Attitudes are positive or negative evaluations of objects.
Early definition was from the theater: attitude is a physical posture or body position.
Attitudes guide actions and responses to the world; they help define social reality.
The tripartite or tricomponent model holds that attitudes are made up of three aspects: affect, cognition, and behavior. Not all three components can be shown to be present for all attitudes.
A unidimensional definition is that attitude refers to a positive or negative evaluation of an object. This attitude may still be formed by beliefs, feelings, and/or behaviors toward the attitude object.
People differ in their need to evaluate.
Most people are able to evaluate objects easily, even objects about which they have little or no knowledge. However, that does not mean all people do evaluate, spontaneously and habitually, to the same degree.
Values indirectly influence behavior through attitudes.
Values are enduring beliefs about important life goals that transcend specific situations.
Attitudes that are formed through the influence of long-standing values are called symbolic attitudes. These are contrasted with instrumental attitudes, which are attitudes based on benefits and costs associated with the attitude object.
The importance attached to a value will determine the extent to which it influences attitudes.
II. How Are Attitudes Formed and Maintained?
Mere exposure can lead to positive attitudes.
Repeated exposure to a neutral object will often lead to the development of positive attitudes toward that object.
Requires no prior knowledge of the object.
Attitudes can be formed through classical conditioning.
Pairing a neutral stimulus with an object that evokes an attitude response can cause the neutral object to come to evoke the same attitude response.
May play a role in establishing some of the emotional components of attitudes and prejudice.
Reinforcement and punishment of behavior can shape attitudes.
Behavior that is rewarded is likely to be repeated in the future, and such a behavior is accompanied by the formation of an attitude consistent with the behavior.
Attitudes may be shaped by observing how other people are rewarded or punished when interacting with the attitude object.
Self-perception theory contends that behavior causes attitudes.
Downplays the importance of introspection; holds that most of the time people do not know what their attitudes are, and infer them from their own behavior just as outside observers would.
Most likely to operate when there is little experience with the attitude object, or when attitudes are vaguely defined.
Attitudes are also influenced by changes in facial expression, head movement, and body posture.
The vascular theory of emotion claims that changes in facial expression can cause changes in blood flow in the brain and affect mood, leading to the suggestion that under some circumstances facial expression can dictate attitudes.
Body posture can also affect attitudes, most likely through classical conditioning.
The functional approach to attitudes asserts that attitudes are formed to satisfy current needs.
Utilitarian function (also known as the adjustment or instrumental function): we hold positive attitudes toward objects associated with rewards and negative attitudes toward objects associated with punishment.
Knowledge function: we hold positive attitudes toward objects that help us make sense of the world and provide stability to our experience.
Ego-defensive function: we hold positive attitudes toward objects that protect us from unpleasant truths about ourselves.
Value-expressive function: we hold positive attitudes toward objects that help us express central values and core aspects of our self-concepts.
Contemporary conceptions of the functional approach.
Example: prejudice against homosexuals may be conceived of as meeting different types of needs for different people. In order to address the prejudice, one must first understand what function it serves for the individual.
Value-expressive and utilitarian orientations may represent general approaches that people take toward organizing their life experiences.
III. When Do Attitudes Predict Behavior?
A number of factors determine the attitude-behavior relationship.
Level of attitude-behavior specificity. General measures of behavior will often fail to predict very specific behaviors. Specific attitudes are much better predictors.
Time factors. The longer the interval between the measurement of the attitude and the behavior, the poorer the ability to predict behavior.
Private vs. public self-awareness. People who are made privately self-aware are more likely than those who are not to behave in a manner consistent with their own internal attitudes. Those who are publicly self-aware, in contrast, are more likely to behave consistently with societal standards.
Attitude strength. The stronger the attitude, the more likely that it will influence behavior. Components of attitude strength are
amount of knowledge about the object,
personal involvement with the object, and
whether attitude was formed by direct experience.
Attitude accessibility. Attitudes that are thought about frequently and easily brought to mind are more likely to influence behavior.
Theory of planned behavior asserts that attitudes influence behavior by shaping intentions.
The immediate cause of behavior is behavioral intention, which is in turn influenced by attitude, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control.
Determinants of attitudes:
One's beliefs about the consequences of performing a particular behavior.
One's evaluation of those possible consequences.
Determinants of subjective norms:
A subjective norm is a person's judgment about whether other people will approve of a particular behavior under consideration.
Determined by perceived expectations of significant others and one's motivation to conform to those expectations.
Determinants of perceived control:
Ability and resources.
Criticisms of the theory of planned behavior:
Does a good job explaining behavior that is planned and rational, but does not account for spontaneous or unintentional behavior.
Implicit attitudes may underlie explicit attitudes.
Implicit attitudes are those activated from memory, often without the person's awareness that they even possess the attitude.
Explicit attitudes are consciously held attitudes.
Implicit attitudes can create explicit attitudes
Sometimes implicit and explicit attitudes come into conflict, a concept called dual attitudes.
IV. Is Cognitive Consistency an Important Aspect of Attitudes?
Cognitive dissonance theory asserts that rationalization shapes attitudes.
An influential approach to the study of attitudes that holds that people are motivated to keep their cognitions organized in a consistent and tension-free manner. According to this theory, people often engage in irrational or maladaptive behavior in order to maintain consistency.
Insufficient justification and dissonance. These studies contradicted the predictions of instrumental conditioning theories, because the people who were rewarded the least changed their attitudes the most. The dissonance theory explanation is that people changed their attitude to make their behavior less inconsistent when there was no external justification to "blame" for their counterattitudinal behavior.
Freedom of choice and dissonance. Freely choosing to engage in counterattitudinal behavior produces more dissonance than behavior that is not freely chosen, and results in greater attitude change.
Justification of effort and dissonance. The greater hardship or effort associated with a choice, the more dissonance will be produced if that choice turns out to be a poor one. One way to reduce dissonance is to reevaluate the choice in a more favorable way, so the effort expended appears more reasonable.
Postdecision dissonance and altered perceptions. Once committed to a particular course of action, we tend to emphasize the positive aspects of that course and the negative aspects of alternatives in order to minimize dissonance.
Cognitive consistency is not a universal motive.
Consistency may be a stronger motive in individualist than collectivist cultures, owing to cultural differences in the perceived importance of attitude-behavior consistency.
Within a given culture, some people are better able to tolerate inconsistencies than others.
A number of theories have challenged cognitive dissonance theory.
Self-perception explanations. Dissonance may not be necessary to explain attitude change if the inconsistency is mild; in that case, people may infer their attitudes from their behavior.
Self-affirmation explanations. Inconsistency per se may not be the motivation for attitude change; rather, a threat to the integrity of the self may be the motivator.
V. Application: How Do Reference Groups Shape Your Social and Political Attitudes?
Newcomb's Bennington College study demonstrated the importance of reference groups in changing political attitudes.
These changes were still seen 25 years later in a follow-up study.