What is Attitude? Meaning, Components, Types, and Its Formation

What is Attitude?

Attitudes often come into our everyday conversation after someone or something. It is a fundamental topic for social psychologists. Attitude is the belief system that directs our thoughts, feelings, and actions about other people, situations, and ideas.

The psychology of attitude is revealed in the expression of how much we like or dislike, pro or anti, favoring or not favoring, and positive or negative or neutral (ambivalent) about various things. Ambivalence refers to the fact that our evaluations of objects, issues, people, and events are not always uniformly positive or negative, on the contrary, these evaluations are mixed consisting of both positive and negative reactions.

For example, people like a chocolate dessert (a positive evaluation), but they also think it is too rich and too fattening (negative evaluation), and they refuse it. Their attitudes were reflected in their behavior, these reactions were ambivalent in nature, and the negative component was dominant.

Attitudes evaluate or provide judgment based on past information or impressions. It may be about objects, people, and thoughts like, AIDs, religion, soccer, abortion, politicians, or suicide. Attitudes vary in intensity. For example, some people feel very strongly about abortion, while others do not. Likewise, political attitude influences our thoughts, behaviors, and impressions about people. It directs our biases towards our friends or foes.

Components of Attitude

Attitude includes three components, cognitive (belief), feeling (emotion), and behavior (action) components.

Cognitive Component

Cognitive components lead the individual to believe in a certain way, for example, the person who likes dogs, loves them, and expresses dog is a faithful animal but hates says dog’s bite. Likewise, if someone believes street children suffer a lot from social evils and developed a positive attitude to help them, but if they believe that street children are dishonest, then they tend to dislike them. Attitudes make people interpret events, and impressions differently according to their belief system.

Feeling Component

Feeling components are emotions attached to the person, object, and thought. For example, if a person loves a chess game, it will be fun for him if not would feel boring. Likewise, if someone feels street children should be taken care of, then this person will develop positive emotions and therefore feel kindly towards the street children, but if the person feels negative, the person will show hatred, anger, etc. towards the children.

Behavior Component

Behavior components are the tendency to act in certain ways as directed by the cognitive and emotional components. It shows the readiness to behave. For example, when a person believes street children are unfaithful will rebuff when they approach near, on the contrary, the person who has a positive attitude tries to hit upon the cause of their miserable life.

Gordon Allport (1935) an early attitude theorist, formulated a definition of attitude as the following, “Attitude is a mental and neural state of readiness, organized through experience, exerting a directive or dynamic influence upon the individual response to all objects and situations with which it is related.” This is a rich comprehensive definition that can be broken into several parts with some important implications.

  • Attitudes are mental or neural states of readiness. They are private. That is why scientists can not measure it directly as doctors measure blood pressure.
  • Attitudes are organized through experience. They are developed from a variety of sources, from learning, experience, culture, etc., and with the help of parents, friends, school, and TV or socialization agents.
  • Attitudes exert a directive or dynamic influence upon the person’s response to objects, people, and situations.

How Attitude is Developed?

Attitudes formation or development takes place through a variety of sources:

Attitude Develops in the Process of Want Satisfaction

  • While satisfying primary, as well as secondary wants e.g. a thirsty person, develops a positive attitude toward water.
  • While approaching the goal object e.g. the patient has a positive attitude toward his doctor. and
  • In response to problem situations including tension, and emotional experience.

Attitude is Shaped by the Exposed Information

  • Religious and cultural affiliation prepares the individual in a typical way, shaping their attitudes.
  • The study revealed that the socioeconomic status (SES) of the students attending wealthier colleges were more pro-fascist than students from low SES.
  • The belief system of the near associates like parents, friends, siblings, and teachers influences the attitudes.
  • The role of different channels of media (textbooks, TV, newspaper, discussions, rally, etc) also shapes attitudes.

The Genetic Factor

Recent evidence indicates that genetic factors may actually play some role. Identical twins are more closely related in their attitudes than non-identical twins.

Learning Factor

Learning factors include:

Social Learning: The emphasis of social learning is based on the observation of social situations. It occurs when individuals develop new habits and thoughts by seeing or hearing others doing it. For example, children sometimes perform activities that are not basically thought they would do or say. Mass media also play role in developing attitudes.

Classical Conditioning: Attitudes are influenced by the association between stimulus and response which is the basis of classical conditioning. For example, a child at first is neutral towards the members of the other group. Later on, he learns to pair his mother’s negative emotional reactions whenever plays with low socioeconomic status or a particular ethnic group leading to negative attitudes toward these groups.

Instrumental Conditioning: The basic theme of instrumental conditioning is reinforcement and reward. When a child receives praises, smiles, or positive outcomes after the activity his behavior is likely to strengthen and repeated, while negative consequences are not repeated and weakened. Thus behaviors that are associated with reward develop a positive attitude and negative consequences develop a negative attitude.

Types of Attitudes

Organizational behavior describes human beings having numerous attitudes while at work, but the work environment focuses on three main attitudes, job satisfaction, job involvement, and organizational commitment.

Job Satisfaction

The term job satisfaction describes a positive feeling about a job. A person with a high level of job satisfaction holds positive feelings about his or her job, while an unsatisfied person holds negative feelings. When people speak of employee attitudes, they usually mean job satisfaction.

Job Involvement

Job involvement is related to job satisfaction. It is the degree to which people identify psychologically with their jobs. When the level of job involvement is greater they strongly identify with their jobs and really care about the kind of work they do. It increases their competence, meaningfulness, and autonomy in their jobs.

Organizational Commitment

In organizational commitment, an employee identifies with a particular organization and its goals and wishes to maintain membership in the organization. There are three separate dimensions to organizational commitment.

First, an effective commitment is an emotional attachment to the organization and a belief in its values. Second, continuance commitment is remaining with an organization for economic reasons.

Third, normative commitment is an obligation to remain with the organization for moral or ethical reasons. In general, affective commitment seems more strongly related to organizational outcomes than the other two commitment dimensions.

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