An important question concerns how the human mind creates representations of value. This ubiquitous act of assigning positive or negative valence is crucial for survival, whether it involves guiding behaviour toward or away from an immediate significant object or anticipation of future rewards and punishments in goal pursuit. Attitudes (i.e., relatively stable ideas about whether something is good or bad) exert powerful influences on people’s evaluations (i.e., their current appraisals) and these, in turn, influence people’s choices (e.g., their choices of friends, careers, consumer products, and presidents). These processes do not work in an all-or-none fashion, but rather, unique combinations of processes can generate qualitatively different evaluative outcomes. According to the model, stimulus representations (e.g., people, objects, or abstract concepts) initiate an iterative sequence of evaluative processes — the evaluative cycle — through which the stimuli are interpreted and re-interpreted in light of an increasingly rich set of contextually meaningful representation.
Luttrell, A., Stillman, P. E., Hasinski, A., & Cunningham, W. A. (2016). Neural dissociations in attitude strength: Distinct regions of cingulate cortex track ambivalence and certainty. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 145(4), 419-433.