Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Understanding “Attitude”

Understanding “Attitude”

The study of attitudes has been at the forefront of social psychology for many years. Attitude field is vast and diverse accumulating over 80-plus years. The study of attitudes has been a core topic in social psychology. Attitudes are involved in practically every other area of the discipline, including social perception, interpersonal attraction, prejudice and discrimination, conformity, compliance, and so on. The chief reason why the concept of attitude is so central to psychology is because the aim of psychology is to study behavior, and attitudes are supposed to influence behavior
People often try to influence others. Sales people urge customers to buy goods or services; politicians exhort people to vote for them; managers attempt to maintain employees’ dedication to work; and advertisers try to raise interest in consumer products. In all of these examples, people try to make others like or dislike particular objects, ideas, individuals, groups or tasks.
Attitudes are tendencies to like or dislike something – such as an idea, person or behavior – and the object of these tendencies (the thing being liked or disliked) is often called the attitude object. Attitudes indirectly or directly affect behavior in virtually every social interaction. Attitudes have been defined as the intensity of positive or negative affect for or against a psychological object .A psychological object (may be) is any symbol person, phrase, slogan or idea toward which people can differ as regards positive or negative effect.
There are many ways to understand an attitude, and several theories are currently accepted. Basically, an attitude is a stable and enduring disposition to evaluate an object or entity (a person, place or thing), in a particular way. “I like working on this project” and “I do not like working after office hours” are examples of attitudes because they express a person’s general feeling, either favorable or unfavorable toward something.
Thus the two main elements of attitude are this tendency or predisposition and the direction of this predisposition. It has been understood as a mental state of readiness, organize to through experience which exerts a directive or dynamic influence on the responses on an individual to all objects and situations with which the individual is related. The encyclopedia of social sciences described attitude as a comparatively enduring organization of interrelated beliefs which describe and evaluate the action with respect to an object or a situation, with each belief having cognitive effect and behavioral components.
Attitudes are predisposed tendency to respond in a particular way and not a fixed response. Attitudes are influenced by a number of factors. Attitudes are evaluations and/or preferences towards wide variety of attitudinal items such as likes/dislike, anti-pro, positive or negative. Anything that arouses evaluative feelings can be called as an object of attitude
Attitudes play a very important role in our life as they determine our reaction to people and the objects in our environment. Attitudes are our expressions of the likes and the dislikes towards the people and the objects. They determine or guide our behavior in social situations. You would have noticed that your behavior is different while nursing an elderly man than that of nursing a child, or if you are nursing a critically ill patient as compared to one with a minor illness. These differences in behavior are because of your attitudes towards old people and the children. Your attitude towards a critical, terminally ill patient determines how you interact with a patient suffering from these diseases.

Attitude Objects

The idea that attitudes are dispositions to evaluate psychological objects would seem to imply that we hold one, and only one, attitude toward any given object or issue. Recent work, however, suggests that this may be too simplistic a conception. Thus, when attitudes change, the new attitude overrides but may not replace the old attitude.
According to this model of dual attitudes, people can simultaneously hold two different attitudes toward a given object in the same context, one attitude implicit or habitual, the other explicit. Motivation and capacity are assumed to be required to retrieve the explicit attitude in favor of the implicit evaluative response.
Depending on perspective, different evaluations of the same object in different contexts can be considered evidence for multiple attitudes toward the same object, or attitudes toward different psychological objects. One mechanism for the development of different context-dependent attitudes has been found in the presence of illusory correlations between a target’s behavior and the context in which the behavior is observed. These investigators suggest that some apparent discrepancies between attitudes and behavior may reflect the presence of multiple context–dependent attitudes toward social targets.

Values and attitude

The most frequently cited definition of what constitutes a human value is offered by Rokeach (1973) as an “enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct or end-state of existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or converse mode of conduct or end-state of existence”. Values constitute an important aspect of self-concept and serve as guiding principles for an individual.
Rokeach argued that, considered together, values form values systems where a value system is “an enduring organisation of beliefs concerning preferable modes of conduct or end-states of existence along a continuum of importance” (1973, p.5). Thus the importance of different values should co-vary with the importance of others in the value system. For e.g. you may value ‘honesty’ over ‘success’. Human values are strongly prescriptive in nature and form the core around which other less enduring beliefs are organised. As such they are important in a range of other processes, like attitudes. It is contended that the formation of specific attitudes is predicated upon more general values. Values indirectly influence behavior through their influence on attitudes.
Although values can shape attitudes, it does not however mean that values shape all attitudes. For e.g. your attitude towards say love versus arranged marriage is probably shaped by your values, but your preference for one brand of toothpaste over another is less likely to be influenced by important life goals. It is clear that some attitudes are formed through the influence of long-standing values internalized early in life. These are called symbolic attitudes, because the attitude object is a symbol of something else. In contrast, there are some attitudes that are based on utility, a direct benefits and costs of the attitude object. These are called instrumental attitudes, because they are instrumental to meet those needs. Interestingly the same attitude object could serve a symbolic or an instrumental need. For e.g. your decision to eat only vegetarian food could be based on utility (if you stay in a place like Europe or America where it is more difficult to get vegetarian food) or taste-instrumentally based attitudes— versus considerations of animal rights and right to live-symbolically based values.
Values are relatively more stable and enduring than attitudes, since they are basic notions about what is right and wrong. Attitudes are less stable than values. Further, if we know an individual’s values, we are better able to predict his behavior in a particular situation.

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