Chapter 7: Attitudes and their origins (pp. 230–238)
- How do people form an attitude?
- Do all attitudes have the same structure?
- Are there any cultural differences in attitudes?
In this topic
- Measuring Attitudes (pp. 230–232)
Attitude Formation: Why and How? (pp. 232–238)
- Why attitudes form
- Cultural differences in attitude functions
- The building blocks of attitudes
- Putting it all together
- Linking attitudes to their objects
Explicit attitudes can be measured using the following methods:
- Self-reports: Ask people.
- Observations: Look at people's behavior.
Implicit attitudes may be measured using:
- Muscle activity: Measure muscle tension while a person is thinking about an attitude object.
- Reaction time: How fast do people react to an attitude object?
- The Implicit Association Test.
Implicit and explicit attitudes have different qualities; there is not one best attitude.
Attitude Formation: Why and How?
Why attitudes form
People evaluate almost everything they encounter, because attitudes are very useful.
Attitudes help people to master the environment. This is done through the knowledge function and utilitarian function of attitudes.
Attitudes also help us to gain and maintain connectedness with others. This is through the value-expressive function and impression management function of attitudes.
Cultural differences in attitude functions
In independent cultures, attitudes emphasize the individual and show that people are distinct from others; in interdependent cultures, attitudes emphasize group harmony and belongingness.
The building blocks of attitudes
Attitudes are built from mental representations that can include:
- Cognitive information: What people know about an attitude object.
- Affective information: What people feel about an attitude object.
- Behavioral information: Knowledge of interactions with the attitude object in the past, present, or future.
Affective information can be much stronger than cognitive information because of the intense emotions it can provoke. Habitual behavior can also dominate attitudes.
Putting it all together
All the informational components accumulate to form an attitude, following three principles:
- Consistency: New attitudes fit in a consistent way into existing knowledge, emotions, and experience.
- Bad outweighs good: Negative information has an edge over positive information.
- Accessible information dominates: Information that comes to mind very easily has more impact.
Ambivalent attitudes reflect both positive and negative reactions to an attitude object.
Linking attitudes to their objects
Encountering an attitude object activates the attitude. The more often this joint activation of object and evaluation occurs, the closer and stronger the link becomes.
This has three consequences:
- The stronger the link, the more automatically the attitude is activated.
- The stronger the link, the more likely it is that we use this sole attitude as a source of knowledge.
- The stronger the link, the more resistant the attitude is to new information.
So what does this mean?
Attitude researchers infer attitudes from the way people react to attitude objects. Such reactions can range from subtle evaluative reactions that people are unaware of, to more direct expressions of support or opposition in words or deeds. Attempts to assess these different reactions have demonstrated that implicit attitudes can sometimes differ from explicit attitudes.
People form attitudes because attitudes are useful. Attitudes help people to master their social environment and to express important connections with others. Attitudes are assembled from three types of information: beliefs about the object's characteristics, feelings and emotions about the object, and information about past and current actions toward the object. Negative information and accessible information are weighted more heavily. Once an attitude forms, it becomes closely linked to the representation of the object.