In this article we will discuss about:- 1. Introduction to Attitudes 2. Nature and Development of Attitudes 3. Components 4. Formation 5. Measurement.
Introduction to Attitudes:
As the individual develops his cognition, feelings and action tendencies with respect to the various objects in his world become organized into enduring system called attitudes. In defining attitudes as systems, we emphasize the interrelatedness of the three attitude components. When incorporated in a system, these components become naturally interdependent.
The cognitions of an individual about an object are influenced by his feelings and action tendencies towards that objects. And a change in his cognitions about the object will tend to produce changes in his feelings and action tendencies towards it.
The object of an attitude may be anything that exists for the individual. Thus an individual has a vast array of attitudes towards objects in the physical world that surrounds him. However, the number of any individual’s attitudes is finite. He can have attitudes only with respect to those objects which exist in his psychological world.
Nature and Development of Attitudes:
Attitudes are universal. They are either positive or negative and are found towards social as well as non-social aspects of the environment. These attitudes are not innate, they are acquired. It implies subject-object relationship.
It involves individuals as well as groups. They have motivational and affective properties and are shared by the members of a group. They are subject to change. Cultural, psychological, functional facts and figures influence the development of attitudes.
This shows that the factors that are responsible for attitudes are:
It is the first place for the formation of attitudes. Parents provide information that forms beliefs. As the childhood is the foundation period, information provided at this stage by parents are deep-rooted and cannot be deleted easily.
The attitudes developed at this stage are further strengthened or weakened by the kind of feedback they get. Motives, emotions, parent- child relationship and the ways of perceiving things all influence the attitude formation.
Attitudes organized fairly are further strengthened, when they are being appreciated by teachers, peer group and playmates, etc.
3. Social group:
Social groups provide information by allowing us to develop attitudes and strengthen or weaken them by giving the feedback.
4. Change of attitude:
An individual’s attitudes are formed during the childhood stage as a result of socialization and later on when he meets and interacts with the peer group in late childhood and adolescence. Attitude change can be either congruent change or incongruent change.
Components of Attitudes:
The cognitive component of an attitude consists of the beliefs of the individual about the object. For example, your attitudes towards communism may include your understanding of Marxist theory, your knowledge of the history of the USSR and communist China, your beliefs about the way the communist parties administer internal affairs, your conception of their foreign policies and so on.
The most critical cognitions incorporated in the attitude system are evaluative beliefs which involve the attribution of favourable or unfavourable, desirable or undesirable, good or bad qualities to the objects. The communist system makes people free.
The cognitive components may also include the beliefs of the individual about appropriate and inappropriate ways of responding to the object like communists in America should be imprisoned. Thus the cognitive and the action tendency components may be closely related.
The feeling component of an attitude refers to the emotions connected with the object. The object is felt to be pleasing or displeasing, it is liked or disliked. It is this emotional loading which gives attitudes, their insistent stirred up and motivating character. If you are an Anglophile, you feel friendly towards English men, you like their ways of speaking and acting, etc.
The action tendency components of an attitude include all the behavioural readiness associated with the attitude. If an individual holds a positive attitude towards a given object, he will be disposed to help or reward or support the object. If he holds negative attitude he will be disposed to harm or punish or destroy the object.
Thus if you have a favourable attitude towards Jews you may have a tendency to seek them out to accept them as friends, to aid them or to treat them as equals. If you are anti-Semitic you may have a tendency to avoid Jews, to reject them as friends, to withhold help or to treat them as inferior persons.
Formation of Attitudes:
Role of hearing (classical and instrumental conditioning and modelling) and direct experiences. An individual acquires attitudes through learning processes in a passive fashion and also through direct experience in which the individual participates actively in the formation of his or her attitudes.
1. Social Learning (Acquiring Attitudes from Others):
Learning attitude is a large part of socialization. Social learning is the process by which a newborn baby is transformed into a responsible and capable member of human society. Adult human social life is practically unthinkable without attitudes.
Children get their attitudes from everywhere from parents and later from teachers, from the media, from friends and acquaintances. How children learn attitudes is little harder to answer. But psychologists have identified at least three main processes that play role in this regard such as classical conditioning, instrumental conditioning and modelling.
2. Classical conditioning:
It means learning by associations. Imagine a child first encounter with “Wabble”, the child doesn’t know what wabble is so she asks her mother about it. Mother frowns or acts upset while answering. The mother’s negative emotions will be noticed by the child, she will then develop negative associations to wabble.
As the child grows up, that negative attitude towards wabble may continue. This is especially likely if the association is strengthened by similar parental reactions on other occasions. Thus parental attitudes have the power of shaping children’s attitudes by classical conditioning.
3. Instrumental conditioning:
Refers to learning in which responses that give positive outcomes or eliminate negative ones are acquired or strengthened. A father who is religious may praise his son for claiming to be religious, and may punish his son for expressing contrary views.
Children want to be held the “right” views, and parents are able to have the final say about what the right views are at least before their youngsters reach adolescence. By rewarding and punishing their children parents can shape their attitudes on many issues.
Refers to learning by observation even when parents are not trying to influence their child’s attitudes directly, they may be setting examples, the child will imitate. For example, little girl’s career ambitions sometimes depend on their mothers’ examples. If the mother is employed outside the home, the daughter is more likely to want her own career than of the mother who is a full time homemaker.
Parents are not the only ones to guide the passive formation of attitudes. Much learning of attitudes goes on in schools, religious places and elsewhere. Mass media also have a lot of power to shape attitudes.
5. Forming Attitudes by Direct Experiences:
People also form attitudes as a result of their own experiences. They actively draw conclusion or make generalization based on what has happened to them.
6. Attitude of Heuristics:
Why do we have attitudes in the first place? What are they good for? One major answer is that attitudes help us to make decisions by reducing information overload. Attitudes simply help human social life, which can be complicated and full of information.
Even simple acts like stopping at the supermarket to pick up something for dinner would be enormously difficult if you tried to perform them without attitudes you would end up looking at everything in the store, considering various criteria such as price and nutritional value and it would be very late by the time you get home. Attitudes such as preference for certain foods make the job much simpler.
Saying that attitudes help to reduce information overload is another way of saying that attitudes are heuristics, that is cognitive strategies for processing information quickly and easily.
Bodenhauster and Wyer showed that stereotypes suggesting that all members of a given social group share the same characteristics can operate heuristics. In their study, Bodenhaustar and Wyer had subjects read a hypothetical description of a crime, when a forgery and embezzlement or a brutal physical assault was involved. Common stereotypes associate forgery with upper middle class, while criminals and associates physical violence with lower class.
In the cases people read, the criminal either fit these stereotypes or didn’t. People relied whole-heartedly on stereotypes relevant information to make their judgment about the case. Identical information was ignored when the stereotypes didn’t fit.
In other words, whenever they could, people used their stereotypes as a basis for sorting and evaluating all the complex information regarding the case and for inferring why the crime occurred. The idea that attitudes are handy ways of dealing with information overload implies that people will form attitudes when they expect to need them.
7. Forming Stereotype:
Stereotypes can influence judgment once they exist but how do they get started? Illusory correlation is an important part of the process. An illusory correlation occurs when expectation causes someone to infer a pattern or relationship that is not really there. Consider a majority and a minority group, for example, white people and black people in modern America.
Suppose that both commit crimes at the same rate. Illusory correlation processes may cause people to develop the stereotype that the minority group commits more crimes. The key is a silence or noticeability.
There are more whites than blacks in society. As being black is more unusual hence more silent. And crimes are relatively rare, so it is silent when someone commits a crime (the silent two factors combine as it is most silent when a black person commits a crime).
Crime in blacks are therefore more available in memory than crime by whites or non-crime by black people tend to overestimate the frequency of crimes by minorities, and as stereotypes (in this example the idea that blacks tend to be dangerous criminals) get created despite the lack of any valid or factual group for it.
Measurement of Attitudes:
1. Social Distance Scale by Bogardus:
Bogardus was one of the first to design technique for the specific purpose of measuring and comparing attitudes towards different nationalities. His social distance scale was made up of a number of statements which were selected on a prior basis to elicit responses indication of the subjects, degree of acceptance of any nationality group.
The instructions for the scale read as follows according to my first feeling reactions, I would willingly admit members of each race (as a class and not the best I have known, nor the worst member) to one or more of the classifications under which, I have placed a cross.
For each nationality to be measured seven classifications are offered:
1. To close kinship by marriage
2. To my club as personal chums
3. To my street as neighbours
4. To employment in my occupation
5. To citizenship in my country
6. As visitors only in my country
7. Would exclude from my country.
The classifications progress in an orderly way from one implying a willingness to accept (a close degree of relationship with the nationality to one implying a willingness to accept) only an extremely remote relationship or none at all. The indication values of the individual’s attitudes towards the nationality is then taken to be the highest degree of intimacy we would accept.
In practice in applying the scale, it has been found that they are relatively a few instances in which a nationality is accepted by an individual for a closer relationship and rejected by him for a more remote relationship (e.g. accepting Turkish’s to close Kinship by marriage but rejecting them as neighbours on his street).
With the social distance scale, it is possible to compare different people’s attitudes towards the same nationality or to compare a single individual’s attitudes towards various nationalities. The social distance scale has been widely and successfully used for these purposes in social-psychological research with appropriate modification, this type of scale can be adopted to measure attitudes towards any category of persons.
Social distance is the distance at which members of a prejudiced group hold another group and its members.
2. Likert’s Scale—The Method of Summated Ratings:
Likert developed the method of summated ratings in his study of various attitudes towards imperialism, internationalism and the Negros.
His procedure which differs from Thurstone technique in several important ways involves the following steps:
i. The collections of a large number of statements considered by the experiment to relate to the object in question.
ii. The administering of these statements to a group of subjects who indicate for each statement whether they strongly approve or disapprove are important.
iii. The determination of a total score for each individual by summing his responses to all the items scoring in the above five categories 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 respectively for favourable items and reversing the scoring for unfavourable items.
iv. The carrying out of an item analysis to select the most discriminating items.
This last step is done by computing for each item the correlation between scores on that item and the total scores on all the items. Then those items with highest correlations or that hang together with or measure the same thing as the other items in the test are retained for the final scale. It is the use of item analysis method that most clearly distinguished it from the Thurstone method.
In the Thurstone scaling method there is necessity for agreement among judges as to the proper scale placement of an item requires that to man just content of the items requires relate rather directly to the attitude being measured.
In the Likert method there is no such necessity. Even if the manifest content of an item does not bear directly on the object in question it can by virtue of its correlation with the total score be proved diagnostic, and thus be included in the final scale.
The score followed by a Likert scale can be interpreted only in terms where the individual score falls in relation to the distribution of scores of other people the score does not have absolute meaning. The interpretation of the minimum and maximum possible score is usually clear.
The minimum score indicates an unfavourable attitude while the maximum score, a favourable attitude. But score falling between the minimum and maximum scores are more difficult to interpret because the score corresponding to the neutral point is not known.
It is not correct to assume that the neutral region on a Likert scale corresponds to the midpoint of the possible range of score, this is a weakness of the method when our interest is in determining whether an individual is favourable or unfavourable in his attitude towards an object.
3. Thurstone Scale—The Method of Equal Appearing Interval:
Early in the history of the development of attitude scales, Thurstone and his coworkers originated a method of attitude scale construction. They published a number of specific scales for the measurement of attitudes towards war, the church, capital punishment, evolution, the negro birth control, censorship, the Chinese, etc.
Thurston scale can be developed to measure attitudes towards any object and the method has been widely used by other investigators. Basic to this method is the use of judges to assign scale values to each item in the test.
The theory underlying Thurstone’s method of equal appearing intervals is that if a person indicates the statements he accepts and rejects, he can be located at a definite position on the attitudes continuum. Consequently, the problem is to select an appropriate series of statements and to determine what position on the attitude continuum each statement represent.
In order to solve this problem, Thurstone collected a list of statements from several sources like newspaper articles, legislature proceedings on issues, pamphlets opinions of colleagues, etc. The important thing is that these statements should represent all the various standpoints from complete acceptance to complete rejection.
Generally, about 200-300 statements will have to be collected in order to prepare an attitude scale according to this method. The next step is to edit these statements. Several statements which are not very pertinent to the issue under consideration or which are ambiguous or duplicate could be eliminated. It is important to see that each statement is a reflection of opinion and not a fact.
The statements should be simply short, complete, definite and direct so that they could be accepted or rejected. The next step is to arrange these statements from extremely favourable to extremely unfavourable continuum, they should also be arranged in equal appearing intervals so that a scale resembling a footrule could be constructed.
In order to do this, Thurstone followed the procedure of getting each statement typed on a slip of paper. He got several people to serve as judges and each was asked to sort the slips of paper in 9 to 11 groups. For example, if we do not take up statements expressing our attitude towards prohibition or language issue, we can collect hundreds of statements involving definite opinions all the way from complete acceptance to complete rejection.
The judges could be asked to sort the statement in such a way that all those who express the greatest appreciation of prohibition are put into one pile and at the other end all those statements expressing the strongest disapproval of prohibition could be filled up as the 9th or 11th pile as the case may be, then the other statements could be classified in between these two depending on the degree of appreciation or depreciation of the prohibition.
Each judge is now trying to sort these statements purely on a basis of whether the statement is favourable or unfavourable regarding the issue. The judge is not thinking about his own preference.
Now further they are asked to distribute them into 9 or 11 piles so that the intervals are appearing equally spaced throughout the range of the attitude continuum. Thurstone used as many as 300 judges. But studies have shown that reliable evaluation can be obtained with about 20 or 30 judges.
After getting, the judges classify the statements into the various piles the next step is to find out the median value of each statement. After determining the median value for each statement, the real problem is broken into a small number of statements representing each value position along the attitude continuum. Roughly about 20-25 items which are ambiguous or irrelevant to the continuum are eliminated.
Finally, the scaled attitude’s test is administered and the respondent is asked to check these statements with which he is in agreement (his score in the media of the scale values of the items that he has checked). Thus the subject is required to indicate his agreement or disagreement with each statement.