The following points highlight the five important determinants of attitude. The determinants are: 1. Motivational Determinants 2. Perceptual Determinants 3. Social Determinants (Social Influence) 4. Verbal Determinants 5. Personality Factors.
Determinant # 1. Motivational Determinants:
We know that attitudes are formed out of satisfaction of basic needs and various other motives. People differ in their attitudes because of the motivational and subjective differences. When one is guided by the motive of hunger, his attitude towards food is favourable.
One is hungry but he does not like the taste of the food, thus, he develops a bad attitude to that specific recipe. Similarly, if one is motivated to join a particular political party or social organization, his attitude to it would be favourable.
Attitudes and motives are, therefore, interlinked. Beliefs and attitudes are formed selectively. Attitudes are formed about these objects about which the organism has need. The selective nature of perception, therefore, plays a vital role in the determination of attitude. Hunger, sex and thirst are physiological motives and are socially conditioned and involve the stamp of culture.
Different attitudes help to structuralize one’s motivation. One is hungry but if he is a Hindu, he does not usually take beef as it is not socially sanctioned. He has, thus, a negative attitude towards beef. Some people are purely vegetarian.
They have an unfavourable attitude towards meat, fish etc. Similarly, we develop different attitude towards different colours. Muslims usually like green colour white Hindus like white colour. Thus, motivational factors determine one’s attitude.
Determinant # 2. Perceptual Determinants:
The nature and quality or property of the object also determine one’s attitude. If an object is colourful and marvellous, if a person is handsome or beautiful we develop favourable attitude towards the stimulus. Selectivity of perception is also determined by the properties of the object.
Thus attitudes are determined by the structural factors of the attitudinal stimulus. If a title contains excellent material and is beautifully expressed we develop a favourable attitude towards such a book.
Frame of Reference:
Frame of reference determines the nature of one’s attitude. The structural quality or perceptual property of the object alone does not influence of determine one’s attitude, one’s previous knowledge about the object of percept influences his attitude. Trying to observe or analyse a stimulus on the basis of prior experience or prior knowledge refers to frame of reference. We try to judge it by a particular norm.
Thus our attitudes are not born out of vacuum. The past idea of the family or any ingroup about the object or person may influence one’s attitude. In a study when poor boys were given cheap sweets developed good attitude towards it because their frame of reference was poverty.
But when the same sweets were given to rich boys they showed anti attitude towards it because their frame of reference was wealth. Sherif has conducted several studies on frame reference and how social norms evolve out of frame reference, Sherif tried to create such a situation where there was no norm or where the frame of reference was absent because of the insatiability and fluidity of the object.
Sherif calls it unstructured situation. Sherifs hypothesis was that in a situation where there is no social norm, the individual creates his own social norm and there is also individual difference about the norm. The normalcy persists for quite some time.
Definite influence of the group is found in influencing one’s attitude. Once the social norm has been established, it serves to determine the perceptual object of one’s motive pattern. It provides a common understanding on the basis of which one can communicate with others.
Determinant # 3. Social Determinants (Social Influence):
It has been discussed in detail under the formation of attitude how social influence helps a great deal in the formation of attitudes. Society and family are, perhaps, the most significant determinants of one’s attitude. “Mama tells me not to play with black children.” “Mama a woman wants to see you” are some of the examples of negative attitudes learnt from the family and society.
Attitudes of the family are again determined and shaped by larger streams of social and cultural influences. The degree of relationship between the attitude of parents and their children does exist.
The degree of such relationship depends upon:
(1) Home situation
(2) The subject tested
(3) The attitude studied.
The investigation of New Comb and Sosvehla indicate that the family is effective in shaping the beliefs and attitudes of children in proportionate to the degree to which other cultural influences operate in the same direction.
The effect of the family, the school, the companions or neighbourhood or the place of worship is more direct and complex. They, to a great degree, determine the pattern and direction of attitudes and hence, the relationship between attitude of parents and children is highly positive.
Of course, in a few cases, the correlation between the beliefs and altitude of the parents and their children may be negative and in some cases, there may not be much correlation. If the parents dislike communism or early marriage, the child is likely to develop negative attitude towards communism or early marriage. Caste feeling, gender bias etc. are due to the social standard and family environment.
A study conducted by Ansari and Ghosh (1959) indicates a functional relationship between the contrasting socioeconomic background and family attitude of children. Attitudes towards untouchability, dowry, child marriage, widow marriage, family planning, opposite sex etc. all develop in a social context and are determined by it.
The differences in cultural environments are reflected in the attitude of a person. Several empirical studies indicates a positive relationship between cultural determinants and specific attitudes.
Reference group plays a dominant role in the determination of attitude. The groups with which one does not have direct relation but psychological affinity determine one’s attitude. These reference groups serve as reference or standard for determining one’s attitude in the positive or negative direction.
Newcomb and Charters have conducted an experiment as to how reference group determines one’s attitude, action behaviour and thought etc. Reference groups provide social support to the growth of attitude.
Determinant # 4. Verbal Determinants:
Language plays a vital role in the formation of opinion, ideas and attitudes and hence determines them. According to Lippmann, without having any direct contact or firsthand information people develop strong positive or negative attitudes towards political parties, religions and social organisations, educational institutions, statesmen, government, people and countries.
Since direct contact is not possible in all and every case, one has to depend upon mass communication mediums.
It is through language these ideas are communicated. Through the use of different types of words, different attitudes can be developed. When newspapers praise a person, we develop positive attitude and when they blame, we develop negative attitude.
Some newspapers started using unfavourable words against Stalin and so, people developed negative attitude. Development of pro or anti-attitude is, hence, largely determined by language.
Determinant # 5. Personality Factors:
An individual’s personality is one of the fundamental factors in determining one’s attitude.
Personality factors responsible for determining attitude come under the functional factors. The needs, demands and emotions of the individual derived from the situation and cultural agencies help in the development of one’s personality.
Personality factors, like introversion, extroversion, ascendance and submission, rigidity and flexibility are related to conservative or radical attitudes. Vetter and Dexter (1930), in a study found that introverted and flexible persons readily adopt to beliefs and attitudes that depart from the accepted group norms and, hence, develop radical beliefs and attitudes.
But personality traits do not, however, determine the specific nature of one’s beliefs and attitudes.
The relationship between personality factors and attitude is indirect and complex. Morgan and Murray studied the clinical approach to the development of attitude in which the personality structure of 11 college men were studied to find out the relationship between personality structure, cultural influences and sentiments about God, war, family and sex.
Adorne Brunswic, Levision and Standford have indicated from their classic study how attitudes can be the expressions of a basic personality structure.
They were guided by the hypothesis that the political, economical and social convictions of an individual often form a broad and coherent pattern of attitudes and this pattern is an expression of deeplying trends in his personality.