Attitude in psychology means “expression of favor or disfavor towards a person, place, thing or event (the attitude) or it can also be defined as an individual’s own view regarding a certain subject.

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Attitudes can be positive or negative and can be influenced by a number of different factors in one’s life, few have been listed below:

  • Family: Family has a very important role in developing one’s attitude towards certain things. For example if one’s family and parents are highly qualified in academics, the person will develop a positive attitude towards studies.
  • Psychological factors: like beliefs, ideas, culture and surrounding environment. For example if a child starts believing that his teachers are always scolding him, he is going to develop a negative attitude towards his parents.
  • Society: If something is considered to be wrong in one’s society, the person will eventually develop a negative attitude towards that thing.
  • Economic factors such as Earning, salary.
  • Political factors eg political personalities and leaders.

Attitude Evaluation

There are two models for attitude evaluation:

  1. ABC model
  2. MODE model

ABC Model

The ABC model comprises of the following components.

  • Affective component: it refers to your perceptions and feelings towards an attitude object. For example if a person is afraid to see a lion (the attitude object) or feels anxiety even by thinking about it, these are his personalized feeling towards the lion. This is called the affective component.
  • Behavioral component: this is the second component and it explains person’s behavior towards a specific attitude object which in this case is a lion. Whether the person will run away, scream, call for help or will climb a tree. This behavior can be due to some past experience or it can be formed.
  • Cognitive component: it refers to the thoughts and beliefs one has about an attitude object. For example if a person is afraid of lions what does he thinks about them. If he thinks that lions are dangerous creatures, whether he thinks if lions eat every human being. So, a person’s own perceptions about an attitude object will form the cognitive component.

MODE Model

The MODE model stands for Motivation and Opportunity as Determinants of attitude-behavior relation. One’s attitude can be measured in two different ways:

  • Explicit measure: these are the attitudes that are formed at a conscious level and can be deliberately formed that can guide decisions and behavior.
  • Implicit measure: are unconscious beliefs that can still influence behavior.

Following are the proposed theories to describe Changes in attitude:

Learning Theory

This theory states that attitudes can be learnt through the use of principles such as classical conditioning, operant conditioning and observational learning.

  • Classical conditioning: for example if a person likes a certain perfume, he will find the specific person attractive who is wearing that perfume.
  • Operant conditioning: is related to consequences. For example if the employees complete their task within the given time and get a salary bonus. This is going to encourage the repetition to that attitude and behavior.
  • Observational learning: this learning is achieved by watching others do the same thing. For example a child learns to play basketball by observing other children playing the same game.
Operant Conditioning

Image: “Operant conditioning diagram.” by Curtis Neveu. License: CC BY-SA 3.0

Dissonance Theory

This theory states that people change their attitudes, opinions or behaviors if they are inconsistent with each other, to avoid conflict and to reduce disharmony within themselves. According to this theory people achieve consistency among their cognitions (beliefs) and when there is inconsistency between their behaviors or attitude one must change something to avoid dissonance.

A method to avoid dissonance is to get latest knowledge on a subject that is far more superior to the older belief or knowledge. For example if a person knows that eating too much can lead to obesity and obesity can lead to diabetes then he will avoid over eating to avoid obesity and diabetes. However if there is a new research which proposes that overeating alone will not cause obesity and there are other factors as well which play a role, in order to cause obesity and eventually diabetes, then this will cause reduced dissonance in a person whenever he practices overeating.

Another way to reduce the dissonance is to minimize the importance of cognition (belief).For example a person can think that this life is short and he should enjoy it to the fullest and while he knows that smoking is injurious, still he smokes to seek pleasure. He would be reducing the importance of dissonant cognition.

Given above is the classical example of grapes and fox. When a fox sees the grapes hanging too high on a tree and gets tempted to eat them but cannot reach them because they are too high, so it comes up with excuses and thinks that climbing so high to eat the grapes would not be worth it since the grapes are sour. In this example fox is reducing its dissonance by criticizing the act which it cannot perform.

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