Attitudes
The Nature of Attitudes
• Attitudes central topic of study in social psychology.
• 3 Approaches to Understanding Nature of Attitudes:
– Attitudes as Evaluations
– Attitudes as Memories
– ABC Tripartite Model of Attitudes
Attitudes as Evaluations
• Learned predispositions to respond in a
favorable or unfavorable manner to a
particular person, object or idea.
• Represent positive or negative evaluation of
an individual, behavior, belief or thing.
Abortion
+ Women have the right to choose
- Abortion is immoral
+ Abortion is permissible in the first trimester
- Abortion is an invasive medical procedure
+ Abortion solves societal problems
Attitudes as Memories
• Some regard as a set of memories that link
cognitions regarding the topic about which the
attitude is held.
• An attitude is a set of inter-related memories
about a particular person, object or idea.
Attitudes as Memories
• Memories about different types of information
– Beliefs, feelings, & behavior concerning the target.
• When a stimulus triggers one of these memories,
activates entire network of related memories
having to do with the object of the attitude.
Parents
College
Friend
Future
Fr. Mike
Abortion
Niece
Children
Religion
Medical
Tonsils
ABC Tripartite Model
of Attitudes
• Focuses on underlying structure of attitudes.
• 3 Components:
– Affective component – encompasses emotional
reactions (negative and positive)
• Strong positive or negative emotions associated with…
– Behavioral component – Predispositions or intention
to act in a way that reflects the attitude
• Refers to your intention to participate in a pro-abortion or
anti-abortion rally; or whether you will have one yourself.
ABC Tripartite Model
of Attitudes
• Focuses on underlying structure of attitudes.
– Cognitive component – Your beliefs or thoughts about
the object of the attitude
• e.g., may hold a strong religious belief that may shape your
view of abortion as a legitimate procedure.
Affective Component
I have anxiety about the procedure
I am relieved not to have an out-ofwedlock child
Behavioral Component
I intend to seek an abortion if necessary
Cognitive Component
Abortion is a women’s right
Abortion is not morally wrong
Abortion
Formation & Maintenance of Attitudes:
Affect-Based Explanations
• Mere Exposure Effect Tendency to
develop more positive feelings toward
objects/individuals the more we are exposed
to them.
– Does not require behavior nor formation of
beliefs
• Classical Conditioning
Formation & Maintenance of Attitudes:
Behavioral & Cognitive Explanations
• Operant Conditioning
– Reinforcing behaviors congruent with attitude
• Social Learning
– Reinforcement of imitative behavior
– Vicarious reinforcement
Formation & Maintenance of Attitudes:
Somatokinesthesia
• Facial expression, head movement & body
posture can affect attitude.
– Pen in the mouth study
– Facial Feedback Hypothesis
• Consistent w/ Self-Perception Theory
– Vascular Theory of Emotion
• smiling causes air-cooled blood flow to brain
– Similar findings for posture
Formation & Maintenance of Attitudes:
Functional Approach
• Develop & change attitude to satisfy psychological
need.
• Instrumental Attitude - based on cost/benefit of the
attitude object.
– e.g., positive attitudes for acceptance by others
• Symbolic Attitude - Object perceived not as it is,
but as symbol of something else
– e.g., environmentally conscious company
Psychological Function of Attitudes
Type of Attitude
Function Served
Perspective
Utilitarian
Achieve rewards; gain approval
Behaviorist
Knowledge
Structure world; make sense
Cognitive
Ego Defense
Protect from self-truth
Psychoanal
Value-Expressive
Express self-concept
Humanistic
Do Attitudes Predict Behavior?
• LaPiere (1934)
• Factors:
– Level of attitude-behavior specificity
• e.g., Chinese in general v. specific couple
– Time factors
• Greater the interval between measurement & behavior - the
higher the discrepancy
– Private v. Public Self-Awareness
Do Attitudes Predict Behavior?
• Factors:
– Attitude strength
• Acquiring more information
• Personal involvement
• Direct experience
– Attitude accessibility
• presidential election study
• Availability heuristic
Beaman et al,
1979
IV = Self-Awareness
DV = Attitude Behavior Consistency
Mirror
No Mirror
12% Took
More Candy
34% Took
More Candy
Mean Shock Intensity
5
4
3
Mirror Condition
Control
2
Audience Condition
1
0
Froming et al, 1982
Attitudes Toward a Behavior
• Fishbein & Ajzen (1975)
• If goal is to predict specific behavior,
measure of attitude should be compatible w/
measure of behavior.
– Behaviors specified along 4 dimensions:
•
•
•
•
Action
Target
Context
Time
Davidson & Jaccard, 1979
Element Specified
Measured Attitude Correlation w/ behavior
None
Birth Control
.08
Target
B.C. Pills
.32
Target/Action
Using B.C. Pills
.53
Target/Action/Time
Using B.C Pills next 2 years
.57
Subjective Norms
• Judgement about whether other people will
approve of a particular behavior.
• 2 Factors
– Perceived expectations of significant others
– One’s motivation to conform to those
expectations
Theory of Reasoned Action
Attitude Toward a
Behavior
Intention
Subjective Norm
Behavior
Perceived Behavioral Control
• One’s perception of how easy/difficult to
perform behavior
– e.g., stopping smoking
Cognitive Consistency
& Attitudes
• Cognitive Consistency
– Introduced by Fritz Heider (1946)
– has its roots in Gestalt Psychology
• Expect & prefer perceptions to be coherent &
harmonious
– The tendency to seek consistency in one’s
cognitions
Cognitive Dissonance
• Although appear to be logical in our
thinking & behavior…
– Engage in irrational & maladaptive behavior
behavior to maintain cognitive consistency
Cognitive Dissonance
• We all have cognitions (pieces of knowledge)
– About attitudes, past behaviors, current states of the
world, etc.
• Dissonant w/ each other when 1 follows from
the opposite of the other
– “I believe in gun control & I own a gun”
– “I believe in democracy & I don’t vote”
Cognitive Dissonance
• Dissonance can arise between…
– Cognitive & affective component of an attitude
– Affect felt toward a person & his/her behavior
– Cognitions & behavior/behavioral intentions
Cognitive Dissonance
• Dissonant cognitions cause an aversive motivational
state (tension, irritation)
– We are motivated to reduce aversive state
• Change 1 cognition
– “I smoke so little that it hardly counts as smoking”
• Add consonant cognitions
– Nobody in my family has ever had cancer, and my other good health
habits compensate for the cigarettes I smoke
• Reduce importance of 1 cognition
– “Although some do die…”
• Deny that cognitions are related
– “I don’t believe that smoking causes lung cancer”
Insufficient Justification
• People perform, for a minimal inducement,
a behavior that is discrepant with attitudes.
• Festinger & Carlsmith (1959)
Rating For Group
100
95
90
No Initiation
85
Mild Initiation
80
Severe Initiation
75
70
Arousal or Attribution?
• Dissonance theory assumes physio. arousal
as basis of attitude change
– Evidence that attribution may also be involved
• Self-Perception Theory
– We infer our attitudes from our behavior
• BEHAVIOR CAUSES ATTITUDES
– Placebo studies
Post-Decision Dissonance
• Arises because attributes of chosen
alternative not all positive, unchosen not all
negative.
– Altered perceptions of options
– Selective exposure
• Self-Justification
– Maintenance of self-esteem
– Escalation/Persistence of commitment