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Introduction to Attitudes | AQA B Psychology
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Introduction to Attitudes

Definition of Attitudes

Attitudes are predispositions to respond towards particular people of situations in a particular manner. They are learned and relatively enduring. They are, therefore, there product of experience but enter into subsequent experience as a directing factor.

Component Models of Attitudes

Attitudes consist of three models:

  • Affective component: evaluations, feelings
  • Cognitive component: beliefs, opinions, ideas
  • Conative component: our actions, how we behave

Formation of Attitudes
The formation of attitudes takes place over a period of time and through many sources, e.g. media, parents, education, politicians, experience and personality.

Attitudes and Behaviour
We tend to think that a person’s attitudes will influence their behaviour. However, very often attitudes do not predict behaviour, as the following psychological studies demonstrate.

La Piere (1934)
In the 1930s, there were strong feelings of prejudice towards the Chinese living in America. La Piere took a Chinese couple on a three month trip around the US, stopping at two hundred and fifty different hotels were they refused entry. From this observed behaviour, it could concluded that there is little prejudice towards the Chinese. However, when La Piere followed this up by writing to each of the establishments and asking whether or not they would accept a Chinese patron, 90% saud that they would not, although only have replied.

Kutner (1952)
In a similar study, looking at the degree of discrimination towards black people in the USA, it was arranged for one black female to join two while females in a restaurant. Not one restaurant of possible eleven refused to serve; therefore there was no overt discrimination. However, when telephoned to ask if restaurants would accept a mixed racial party, six out of the eleven refused and five out of the eleven made grudging acceptances.

Explanations of the Discrepancy between Attitudes and Behaviour
Fishbein and Ajzen’s Theory of Reasoned Action (1980)

This theory maintains that the relationship between attitudes and behaviour is a complex one consisting of two separate components

Attitude towards the behaviour This is decided by looking at the expected outcome of the behaviour and how much value we place on these outcomes.

Subjective Norms These are the beliefs we have regarding other people’s opinions of the behaviour and how motivated we are to comply with their expectations.

This model takes into account social pressures. Example, a person may have a negative attitude towards smoking and therefore expect smoking to reduce fitness levels which may be seen as undesirable. On the other hand, the person may also socialise with people for whom smoking is the norm. Their peer group is often their reference group to which they look for standards of behaviour and this may have a more powerful influence on behaviour than general beliefs about the harmfulness of smoking.

Function of Attitudes

Katz (1960) It was proposed that attitudes promote the well-being of an individual by serving four functions, what is the attitude for? What does the attitude do for us?

Adaptive Function: Concerns the extent to which attitudes enable a person to achieve a desired goal and avoid what is unpleasant socially. An important identification takes place a person develops similar attitudes to those of people he/she likes and seeks out as friends those perceived to have similar attitudes.

Knowledge Function: Concerns the information a person posses about the physical and social world. It allows the world to be more familiar, predictable and less of an uncertain place. This helps us to organise and structure our experience and feel in control.

Ego/Self Expressive: Ego expressive generally acknowledges a need to tell others about ourselves to be aware of what we feel believe and value because a sense of identity is vital for out psychological well-being

Ego Defensive: To have positive attitudes about ourselves to help preserve our self image. We can project negative attitudes onto others.

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