Social Psychology
Lecture 1: Attitudes (Chapter 5; Hogg & Vaughan)
At the end of the lecture …
• ‘‘How is attitude formation
considered/conceptualised within Social
Structure and function of attitudes
Forming attitudes
Concepts related to attitudes
Attitudes in terms of behaviour?
Structure and function of attitudes
• There are a number of different views about what an
attitude is:
– an affective orientation toward, or evaluation of, an
attitude object (one-component model, sociocognitive model); (Feeling)
– a mental readiness to act and a guide for how to
respond and guides our evaluations (twocomponent model); (Thought and feeling)
– or a combination of information about, and feelings
and behavioural intentions toward, an object (threecomponent model). (Though, Feeling and
Structure and function of attitudes
• The three-component model is probably most
popular. Generally, attitudes are useful because they
are enduring and they provide a cognitive and
affective orientation toward objects and thus help us
pursue goal-directed thought and action.
Function of Attitudes
• Katz (1960)
– Knowledge
– Instrumentality (means to an end or a goal)
– Ego-defense (protects ones own selfesteem)
– Value-expressiveness (allow people to
display those values that uniquely identify
and define them).
Structure and function of attitudes
• According to cognitive consistency
theories, our attitudes should be
relatively congruent with one another
because we seek consistency among
our cognitions.
• Specifically, we seek balance between
how we feel about an object, how
someone else feels about an object, and
how we feel about that other person
(balance theory). Heider’s theory of
attitude change
• If you and I like apples, it would be
unbalanced if I did not like you.
Examples of balanced and unbalanced triads from Heider’s
theory of attitude change
Attitudes: Cognition and Evaluation
• Pratkanis and Greenwald’s sociocognitive
• Attitude is represented by
– An object label and the rules for applying that
– An evaluative summary of that object, and
– A knowledge structure supporting that
• E.g. Shark
– Big Fish with large teeth (label)
– Is frightening and best avoided when
swimming (evaluative)
– Well-documented threat to our physical wellbeing (knowledge structure)
Figure 5.2
The sociocognitive model of attitude structure and function
Source: Based on Pratkanis & Greenwald (1989)
Forming attitudes
• Attitude formation can rest on direct experience with
the attitude object; mere exposure to an object can
influence how much we like or dislike it and thus our
attitude toward it (Zajonc,1968).
• We can also acquire positive or negative attitudes
toward an object by direct reinforcement or
punishment associated with the object, or by
observing someone else being rewarded or
– Classical Conditioning: Attitudes paired with positive or negative
– Spreading Attitude effect: Ripple effect of meeting different
– Instrumental Conditioning: Positive consequences more likely to
be repeated, while negative effect are not.
– Observational Learning: Rewards and Punishment and
Forming attitudes
• Another way to acquire an attitude is by observing our
own behaviour and making an internal attribution of
the behaviour to one’s self (one’s attitude) if there are
no obvious external causes for the behaviour (selfperception theory).
• Acquire knowledge about the person you are and
therefore your attitude
• “Why did I do that?”
• If you go shopping a lot, it must be because you like
Forming attitudes
• Through whatever process we form an
attitude, one of the most important sources of
enduring attitudes is our parents, and later our
peer groups.
– Parents
– Teachers
– Friends
– Mass Media
Concepts related to attitudes
• Values are higher-level constructs that often subsume and
organize specific attitudes. Values can be differentiated into
those that concern end states (e.g., freedom, equality) and
those that are more instrumental (e.g., honesty, tradition).
• Allport
– Theoretical: Interest in problem solving/how things work?
– Economic: An interest in economic matters such as
finance and money
– Aesthetic: An interest in the arts, theatre, music etc
– Social: A concern for others, interest in social welfare
– Political: An interest in politics
– Religious: Interest in theology.
• Rokeach
– Terminal Values: Broad values that have control over
specific value: (e.g. Equality, Freedom)
– Instrumental Values: Motivations that may influence
specific attitudes (honesty and ambition).
Concepts related to attitudes
• Ideologies are similar to values but
go further insofar as they are usually
associated with, and sometimes
define, membership in particular
groups. Ideologies also serve to justify
relations between groups (they are
system-justifying or hierarchyenhancing), or to challenge the status
quo and energize social change
(radical ideologies).
• Explanatory function (Thompson,
1990). Ideologies can be used to
explain events that influence attitudes.
• Every thinking and attitudes
influenced by ideological dilemmas
(Billig, 1991)
Concepts related to attitudes
• The third construct that is related to attitudes is
social representations. Social
representations are explanatory belief systems
that simplify complex or distressing
phenomena and make them easily understood
by ordinary people.
• They are developed through informal,
interindividual communication and become
consensual within communities or groups.
• From an attitudinal perspective, this is an
important point, that is, attitudes are framed
by, and embedded within, wider
representational structures, which are in turn
grounded in social groups. In this area,
attitudes are socially constructed, reflecting
society or groups in which people live their
Can attitudes predict behaviour?
• The utility of attitudes, both theoretically and
practically, rests largely on how much
people’s attitudes influence their behaviour.
• It is only possible to predict behaviour from
attitudes if the attitude is very specific and is
oriented toward an intention to behave in a
certain way.
• Examples of studies, i.e. drink or ethnic
tolerance, small correlation between what
people report and what they do (Gregson &
Stacey, 1981; La Piere).
• General attitudes are very poor predictors of
specific behaviours but can predict an
average of a wider range of behaviours
(multiple-act criterion).
Can attitudes predict behaviour?
• The two main theories of attitude-behaviour
relations are:
• (a) the theory of reasoned action (people
behave in line with their attitudes if they have
a favourable attitude and there is general
social support for the behaviour), and
• (b) the theory of planned behaviour, which
added that people also need to feel that
performance of the behaviour is under their
control. When these conditions are met,
people’s behavioural intentions (and to a
lesser extent their actual behaviour) can be
quite well predicted.
• The theory of planned behavior holds that
human action is guided by three kinds of
– Beliefs about the likely outcomes of the behavior
and the evaluations of these outcomes (behavioral
beliefs or Attitudes)
– Beliefs about the normative expectations of others
and motivation to comply with these expectations
(normative beliefs/Subjective Norm)
– Beliefs about the presence of factors that may
facilitate or impede performance of the behavior
and the perceived power of these factors (control
beliefs/Perceived Behavioural Control).
A comparison of the theory of reasoned action (TRA) and the theory of
planned behaviour (TPB)
Figure 5.3
Source: Based on Ajzen & Fishbein (1980); Madden, Ellen & Ajzen (1992)
• Working hard for a Social Psychology
– Beliefs/Attitudes about the likely outcomes of the
behavior and the evaluations of these outcomes
• Do you think that working hard for a Social Psychology
Exam is important
– Beliefs about the normative expectations of others
and motivation to comply with these expectations
(normative beliefs)
• What do your friends/parents think?
– Beliefs about the presence of factors that may
facilitate or impede performance of the behavior
and the perceived power of these factors (control
• Are you actually able to spend time working hard?
Applied Context: Reasoned action, planned behaviour
• Pick one of the following behaviours, what could
be an attitude, subjective norm and perceived
behavioural control?
Drivers’ compliance with speed limits
Sexual Practices: Condom Use
Smoking Cessation
Healthy Eating
Physical Activity
Weight Loss
Recycling Behaviour
Advice on Revision
• Example Question ‘How is attitude
formation considered within Social
• In your reading of the chapter, take a
critical approach. Show an understanding
of the evidence, but also those areas of
the reading that notes of caution can be
• When studying attitude formation try to
make the distinction between behavioural
(learning of attitudes) and which are
cognitive (information processing and
• Also consider how attitude formation is
part of a wider models of attitude and
End of the lecture …
• Structure and function of attitudes
• That is how they are formed or how
they fit in (i.e. Theory of Planned
• Forming attitudes
• Concepts/Theories surrounding