How Attitude Influences our Behaviour – Answered!
Attitudes are said to influence our behaviour. But many times it may not be true. There are arguments on both sides. Some people say that our attitudes determine our behaviour. It is true also.
For example, if a person has a negative attitude towards some other person, he may not express it directly, rather he may not show any interest to join him in a party, or to share a common platform- with that person.
On the other hand, there are opinions which state that there is no valid proof to believe about the influence of attitude on behaviour.
An important contribution to the study of behavioural prediction from attitudes has been made by Martin Fishbein (1967, 1975). He argues that there is no good reason to believe that an overall measure of attitude toward an object will necessarily predict a specific behaviour.
According to him attitude is a hypothetical concept abstracted from the totality of a person’s feelings, beliefs and behavioural intentions regarding an object. Thus an isolated specific behaviour may be unrelated, or even negatively related to the overall attitude.
Fishbein maintains that, in order to predict a specific behaviour, we should not focus on people’s overall attitude toward the object of that behaviour, but on their attitude toward the behaviour.
Attitude about specific behaviour depends on such factors as evaluations of the likely consequences of the behaviour and social norms concerning the behaviour. For example, a person may have a positive attitude for inter-caste marriage, but because of social norms he may show negative behaviour like disapproving it.
At times we may not like to have certain attitudes. But such a tendency may lead to incompatibility among people in the society who are living together. At that time we try to develop attitudes according to situations.
This has been explained by a famous theory called ‘Balance theory’ (Heider, 1958). The basic tenet of this theory is that there is a tendency to maintain or restore balance in one’s attitude structures. Because unbalanced attitude structure leads to uncomfortable and unpleasant feelings.
Although the influence of attitudes on behaviour is not clearly discernible; two theories viz., (1) Cognitive dissonance and (2) Self- fulfilling prophecy help us to understand the direction of attitudinal influences.
Cognitive dissonance refers to the feeling of inconsistency in feelings, beliefs and behaviour (the three components of attitudes).
This feeling makes people uncomfortable. So they get motivated to rectify the situation by modifying their behaviours that cause dissonance or disagreement. For example, a nurse may have a negative feeling to work in a Tuberculosis ward with a belief that her health will be affected. But she will not show it directly in her behaviour, but try to get a change from that ward itself or remains absent from her duties.
Self fulfilling prophecy is the process by which we try to convert our attitudes, beliefs and expectations-into reality. If we predict that something is going to happen, we will try very hard to make it happen. For example, if we feel that we are competent, we will undertake challenging tasks.
A nurse who has a negative attitude to work in major operation theatre may take it as a challenge and develop skills to work there. Consequently, we gain experience and skills that make us more competent, so that we accomplish even more. However, if we have negative attitudes towards ourselves, we will not provide ourselves with the chance to become competent.
In this way road between behaviour and attitudes is a two-way street. In some situations our behaviour is influenced by our attitudes and some other times our behaviour will determine our attitudes. For example, when a person is asked whether he likes music, he will examine his own behaviour to decide his attitude position. “I must like it, because I am regularly listening to it” or “I must not like it, I rarely listen music”. Here, his attitudes are determined on the basis of his behaviour.
In this way the regulation of balance in society, cognitive dissonance, self fulfilling prophecies are the factors which influence our behaviours and attitudes.