evaluative conditioning (EC) refers to a change in one’s attitude toward an object based on its contiguous pairing with other positive or negative objects. EC can, in principle, occur through multiple mechanisms, some more and some less thoughtful. We argue that one relatively low-thought route through which ECproduces evaluative change is implicit misattribution. Our Implicit Misattribution Model (IMM) is premised on research indicating: a) attributional thinking is pervasive and relatively automatic, b) affective experiences are pervasive and relatively automatic, and c) errors in automatic attributional processing can lead to misattribution of affect from one object to another, resulting in the latter object taking on the affect produced by the former. Research employing the “surveillance paradigm” we developed provides support for the model, particularly its key moderating variable, source confusability. We further discuss assumptions of the model in terms of encoding, storage, and retrieval/application of the conditioned attitude, as well as the role of contingency awareness and other central issues in the EC literature.