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The Nature of Attitudes

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									Social Psychology 320

 Lecture 2 – week 3

          Gabriela Ilie
           Fall 2006

    Department of Psychology
     University of Toronto
Being a little flustered towards …
       driving-in to work?
• Definitions
  – What are attitudes?

• Attitudes origin, formation, issues
  – Where do they come from?
  – How do attitudes developed?
  – Consistency?
      • Factors to consider: implicit vs. explicit influences

• Function and Roles
   – What’s the point?
•   Attitude is a hypothetical construct.

•   Attitudes are not directly observable.

•   Attitudes are inferred from observable responses (we
    make a judgment that something has happened).

•   The relevant observations here are evaluative responses
    that are elicited by certain stimuli, or occur in close
    conjunction with the attitude object.

•   If there is an established tendency (consistency?) to
    respond in a certain way toward an attitude object, the
    person has formed an attitude toward this object.
Attitude Object

                   +/- (good/bad)

“Ice cream is good”                 Evaluative
  “I like ice cream”                Responses
  “I eat ice cream”
        Evaluative Responding

• Attitudes develop on the basis of
  evaluative responding.

• We cannot unequivocally conclude that an
  individual holds an attitude until he/she
  responds “evaluatively” to an Attitude
  Object (AO).
       Evaluative Responding

Good       No                  Yes

No      Indifference           Negative

Yes     Positive             Ambivalence
Definitions of Attitudes
      The Tripartite Model of Attitudes
• Cognitive (reflect perceptions and thoughts about the attitude object)
• Affective (reflect feelings and evaluations toward the attitude object)
• Conative (reflect behavioral inclinations, intentions, commitments and
  actions with respect to the attitude object)

• These components are related, but they are not always consistent.

• These categories are often not homogeneous.

• Must all 3 components be present for attitudes to be considered a true
  evaluative tendency (i.e. part of the definition of “pure” attitudes)?

• Conclusion: It is better to consider each component separately and study
  the processes that link the components with each other.
       Gordon Allport (1935)

Attitude is a mental or neural state of
readiness, organized through experience,
exerting a directive influence upon the
individual’s response to all objects and
situations with which it is related.
       Petty & Cacioppo (1981)

Attitude is a general and enduring positive or
negative feeling about some person, object,
or issue.
      Eagley and Chaiken (1992)

Attitude is a psychological tendency that is
expressed by evaluating a particular entity
with some degree of favor or disfavor […]
summary evaluations of attitude objects.
     Judd, Ryan, & Parke, (1991)

Attitudes can be viewed as evaluations of
various objects that are stored in memory.
              Petty (1995)

Attitudes refer to very general evaluations
that people hold of themselves, other
people, objects, and issues.
               Perloff (1993)

Attitude as "a learned, enduring, and
affective evaluation of an object (a person,
entity, or idea) that exerts a directive impact
on social behavior.“
The three Components of Attitude

1. Cognitive – beliefs about what is or is
   not true with respect to the AO.
2. Affective – feelings / emotions toward
   the AO.
3. Behavioral – tendencies to do certain
   things with respect to the AO.
            Tri-component model

Component       Characteristics         Examples

  Affect    Emotional reactions       "I like/hate ..."

            Internalized mental
                                      “I think the
Cognition   representations, beliefs,
                                      world should..."

             Tendency to respond in
 Behavior    a particular way toward "I always do...”
             the attitude object
              Perloff (2003)

Attitude is a “learned, global evaluation of
an object (person, place, or issue) that
influences thought and action.”
      Attitudes vs.
Other Related Constructs
Video clip? Attitude or … what?
  Attitudes vs. Other Constructs

Differentiating attitudes from:
      Habits (I wake up every morning and I feel angry!)
      Values (beliefs that we held dear); “You know what
      Maria… once I would like to wake up and find these dishes in
      the cabinet!”

      Beliefs (They are assumptions, theories,
      explanations, conclusions and states of mind)

      Opinions (a person's ideas and thoughts towards
           Attitudes and Habits
   (Carol… is not that. I wake up every morning and I feel angry!)

Both influence behavior
Habits are routine behaviors that are performed
without evaluation of the behaviors’ consequences
or the behavior itself
Attitudes are persistent evaluations
  In the video example we just saw we see some
  development of cognitive dissonance,
  questioning/evaluation of the habit. We see
  acknowledgement of the consistency of the habit and its
  repercussions. “I realize that it had nothing to do with
  our car being stolen…” Or NOT?
  Some attitude formation?
        Attitudes and Values
       “You know what Maria… once I would like to wake up
       and find these dishes in the cabinet!”

Both are evaluations
Although, saying that somebody values the
dishes being placed in the cabinet after they have
been washed is similar with saying that
somebody has a positive attitude of the dishes
being placed in the cabinet after they have been
Values are ideal, desirable goals - more
global/general than attitudes
Values can encompass several attitudes – i.e.,
one can have several attitudes towards certain
             Attitudes and Beliefs
“Your amigo here, is going to sell our keys the moment he goes out that door!”

Beliefs are propositions about the attributes
(“your amigo here”) of objects (e.g., “[he]…is going
to sell our keys the moment he goes out that
Beliefs are primarily cognitive – they do not have
the affective content of attitudes (although they
may trigger affective reactions)
Difficult to distinguish attitudes from beliefs when
a belief ascribes a positive or negative attribute
to an object
        Attitudes vs. Opinions

Opinions colloquially express an attitude (“We
have different opinions on the use of language
with our maid”).
“Opinion” is more commonly used in market
research and surveys (Public Opinion Polls),
whereas “Attitude” is more commonly used by
Opinion more related to cognitive evaluation.
Where do they come from?
                 Genetic Influence

Research indicated that twins have similar
attitudes – i.e., suggesting a genetic basis for the
formation of attitudes (Arvey, et al., 1989).
Some attitudes (e.g., death penalty, religion, sex,
music) show heritability coefficients of around .50.
(Tesser, 1993)
  Suggesting automaticity, fast processing, implicitness;
  old brain areas mechanisms?
Universality of certain attitudes - result of
phylogeny (McGuire, 1985).
  Phylogeny is the study of the evolution of a genetically related group of
            Genetic Influence

“Heritable attitudes” would be harder to change,
and they are more quickly activated.

Old brain areas mechanisms?

But... attitudes don't "sit" on genes; genetic
influences must be mediated through complex
interactions between biological tendencies and
socio-cultural shaping.
“An attitude is a learned, global evaluation of
   an object (person, place, or issue) that
        influences thought and action.”

                          (Perloff, 2003, p. 39).
  “Social Learning / socialization refers to the
"gradual acquisition of language, attitudes, and
    other socially approved values through
reinforcement, observation, and other learning

                                (Forsyth, 1995)
            Attitude Formation

Attitudes are learned from others or via direct
experience through:

1. Imitation or modeling (conscious adoption,
   unconscious assimilation; Newcomb, 1943).
2. Information (e.g., perception, rumor, reading).
3. Mere exposure
4. Classical conditioning
5. Operant conditioning
      Classical conditioning

• Learning-through association between
• The attitude object is associated with
  unconditional stimulus (e.g., image, pain,
  physiological stress, odors and sounds)
  US                     Response


       Stimulus   +   US
Neutral    Conditioned
Stimulus    Response
           Operant Conditioning
• Reinforcement or punishment of attitudes
  (sometimes it is only the verbal response that is
  reinforced or punished).

• The event following the response (i.e.,
  consequence) reinforces or punishes the
  response (i.e., attitude).

• Phone interviews in which experimenter says
  "good" or "mm-hmm" in response to expressed
  opinions. These attitudes became stronger, as
  tested one week later (Hildum & Brown, 1956).
               Mere Exposure

• Attitudes can be acquired from the mere
  exposure to an object. Direct repeated
  experience often results in preference (i.e.,
  compared to objects less often encountered).
• The more familiar the object/task, the more we
  generally like it (Bornstein, 1989; Zajonc, 1968).
             Direct Experience
• Direct experience of issues and events (+ or -

• Attitudes acquired by direct experience are:
  – held with greater confidence
  – more specific
  – more easily recalled
  – more resistant to change
  – more consistent with behavior

                            Fazio and Zanna (1978)
• Imitation – mere copy of another’s behavior
  without acquisition of the relationship between
  behavior and consequences – e.g., young
  children mimic/parrot their parents’ attitudes.

• Modeling (Social Learning Theory) - behaviors /
  attitudes are acquired through observation and
  reproduced because of the contingencies –
  relationship with the consequence (Bandura,
Why do People
Hold Attitudes?
     General Functions of Attitudes

Phylogenetic (Adaptive) Explanation
• Stresses the adaptive value of avoiding
   objects that threaten survival, and seek
   objects that help to maintain resources and
   secure reproduction.
     General Functions of Attitudes

Efficiency Function
• Learned summary of evaluations which
    guides our behaviors (i.e., so we don’t have
    to constantly re-assess attitudes objects).
• Make decisions faster.
• Make decisions in situations with insufficient
Attitudes define how people perceive and think about
  their environment and - to a certain extend - how
                    they behave.

      Attitude                 Attitudes/ Evaluative
  Objects/Behavior                   Responses
     Are attitudes useful?

Keeping phylogeny in mind: Are
      attitudes evolving?
General Functions of Attitudes

  But, efficiency has some costs:
    –   Overgeneralization,
    –   Simplification,
    –   Prone to errors,
    –   May lead to bad decisions
         Functional Approach

Examines the functions (needs/roles)
attitudes serve for different individuals in
different contexts (Perloff, 2003)
  1.   Knowledge
  2.   Utilitarian
  3.   Social Adjustive
  4.   Social Identity
  5.   Value-Expressive
  6.   Ego-Defensive
         Function of attitudes
1. The same attitudes can serve different
   functions for different people
2. Different attitudes can serve a same
   function for different individuals
3. A single attitude can serve several
   functions for a same individual.
     Why are we interested in the
       Functions of Attitudes
• Knowledge of the functions is necessary
  to control attitudes (i.e., predict, prevent,
  produce, reinforce, induce or change).
• Attitude change is more likely when the
  message or strategy is directed at the
  underlying function the attitude serves
  (i.e., match the motivational function).
          Agent 320

A teen holds a positive attitude
toward smoking because she
thinks she will be accepted and
liked by her peers if she take
this side.

Your Mission: Changing (i.e.,
removing or substituting) her

• Attitudes are persistent evaluations.
• Attitudes are influenced by cultural factors
  (learning) and biological factors (innate
  preferences or aversions).
• Attitudes are based on cognitive evaluations
  and affective evaluations to varying degrees.
• Attitudes help us to make decisions and
  choices more economically based on
  information from previous experiences.

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