Attitude (psychology)

Attitude (psychology)

Attitude is a hypothetical construct that represents an individual's like or dislike for an item. Attitudes are positive, negative or neutral views of an "attitude object": i.e. a person, behaviour or event. People can also be "ambivalent" towards a target, meaning that they simultaneously possess a positive and a negative bias towards the attitude in question.

Attitudes are composed from various forms of judgments. Attitudes develop on the ABC model (affect, behavioral change and cognition). The "affective" response is a physiological response that expresses an individual's preference for an entity. The "behavioral intention" is a verbal indication of the intention of an individual. The "cognitive" response is a cognitive evaluation of the entity to form an attitude. Most attitudes in individuals are a result of "observational learning" from their environment.

Implicit and explicit attitudes

There is also considerable research on "implicit" attitudes, which are unconscious but have effects (identified through sophisticated methods using people's response times to stimuli). Implicit and "explicit" attitudes seem to affect people's behavior, thought in different ways. They tend not to be strongly associated with each other, although in some cases they are. The relationship between them is poorly understood.

Philosophical aspect

Attitude may also be seen as a form or appearance that an individual assumes to gain or achieve an egotistic preference, whether it is acceptance, manifestation of power or other self-centered needs. Attitude may be considered as a primitive attribute to the preservation of the self or of the ego.

Attitude formation

Unlike personality, attitudes are expected to change as a function of experience. Tesser (1993) has argued that hereditary variables may affect attitudes - but believes that they may do so indirectly. For example, if one inherits the disposition to become an extrovert, this may affect one's attitude to certain styles of music. There are numerous theories of attitude formation and attitude change. These include:
*Consistency theories, which imply that we must be consistent in our beliefs and values. The most famous example of such a theory is Dissonance-reduction theory, associated with Leon Festinger, although there are others, such as the balance theory of Fritz Heider.
*Self-perception theory, associated with Daryl Bem
*Meta programs, associated with Neuro-linguistic programming
*Elaboration Likelihood Model associated with Richard E. Petty and the Heuristic Systematic Model of Shelly Chaiken.
*Social judgment theory
*Balance theory
*Abundance theory

Factors that affect attitude change

Attitudes can be changed through persuasion. The celebrated work of Carl Hovland, at Yale University in the 1950s and 1960s, helped to advance knowledge of persuasion. In Hovland's view, we should understand attitude change as a response to communication. He and his colleagues did experimental research into the factors that can affect the persuasiveness of a message:

#Target Characteristics: These are characteristics that refer to the person who receives and processes a message. One such trait is intelligence - it seems that more intelligent people are less easily persuaded by one-sided messages. Another variable that has been studied in this category is self-esteem. Although it is sometimes thought that those higher in self-esteem are less easily persuaded, there is some evidence that the relationship between self-esteem and persuasibility is actually curvilinear, with people of moderate self-esteem being more easily persuaded than both those of high and low self-esteem levels (Rhodes & Woods, 1992). The mind frame and mood of the target also plays a role in this process.
#Source Characteristics: The major source characteristics are expertise, trustworthiness and interpersonal attraction or attractiveness. The credibility of a perceived message has been found to be a key variable here (Hovland & Weiss, 1951); if one reads a report about health and believes it came from a professional medical journal, one may be more easily persuaded than if one believes it is from a popular newspaper. Some psychologists have debated whether this is a long-lasting effect and Hovland and Weiss (1951) found the effect of telling people that a message came from a credible source disappeared after several weeks (the so-called "sleeper effect"). Whether there is a sleeper effect is controversial. Received wisdom is that if people are informed of the source of a message before hearing it, there is less likelihood of a sleeper effect than if they are told a message and then told its source.
#Message Characteristics: The nature of the message plays a role in persuasion. Sometimes presenting both sides of a story is useful to help change attitudes.

Cognitive Routes: A message can appeal to an individual's cognitive evaluation to help change an attitude. In the "central route" to persuasion the individual is presented with the data and motivated to evaluate the data and arrive at an attitude changing conclusion. In the "peripheral route" to attitude change, the individual is encouraged to not look at the content but at the source. This is commonly seen in modern advertisements that feature celebrities. In some cases, physician, doctors or experts are used. In other cases film stars are used for their attractiveness.

Emotion and Attitude Change

Emotion is a common component in persuasion, social influence, and attitude change. Much of attitude research emphasized the importance of affective or emotion components (Breckler & Wiggins, 1992). Emotion works hand-in-hand with the cognitive process, or the way we think, about an issue or situation. Emotional appeals are commonly found in advertising, health campaigns and political messages. Recent examples include no-smoking health campaigns and political campaign advertising emphasizing the fear of terrorism.

Taking into consideration current attitude research, Breckler and Wiggins (1992) define attitudes as “mental and neural representations, organized through experience, exerting a directive or dynamic influence on behavior” (p. 409). Attitudes and attitude objects are functions of cognitive, affective and conative components. Attitudes are part of the brain’s associative networks, the spider-like structures residing in long term memory (Higgins, 1986) that consist of affective and cognitive nodes linked through associative pathways (Anderson, 1983; Fazio, 1986). These nodes contain affective, cognitive, and behavioral components (Eagly & Chaiken, 1995).

Anderson (1983) suggests that the inter-structural composition of an associative network can be altered by the activation of a single node. Thus, by activating an affective or emotion node, attitude change may be possible, though affective and cognitive components tend to be intertwined. In primarily affective networks, it is more difficult to produce cognitive counterarguments in the resistance to persuasion and attitude change (Eagly & Chaiken, 1995).

Affective forecasting, otherwise known as intuition or the prediction of emotion, also impacts attitude change. Research suggests that predicting emotions is an important component of decision making, in addition to the cognitive processes (Loewenstein, 2007). How we feel about an outcome may override purely cognitive rationales.

In terms of research methodology, the challenge for researchers is measuring emotion and subsequent impacts on attitude. Since we cannot see into the brain, various models and measurement tools have been constructed to obtain emotion and attitude information. Measures may include the use of physiological cues like facial expressions, vocal changes, and other body rate measures (Breckler & Wiggins, 1992). For instance, fear is associated with raised eyebrows, increased heart rate and increase body tension (Dillard, 1994). Other methods include concept or network mapping, and using primes or word cues (Shavelson & Stanton, 1975).

Processing Models

Some research on emotion and attitude change focuses on the way people process messages. Many dual process models are used to explain the affective (emotion) and cognitive processing and interpretations of messages. These include the elaboration likelihood model, the heuristic-systematic model, and the extended parallel process model.

In the Elaboration Likelihood Model, or ELM, (Petty and Cacioppo, 1986), cognitive processing is the central route and affective/emotion processing is often associated with the peripheral route. The central route pertains to an elaborate cognitive processing of information while the peripheral route relies on cues or feelings. The ELM suggests that true attitude change only happens through the central processing route that incorporates both cognitive and affective components as opposed to the more heuristics-based peripheral route. This suggests that motivation through emotion alone will not result in an attitude change.

In the Heuristic-Systematic Model, or HSM, (Chaiken, Liberman, & Eagly, 1989) information is either processed in a high-involvement and high-effort systematic way, or information is processed through shortcuts known as heuristics. Emotions, feelings and gut-feeling reactions are often used as shortcuts.

The Extended Parallel Process Model, or EPPM, includes both thinking and feeling in conjunction with threat and fear appeals (Witte, 1992). EPPM suggests that persuasive fear appeals work best when people have high involvement and high efficacy. In other words, fear appeals are most effective when an individual cares about the issue or situation, and that individual possesses and perceives that they possess the agency to deal with that issue or situation.

Components of Emotion Appeals

Any discrete emotion can be used in a persuasive appeal; this may include jealousy, disgust, indignation, fear, and anger. Fear is one of the most studied emotional appeals in communication and social influence research. Dillard (1994) suggests that “fear appeals have been thought of as messages that attempt to achieve opinion change by establishing the negative consequences of failing to agree with the advocated position” (p. 295). The EPPM (above) looks at the effectiveness of using fear and threat to change attitudes.

Important consequences of fear appeals and other emotion appeals include the possibility of reactance (Brehm & Brehm, 1981) which may lead to either message rejections or source rejection and the absence of attitude change. As the EPPM suggests, there is an optimal emotion level in motivating attitude change. If there is not enough motivation, an attitude will not change; if the emotional appeal is overdone, the motivation can be paralyzed thereby preventing attitude change.

Emotions perceived as negative or containing threat are often studied more than perceived positive emotions like humor. Though the inner-workings of humor are not agreed upon, humor appeals may work by creating incongruities in the mind (Maase, Fink & Kaplowitz, 1984). Recent research has looked at the impact of humor on the processing of political messages (Nabi, Moyer-Guse, & Byrne, 2007). While evidence is inconclusive, there appears to be potential for targeted attitude change is receivers with low political message involvement.

Important factors that influence the impact of emotion appeals include self efficacy, attitude accessibility, issue involvement, and message/source features. Self efficacy is a perception of one’s own human agency; in other words, it is the perception of our own ability to deal with a situation (Bandura, 1992). It is an important variable in emotion appeal messages because it dictates a person’s ability to deal with both the emotion and the situation. For example, if a person is not self-efficacious about their ability to impact the global environment, they are not likely to change their attitude or behavior about global warming. Dillard (1994) suggests that message features such as source non-verbal communication, message content, and receiver differences can impact the emotion impact of fear appeals. The characteristics of a message are important because one message can elicit different levels of emotion for different people. Thus, in terms of emotion appeals messages, one size does not fit all.

Attitude accessibility refers to the activation of an attitude from memory (Fazio, 1986); in other words, how readily available is an attitude about an object, issue, or situation. Issue involvement (Zaichkowsky, 1985) is the relevance and salience of an issue or situation to an individual. Issue involvement has been correlated with both attitude access and attitude strength. Past studies conclude accessible attitudes are more resistant to change (Fazio & Williams, 1986).

Jung's definition of attitude

Attitude is one of Jung's 57 definitions in Chapter XI of "Psychological Types". Jung's definition of attitude is a "readiness of the psyche to act or react in a certain way" (Jung, [1921] 1971:par. 687). Attitudes very often come in pairs, one conscious and the other unconscious. Within this broad definition Jung defines several attitudes.

The main (but not only) attitude dualities that Jung defines are the following.
* Consciousness and the unconscious. The "presence of two attitudes is extremely frequent, one conscious and the other unconscious. This means that consciousness has a constellation of contents different from that of the unconscious, a duality particularly evident in neurosis" (Jung, [1921] 1971: par. 687).
* Extraversion and introversion. This pair is so elementary to Jung's theory of types that he labeled them the "attitude-types".
* Rational and irrational attitudes. "I conceive reason as an attitude" (Jung, [1921] 1971: par. 785).
** The rational attitude subdivides into the thinking and feeling psychological functions, each with its attitude.
** The irrational attitude subdivides into the sensing and intuition psychological functions, each with its attitude. "There is thus a typical thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuitive attitude" (Jung, [1921] 1971: par. 691).
* Individual and social attitudes. Many of the latter are "isms".

In addition, Jung discusses the abstract attitude. “When I take an abstract attitude...” (Jung, [1921] 1971: par. 679).
Abstraction is contrasted with concretism. “CONCRETISM. By this I mean a peculiarity of thinking and feeling which is the antithesis of abstraction” (Jung, [1921] 1971: par. 696).

MBTI definition of attitude

The MBTI write-ups limit the use of "attitude" to the extraversion-introversion (EI) and judging-perceiving (JP) indexes.The above MBTI Manual statement, is restricted to EI," is directly contradicted by Jung's statement above that there is "a typical thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuitive attitude" and by his other uses of the term "attitude". Regardless of whether the MBTI simplification (or oversimplification) of Jung can be attributed to Myers, "Gifts Differing" refers only to the "EI preference", consistently avoiding the label "attitude". Regarding the JP index, in "Gifts Differing" Myers does use the terms "the "perceptive" attitude and the "judging" attitude" (Myers, 1980:8). The JP index corresponds to the irrational and rational attitudes Jung describes, except that the MBTI focuses on the preferred orientation in the outer world in order to identify the function hierarchy. To be consistent with Jung, it can be noted that a rational extraverted preference is accompanied by an irrational introverted preference.


* [] From USA Today "Power of a super attitude"
* [ "The A-Word"] by Paul Niquette
* Jung, C.G. (1966). "Two Essays on Analytical Psychology", Collected Works, Volume 7, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01782-4.
* Jung, C.G. [1921] (1971). "Psychological Types", Collected Works, Volume 6, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01813-8.
* Myers, I. B. & Myers, P. B. (1980), ' to the development and use of the Myers-Briggs type indicator", Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press. ISBN 0-89106-027-8

ee also

* Allophilia
* Cognitive dissonance
* Elaboration likelihood model
* Norman Vincent Peale, author of "The Power of Positive Thinking"
* Propositional attitude
* Social psychology

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