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HOW DO ATTITUDES DEVELOP?

  • One way that attitudes can arise is due to conditioning—either classical or operant. Classical conditioning creates an association between two mutually occurring events, while operant conditioning increases or decreases the frequency of behaviour with reinforcements and punishments.

  • Attitudes can also arise due to observational learning, wherein we internalize the attitudes of others. In this way, attitudes can be passed on from one person to another.

  • Attitudes can be held explicitly (those that are consciously known) or implicitly (associations of which people may not be aware). The methods necessary to assess these different types of attitudes vary considerably. Explicit attitudes can be assessed with simple self–report measures, while implicit attitudes require a subtle method such as the IAT.

DO ATTITUDES INFLUENCE BEHAVIOUR?

  • Attitudes do not inherently imply behaviour. Oftentimes people will believe in a cause or principle but not act on it when the opportunity arises. Many factors influence whether or not attitudes will come to impact behaviour. The core factors are the strength of the attitude, the specificity of the attitude to the behaviour in question, the accessibility of the attitude, and the result of rational decision making.

  • The stronger an attitude is, the more likely it is to translate into behaviour. Likewise, the more specific the attitude is to the circumscribed behaviour, the more it will be relevant for that behaviour. The easier an attitude is to bring to mind, whether because of repeated exposure to it or recent exposure to it (both of which increase accessibility), the more it will influence behaviour. Finally, if rational thought leads to the decision that behaviour should be done based upon a held attitude, and it is decided that the behaviour can be done, it is more likely that the behaviour will arise.

WHEN DOES BEHAVIOUR INFLUENCE ATTITUDES?

  • One way in which attitude change occurs is via cognitive dissonance. If people find that they are behaving in a way that is inconsistent with their attitudes, they will shift their attitudes to better match the behaviour. This can be used to impact behaviour as well, by making people aware that they are behaving inconsistently with a cared–about attitude. In addition, the tendency to be affected by cognitive dissonance is affected by culture.

  • Our attitudes can also shift based on observations of our own behaviour, our motivation to appear in a particular way to others, or by being more open to others' opinions after affirming core parts of our identity. When we are secure in who we are, we feel freer to consider others' ideas.