The functional theory of attitudes was initially developed by psychologist Daniel Katz to explain how attitudes facilitate social behaviour. According to this pragmatic approach, attitudes exist because they serve some function for the person; that is, they are determined by a person's motives. Consumers who expect that they will need to deal with similar information at a future time will be more likely to start forming attitudes in anticipation of this event.
Two people can each have the same attitude toward some object for very different reasons. As a result, it can be helpful for a marketer to know why an attitude is held before attempting to change it. The following are attitude functions identified by Katz:
• Utilitarian function: The utilitarian function is related to the basic principles of reward and punishment. We develop some of our attitudes toward products simply on the basis of whether these products provide pleasure or pain. If a person likes the taste of a cheeseburger, that person will develop a positive attitude toward cheeseburgers. Ads that stress straightforward product benefits (e.g., you should drink Diet Coke "just for the taste of it") appeal to the utilitarian function.
• Value-expressive function: Attitudes that perform a value-expressive function express the consumer's central values or self-concept. A person forms a product attitude not because of its objective benefits, but because of what the product says about him or her as a person ("What sort of man rides a Harley?"). Value-expressive attitudes are highly relevant to lifestyle analyses, where consumers cultivate a cluster of activities, interests, and opinions to express a particular social identity.
• Ego-defensive function: Attitudes that are formed to protect the person, either from external threats or internal feelings, perform an ego-defensive function. Products that promise to help a man project a rugged, manly image may be appealing to his insecurities about his masculinity.
• Knowledge function: Some attitudes are formed as the result of a need for order, structure, or meaning. This need is often present when a person is in an ambiguous situation or is confronted with a new product ("Bayer wants you to know about pain relievers").