Within the field of social psychology, the experimental approach to attitude change exploded out of the starting blocks after World War I1 with great enthusiasm, considerable funding, and a number of highly productive and energetic researchers, under the leadership of Carl Hovland, Leon Festinger, Irving Janis, and their colleagues. It rapidly generated masses of empirical evidence and a wide variety of competing theories. Later reviews by William McGuire and others revealed more complexity in the empirical results than had earlier been anticipated. Available theories tended to speak to somewhat different domains of empirical studies, and so gave less help than might be expected in organizing this complexity. In the 1970s and 1980s, many once-active areas of attitude change research fell into the doldrums.
New paradigms and interests, such as attribution theory and social cognition, took over experimental social psychology. These gave some promise of systematizing empirical results with more basic, overarching theoretical predictions, but tended more often to focus on other phenomena altogether, such as person perception, person memory, or self-perception. Like the ancient city of Troy, socialpsychology
seemed on the way to layering one successive generation of research on top of another, the inhabitants of each oblivious to its predecessors.
In this last decade several researchers have kept the flame of attitude change research alive, most notably Richard Petty and John Cacioppo.
They have in this volume produced a well-organized, systematic presentation of their work, and it is certainly one of the most important books on experimental studies of attitudes in the past two decades.