Notes on Attitude: Introduction, Formation, Changes and Measurement!
Notes on the Introduction to Attitudes:
An attitude is an organization of concepts, beliefs, motives, habits, and acts associated with a particular object. The concepts and beliefs associated with an attitude are referred to as the cognitive component; the habits, as the action component; and the motives, as the affective component. We say that an attitude is formed when the above components are so interrelated that specific feelings, emotions and reaction tendencies become consistently associated with a particular way of thinking about certain persons or events.
In the early stages of attitude formation, its components are not well systematized so that they can be modified by new experiences. However, gradually when they are well organized over a period of time, they tend to become rigid and stereotyped.
For the most part of our lives we are not fully conscious of the extensive influence they have on our social behaviour. But on close self-analysis we find that attitudes function within ourselves and we become sensitive to the attitudes of others. Actually, we try to infer the attitudes of others accordingly to regulate our behaviour.
In a social group, from limited samples of another’s behaviour we conclude, that he is liberal, understanding, or prejudiced, and then react to him in what we consider to be an appropriate manner.
The study of attitudes has become a major problem for social psychologists because it is a complex psychological phenomenon that has great social significance on individual’s behaviour.
Notes on the Components of an Attitude:
i. The Cognitive Component:
Attitudes vary from one another in a number of ways other than their specific content. In the cognitive component, we find the specificity of the concept of the object and also the degree of differentiation of an attitude as to how many beliefs and concepts are associated with the object. For example, a person may have an attitude towards Jawaharlal Nehru as a statesman, towards statesmen in general or towards celebrities.
Similarly a politician’s attitude towards Nehru is more differentiated than that of a person who has little experience in politics. In the former case specificity, and in the latter the degree of differentiation can be noticed.
ii. The Action Component:
Attitudes have been observed to differ in their relation to overt behaviour. Some attitudes may have many habits associated with them, others have few. Sometimes the action which goes with an attitude is merely a verbal expression and this is called an opinion.
But, the action component of an attitude may include a number of action tendencies. For example, people develop favourable attitudes towards one political party. These may be expressed either by voting on Election Day, or by long heated discussions with others or by actively participating in political campaign.
iii. The Affective Component:
Two of the dimensions, which belong to this component are position and intensity. The former refers to the degree of expectancy of pleasantness or unpleasantness associated with the object whereas; the latter refers to the strength of the affective expectancy.
For example, a person’s attitude towards a surgeon about to operate on him may include a very strong expectancy about the amount of pain. Here the position of the object is rather negative but the attitude is very intense.
The Function of Attitudes. Attitudes play an important part in determining our behaviour. They influence our perceptions and judgement of others, they determine the speed and efficiency of learning, they help in the choice of groups we associate with, the professions we decide upon, and even the ideologies we cherish.
To illustrate how attitudes affect various forms of behaviour, how they give form and structure to personality, we may take the simple example of workers who tend to display an organised pattern of attitudes towards their work, colleagues, superiors, and friends outside their work place. That attitudes are basic features of personality influencing behaviour has been shown in the study of attitudes of minority group members.
In our country the attitudes of the majority community may not be very tolerant towards the minority groups. This is clear from the complaints made and concessions sought by the minority groups from the central government.
Notes on the Formation of Attitudes:
We already know, an attitude as an organization of concepts, beliefs, habits, and motives associated with an object. The formation of attitudes then consists of learning various concepts, beliefs, habits, and motives. The formation of attitudes follows the basic principles of learning. There are three interrelated principles, which help to explain how attitudes are learned; the principles are of association, transfer, and need satisfaction.
Broadly speaking, we acquire feelings and reaction tendencies, the two essential components of attitudes, through association and need satisfaction. In other words, we learn to fear and avoid people, things or events associated with unpleasant happenings, and to like and approach those people, things and events associated with pleasant happenings.
In the first case by avoiding and in the second case by approaching we seem to satisfy the basic need for pleasure or comfort. For example, our most basic attitudes are acquired in infancy through interaction with our parents and other members of our family.
An infant develops favourable attitudes towards parents and other members of the family simply because they care for his needs. Their presence becomes associated with his comfort and general wellbeing. In course of time, as parents become associated with punishments as well as pleasures, the child’s attitudes towards them become complex and ambivalent.
Although feelings and reaction tendencies towards others are learned through association and need satisfaction, we acquire our thoughts and beliefs, which is the third component of attitudes in a different way. Actually speaking, we learn attitudes through transfer in the same way as we learn meanings of concepts through instructions; for example, a child develops a meaning say for “tiger” when told it is a “catlike” animal having the same features.
In this way, social agents like parents and teachers can transfer attitudes by suggesting how best we should reorganize and integrate certain of our basic ideas. Thus for instance, parent or a teacher can transfer completely favourable attitudes towards Schedule castes of tribes by describing them as ill-treated, suppressed and yet hard working, friendly and lively; or by transferring a negative attitude by describing them as lazy, undependable and untrustworthy.
We also develop attitudes by adopting the attitudes of other important people outside the family circle. As we grow older, we tend to incorporate attitudes that seem appropriate for belonging to groups we consider important. Sometimes we even change attitudes as a means of leaving one group and becoming part of another.
The affective component of an attitude is considered by many psychologists to be at the core of the attitude. It may be associated with several of the human motives. Some psychologists have suggested that the formation and change of attitudes is probably different for attitudes with different motivations.
Katz suggests four different motivational basis for attitudes:
(3) Ego- defensive, and
An attitude with a utilitarian basis is associated with the survival, safety, and some of the social motives of the, individual. Katz suggests that a person acquires utilitarian attitudes through experience with the object.
A value-expressive attitude is based on a person’s motive for self-esteem and self-actualization; for example, a person who values world law will find satisfaction in expressing favourable attitudes towards the United Nations. The formation of value-expressive attitudes seem to depend on a person’s perception of the relation between the object, the attitude, and his ideal of himself.
These attitudes like the value-expressive attitudes are also related to the motive for self-esteem but in a negative way. These attitudes are formed to defend the ego from his anxieties and hence they can be called defence mechanisms. Thus for instance, many psychologists are of the opinion that prejudice towards minority groups may in some people represent projection or displacement of feelings of hostility and inferiority onto the minority groups.
Some studies have shown that people who were dissatisfied with their economic conditions tended to express hostile attitudes towards the minority than those who were satisfied.
Attitudes with a Knowledge:
These attitudes are acquired in relation to competence motives, specially the motives to have a clear and consistent view of the world. Such attitudes are formed in one of the three ways- (1) by actively seeking more information, or (2) by adopting towards the object the attitudes of other people, or (3) by adopting attitudes towards the object that are consistent with the rest of his thinking. The best example one could think of the second way of formation of attitudes (adopting the attitudes of others) is that of stereotypes regarding other groups or nationalities.
Some attitudes have very little effect on an individual’s thinking and behaviour; others have a great effect on thinking and behaviour in different situations. The greater the effect of an attitude on thinking a behavior the more central it is. Some psychologists suggest that the centrality of an attitude is partly due to the strength of the motives associated with the object and partly due to persistent presence of the object in the individual’s environment.
Some attitudes are closely related to one another; that is, they share common or similar concepts, beliefs, motive and habits. Such a cluster of attitudes is called the attitude system.
Notes # Changes in Attitude:
Since attitudes are learned, it should be easy to modify their intensity or even replace an undesirable one by learning a desirable one. But it is not an easy task because attitudes are not easily modified or replaced as they are learned. Once attitudes are formed, they become an integral part of individual’s personality, affecting his whole style of behaviour.
Attempts to modify attitudes succeed only in altering the thought-belief component without affecting the feelings and reaction tendencies so that gradually the attitude may revert to its former state. Those attitudes formed in the home or through early experiences in groups are especially responsible in forming the structure of attitude network, and hence are resistant to modification.
In order to change the cognitive component, the persuaders should construct arguments to change the beliefs of their audiences. Studies have shown that presenting both sides of an issue is more effective in attitude change rather than making a counter-propaganda.
Regarding the affective component, the attitude change can be brought about by associating a disliked object with pleasurable feelings and thereby producing changes in beliefs and actions. Some investigators have suggested that the use of fear or punishment associated with an object can succeed in changing the attitudes.
However, such a method of negative reward is found not to have the same effect as when a disliked object is associated with pleasurable feelings.
Finally, a person’s beliefs and feelings about an object can be changed by changing individual’s behaviour towards it (action component). Thus for instance, expressing opinion contrary to one’s attitudes can lead to attitude change, especially if the behaviour is unexpectedly rewarded.
Similarly, contact with minority groups can lead to the formation of positive attitudes if the contacts are on an equal status basis, or if they are rewarded, or if the goals of the minority group are the same or those of the majority of the people.
Measurement of Attitudes and Opinions:
Social psychologists have devised a number of techniques for measuring attitudes; these techniques are called attitude scales. Often a person’s attitude is measured by asking him to indicate his agreement or disagreement with a number of statement dealing with the same subject.
The major problem in developing an attitude scale is to select a series of statements that will have the following characteristics- (1) an attitude scale should discriminate between people holding different attitudes; (2) the scale should cover the entire range of positions on the attitude; and (3) it should avoid statements that imply positions on several attitude at the same time.
Notes on the Measurement of Attitude:
There are certain ways by which it is possible for the supervisor and managers to get some inkling of attitudes of attitudes of individuals such as listening to the chance remarks of individuals, the behaviour of individuals in the work place etc. A sensitive intuitive supervisor can always get a feeling w.r.t general reaction of his work group even though he cannot pinpoint such reactions specifically. The other way to find attitude change is the analysis of certain factors such as turnover rate, absenteeism and production level. Various methods have been developed for doing this.
A few of these are:
1. Thurston Attitude Scale:
This method consist questionnaires which are filled out by the employees.
To develop an attitude scale the following steps are involved:
(i) The first step is to write out a large number of statements, each of which expresses a viewpoint of some kind towards the company.
(ii) Each of these statements is typed on a separate slip of paper and the judge is asked to place each statement in one of several piles ranging from statement judged to express the least favourable view points to statements judged to express the most favourable viewpoints.
(iii) Statement judged to express varying degrees of favourableness between these extremes are placed in the piles that are judged best to characterise their relative degree of favourableness.
(iv) Many judges are used in the process, sometimes as many as 100 or more. These judges are assisting the construction of the scale. They are not having their attitudes measured. The allocation of statements to the several piles is a part of the process of constructing the scale.
The purpose of allocation is to determine the scale value statements. If all judges tend to place a statement in piles towards the favourable then we can conclude that the statement expresses a favourable attitude towards the company.
If the statement is placed by the judges in piles towards unfavourable end of the series, then we may conclude that an unfavourable attitude is expressed by that particular statement, so we can determine the average location of the statement by the judge. Statements that are scattered by the judge over several categories are eliminated.
2. Likert Scale:
Likert’s method is simpler than Thurstone and does not require the use of judges in scaling the statements. While a number of different procedures were tried and compared but the simplest method described by Likert was found to give results that correlated very highly with more complex methods.
Each statements has five degrees of approval and ask the person taking the scale of check one of the five degrees:
i. Strongly approved
v. Strongly disapproved
There are three principal methods of establishing the validity of a measuring device:
(i) Comparing the results obtained from it those of another device, the validity of which has been established.
(ii) Judgment of experts and
(iii) Internal consistency
The validity of the Likert scale established by a comparison of the same with an already established scale of Thurston is an example of judgment technique adopted.
3. Opinions Survey:
Attitude scales help to measure the attitudes of individuals by summarising data for all employees within a group, such scale can be used to quantify ‘morale’ of employee groups. Attitudes scale can be useful in indicating the relative level of morale of employees groups but these do not enable the management to identify specific factors that may be sources of employee’s unrest or un-satisfaction.
The specific information can be obtained by the use of questionnaire that provides for giving opinions about specific matters such as working conditions, future prospects, company policies prerequisites etc., the usual practice in opinion questionnaire is that of obtaining a single response to each question in either ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
In Particular the Employees may be asked to check each item in one of the three ways:
He should also check each item as being of great importance. It is possible to develop a questionnaire that can serve the purposes of obtaining opinions of employees and measuring their attitudes. The data collected by the questionnaires can be compiled, tabulated and analysed to know about the attitude of workers towards management and the organization.
Still another method of obtaining information about personnel reaction is the use of interviews. The workers should be interviewed by the representatives of some outside organizations such as a consultancy firm or a university department. The employees are given assurance that the information furnished will not be used for any administrative function.
In a guided interview the interviewer asks a series of questions so that each of which may be answered by a simple. Yes or no or by some other words. In the unguided interview the interviewer asks more general question to encourage the employee to express himself and solicit information about his job satisfaction, job involvement and commitment.