- Attitude is defined differently by social psychologists. "An attitude is a mental and neural state of readiness, organised through experience, exerting a directive or dynamic influence upon the individual's response to ill objects and situations with which it is associated," wrote Gordon Allport.
- In simple words, Attitude is a way of looking at any situation and deciding, either consciously or unconsciously – how we relate it to ourselves and others. It can be something to do with our personality and experience. The significant positive attitudes include being frank, confident, jealous, respectful, sincere, honest, hard working, faithful, loving, flexible, humble, helping, independent, sympathetic, hard working etc.
- Attitude pertains to our feelings, beliefs and behaviour predispositions directed towards people, groups, ideas or objects. Attitudes will always have a positive and negative element and have a tendency to behave in a certain way toward that person or object. Attitudes are formed primarily based on underlying values and beliefs.
- Beliefs are acquired through real experiences but the original experience related to a particular belief is mostly forgotten. It affects the quality of our work and relationships because we experience what we believe and it is not based on reality. Beliefs govern our experiences. They are an essential part of our identity. They may be religious, cultural or moral. Beliefs reflect who we are and how we live our lives.
Why it is important to cultivate the Right Attitude in our lives?
Attitude defines life and life defines attitude. Dalai Lama has said: If you can cultivate the right attitude, your enemies are your best spiritual teachers because their presence provides you with the opportunity to enhance and develop tolerance, patience and understanding.
Attitude makes a big difference in our lives. One may have high IQ and a sharp logical mind, but both are rendered useless without the right attitude. Without a right attitude, one will be like a misdirected rocket reaching the wrong destination. Our right attitude can empower us.
➤ Structure of Attitude
An attitude is made up of three interconnected components: cognitions, emotions and behaviours.
- Cognitive Component
Our thoughts and beliefs about the subject.
- Emotional Component
How the object, person, issue or event makes us feel.
- Behavioural Component
How the attitude influences our behaviours. There is a sub-component viz. behavioural predisposition.
An attitude involves a predisposition respond or a behavioural tendency toward the object. "It's boring" implies a tendency to avoid the class. "I like my job" suggests an intention to go to work. People with specific attitudes are inclined to behave in certain ways consistent with that attitude.
A change in one component of an attitude structure might lead to changes in the others because an attitude structure is dynamic, with each component influencing the others.
➤ Attitudes and Beliefs
Attitude refers to feelings, beliefs and behaviour predispositions directed towards people, groups, ideas or objects. Attitudes will always have a positive and negative element and tend to behave in a certain way toward that person or object. Attitudes are formed primarily based on underlying values and beliefs.
Beliefs are acquired through real experiences but the original experience related to a particular belief is mostly forgotten. It affects the quality of our work and relationships because we experience what we believe and it is not based on reality. Beliefs govern our experiences. They are an important part of our identity. They may be religious, cultural or moral. Beliefs reflect who we are and how we live our lives.
➤ Implicit and explicit attitude
Attitudes can also be explicit and implicit. Explicit attitudes are those that we are consciously aware of and that clearly influence our behaviours and beliefs. Implicit attitudes are unconscious, but still have an effect on our beliefs and behaviours.
➤ Functions of Attitudes
Altitudes serve several important functions.
- Our attitude defines us. It gives an up-front statement about which we really are or would like others to think who we are.
- Attitudes direct our future feelings and thoughts about the objects of those feelings and thoughts. Attitudes are cognitive structures that guide perception and help us fill the gaps when information is lacking.
- Attitudes summarize our feelings, thoughts, intentions, and behaviour, helping us respond.
- Attitudes lead us to value objects that help us reach our goals.
- Altitudes serve a helps us to make sense out of the world by categorizing objects and people is knowledge function.
- Stereotypes are often associated with intense emotions which can sometimes lead to intergroup conflict.
- As a value-expressive function, it helps in expressing our values.
- Attitudes serve an ego-defensive function when they protect us against our fears and anxieties.
- Heuristic Function: We develop favourable attitude towards an attitude that aids or rewards us and unfavourable attitude towards that punishes or thwarts us. It provides a simple and efficient way of evaluating objects.
- Attitude maintains self-worth and defines the self and they express individual’s basic values and reinforce his/her self- image.
- Finally some attitudes protect the person from recognising certain thoughts and feelings that threaten his self-image or adjustment.
➤ Formation of Attitude
Attitude formation refers to a drift from no attitude towards an object to some positive or negative attitude.
Sources of Attitude Formation
A range of mechanisms for attitude formation are involved. Most important among them are mere exposure, direct experiences and social learning. Mere exposure means that simply being exposed to an object increases our feelings, usually positive, toward that object. Second way of formation of attitude is through direct personal experience. It has the power to create and change attitudes. This is stronger factor in forming the attitude and is likely to affect behaviours strongly.
Which source is stronger?
Direct experience continues to form and shape our attitudes throughout life. Attitudes formed from direct experience are stronger because they are readily available and called on quickly by our consciousness.
➤ Classical Conditioning, Operant Conditioning & Observational learning
Attitudes can also be learned in a variety of ways such as Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning. The advertisers use classical conditioning to influence our attitude toward a particular product. One example of classical conditioning in TV commercials is Axe: Men’s Hair, Deodorant, Body Spray, and Shower Gel Products. These advertisements prey on the human desire for passion, sex, and love. The advertisements represent ‘The Axe Effect’ showing a man being fawn over by one or multiple women. People learn attitudes by observing the people around them. When someone you admire greatly espouses a particular attitude, you are more likely to develop the same beliefs. For example, children spend a great deal of time observing their parents' attitudes and usually begin to demonstrate similar outlooks.
Operant conditioning can also be used to influence how attitudes develop. For example, children complete homework to earn a reward from a parent or teacher; or finish projects to receive praise or promotions. It can also be used to develop negative attitude.
➤ Examples of Classical Conditioning
- Every time someone flushes a toilet in the apartment building, the shower becomes very hot and causes the person to jump back. Over time, the person begins to jump back automatically after hearing the flush, before the water temperature changes.
- You eat a new food and then get sick because of the flu. However, you develop a dislike for the food and feel nauseated whenever you smell it.
- An individual receives frequent injections of drugs, which are administered in a small examination room at a clinic. The drug itself causes increased heart rate but after several trips to the clinic, simply being in a small room causes an increased heart rate.
➤ Examples of Operant Conditioning
- Your father gives you a credit card at the end of your first year in college because you did so well. As a result, your grades continue to get better in your second year.
- Your car has a red, flashing light that blinks annoyingly if you start the car without buckling the seat belt. You become less likely to start the car without buckling the seat belt.
- A lion in a circus learns to stand up on a chair and jump through a hoop to receive a food treat.
➤ Influence of Attitude on Behaviour
People behave following their attitudes. Our attitudes develop over time and reflect where we have come from and how we will proceed with our life in the future. Therefore, attitudes are a powerful element in our life, are long enduring and hard to change easily.
However, attitudes and actual behaviours are not always perfectly aligned. The degree of influence begins with the assumption that we behave following our conscious intentions. They are based, on our rational calculations about the potential effects of our attitude towards our behaviour and about how other people will feel about it.
People are more likely to behave according to their attitudes under certain conditions such as _
- When our attitudes are the result of personal experience.
- When we are an expert in the subject.
- When we expect a favourable outcome.
- When the attitudes are repeatedly expressed.
- When we stand to win or lose something due to the issue.
In some cases, people may actually alter their attitudes in order to align them with their behaviours better.
Cognitive dissonance is a phenomenon in which a person experiences psychological distress due to conflicting thoughts or beliefs. In order to reduce this tension, people may change their attitudes to reflect their other beliefs or actual behaviours.
➤ Process of Attitude Change
Attitudes are dynamic and influences which form the attitude can also change the attitude. Thus, there are three theories on change of attitude:
- Learning Theory of Attitude Change
Classical conditioning, operant conditioning and observational learning can be used to bring about attitude change. Classical conditioning can be used to create positive emotional reactions to an object, person or event by associating positive feelings with the target object. Operant conditioning can be used to strengthen desirable attitudes and weaken undesirable ones. People can also change their attitudes after observing the behaviours of others.
- Elaboration Likelihood Theory of Attitude Change
This theory of persuasion suggests that people can alter their attitudes in two ways. First, they can be motivated to listen and think about the message, thus leading to an attitude shift. Or, they might be influenced by the speaker's characteristics, leading to a temporary or surface shift in attitude. Messages that are thought-provoking and that appeal to logic are more likely to lead to permanent changes in attitudes.
- Dissonance Theory of Attitude Change
As mentioned earlier, people can also change their attitudes when they have conflicting beliefs about a topic. In order to reduce the tension created by these incompatible beliefs, people often shift their perspectives.
- Attitude is learned, formed, can be changed, and be reformed. Learning can account for most of the attitudes we hold. The study of attitude formation is how people form evaluations of persons, places, things, objects, matters and issues. Unlike personality, attitudes are expected to change as a function of experience. In addition, exposure to the 'attitude' objects may affect how a person forms his or her attitude. This concept was seen as the "Mere-Exposure Effect".
- According to some experts, people are more likely to have a positive attitude on 'attitude objects' when they were exposed to it frequently than if they were not. Mere repeated exposure of the individual to a stimulus is a sufficient condition for the enhancement of his attitude toward it. Some of how attitude is formed are:
- Classical conditioning: If we witness the same input over a long time, then we become habituated to that input in certain ways.
- Instrumental conditioning: We may also develop a certain attitude depending on the reward system or punishment system. Consistently rewarding someone showing respect towards the elders versus punishing him/her whenever they show disrespect will be instrumental in developing a positive attitude of respect.
- Social learning: We also observe other people performing some actions and by observation, we learn their conduct. It depends on many things:
- Likeability of the observed person - For example, if we positively identify with someone then we are likely to adopt his attitude (fan following, etc.).
- The system of reward or punishment faced by the observed person. For example, seeing someone get punished for violating traffic rules, we are likely to develop a negative attitude for violation, i.e. a positive attitude for following them. Else, if someone is rewarded for crime (such as a criminal getting elected), then we are likely to develop the attitude held by such a person. For example, if someone cracks the civil services examination by reading a book 'X', an aspirant will likely develop a positive attitude towards that book. On the other hand, the maxim of 'nothing is illegal until you get caught' is one of the major factors why people do not follow lawful instructions given to them and break the rules with impunity.
Attitude formation or learning is a lifelong process, as it is based on experiences we gather or the lessons we learn from people around us. These people are the agencies of attitude formation. These agencies include:
- Family: From family we learn important lessons of our life. Family is also instrumental in imparting and developing values, which are nothing but generalized attitudes. For example, we learn discipline and build time management foundation, a crucial aspect of attitude from home.
- Peer Group: It comprises our friends and persons of our age group. These people are important in inculcating the values competition, etc. Peers are important in delineating the path of career development. Moreover, we develop attitude consistent with our friends' held for adaptation in the group.
- School or education institutions: These are important agencies for the inculcation of attitude of excellence, competition, punctuality, and overall attitude towards life.
- Role models: These are those we like and identify positively. Different persons have different role models, like one person may have his father as his role model, for some it may be someone prominent in the liked field, etc. We try to imitate our role models, along with their attitudes. Please note that being an expert in a field is not necessarily sufficient for being a role model. A role model is someone who is able to inspire by his/her actions. The people who are prominent in the field, who have mass liking are generally those who are considered as role models. For example, Stephen Hawking- he was an expert in Physics and someone who has inspired millions to take interest in the subject through his books, lectures, and life in general.
- It means the action or process of persuading someone or of being persuaded to do or believe something. Persuasion is an umbrella term of influence, which can influence a person's beliefs, attitudes, intentions, motivations, or behaviours. It is a process aimed at changing a person's (or a group's) attitude or behaviour towards some event, idea, object, or another person (s), by using written or spoken words to convey information, feelings, or reasoning, or a combination thereof.
- It is also an often used tool in the pursuit of personal gain, such as election campaigning, giving a sales pitch, or in trial advocacy. It can also be interpreted as using one's personal or positional resources to change people's behaviours or attitudes.
- Formation and change of attitude are not two separate things - they are interwoven. People are always adopting, modifying or relinquishing attitudes to fit their ever changing needs and interests. Acceptance of new attitudes depends on who is the communicator, how the communication is presented, how the communication is perceived by the message receiver, the credibility of the communicator, and the conditions under which the knowledge was received.
➤ Attitudes change when:
- A person receives new information from others or media - Cognitive change
- Through direct experience with the attitude object - Affective change
- Force a person to behave in a way different than normal - Behavioural change
Functions that can be Performed with Persuasion
The persuader needs to select a purpose that is realistic for his/her audience.
Five general purposes of persuasion are listed below.
- Create uncertainty: When an audience is strongly opposed to the persuader's view, the best that may be possible for the persuader is to make the audience a little less certain they are right, a little less comfortable with their current attitude.
- Reduce resistance: If the audience is moderately opposed to the persuader's position but not closed-minded, the persuader may be able to reduce opposition to his/her view and move the audience toward neutrality. While not expecting a reversal of views this goal asks the audience to recognize the validity of opinions different from their own.
- Change attitude: If the audience is not committed, especially strongly, to any attitude on the topic this goal is appropriate.
- Amplify attitude: If the audience is already moderately favourable to the persuader's view, he/she can design a message which will reinforce current attitudes in the audience, help the audience resist appeals from opponents, and motivate the members of the audience to become strongly committed to his/her position.
- Gain behaviour: When an audience strongly favours the persuader's position, the logical goal is to get them to act on their convictions.
Systematic persuasion is the process through which appeals leverage attitudes or beliefs to logic and reason. Heuristic persuasion, on the other hand, appeals to habit or emotion leverage the process through which attitudes or beliefs.
Experimental research reveals that factors that affect the persuasiveness of a message include:
- Target Characteristics: These are characteristics of the person who receives and processes a message. For example, intelligent people are less likely to be persuaded by one-sided messages or recognise when someone is making exaggerated claims. Sometimes, rather than being attracted towards an opinion, they may be repulsed further on recognising underlying hollowness of claims.
Similarly, self-esteem is another characteristic of the receiver. Although it is sometimes thought that those higher in self-esteem are less easily persuaded, there is some evidence that the relationship between self-esteem and persuasibility (the ability to be persuaded) is actually curvilinear, i.e. people at both ends of the spectrum of self-esteem are difficult to persuade whereas people in the middle are relatively easier. However, self-esteem is difficult to measure objectively.
High self-esteem can be because of arrogance and such people may well be stubborn. Low self-esteem can be because of multiple reasons like loss or defeat or ridicule by others. Such people may become immune to persuasion because they may train themselves to be ignorant- not just of people who ridicule them but also of other well-intentioned people.
- Source Characteristics: These include characteristics of the person trying to persuade someone else. For example, expertise, trustworthiness and interpersonal attraction or attractiveness are some traits which make persuasion effective.
The credibility of a perceived message has been found to be a key variable here; if one reads a health report and believes it came from a professional medical journal, one may be more easily persuaded than if one believes it is just a word of mouth. Credibility depends upon the expertise and trustworthiness of the source delivering the message. Similarly, celebrities are used in ad campaigns because of, among other things, their attractiveness.
- Message Characteristics: The nature of the message plays a role in persuasion. Sometimes presenting both sides of a story is useful to help change attitudes. When people are not motivated to process the message, simply the number of arguments presented in a persuasive message will influence attitude change, such that a greater number of arguments will produce greater attitude change.
Similarly, message presented neatly in a lucid and comprehensible manner can produce a greater change than one presented in a complex, difficult to understand manner. For example, a mass political leader is generally also a good orator- meaning that he/she is able to get the message clearly to the audience. It is not just his/her own personality that contributes to this but also how succinctly he/she puts across the message.
- Cognitive Routes: Effectiveness of a message also depends on whether a person's cognitive senses are invoked or not. If a person is made to think and arrive at a conclusion by self, then the message can be delivered more effectively. This is appealing to an individual's cognitive evaluation. Academically, this is categorised into two routes: central and peripheral.
- In the central route to persuasion the individual is presented with the data and motivated to evaluate the data and arrive at an attitude changing conclusion. Persuasion will likely result from a person's careful and thoughtful consideration of the true merits of the information presented in support of an advocacy. The results of attitude change will be relatively enduring, resistant, and predictive of behaviour.
- The peripheral route to attitude change is used when the message recipient has little or no interest in the subject and/or has a lesser ability to process the message. Being at the low end of the elaboration continuum, recipients do not examine the information as thoroughly. With the peripheral route, they are more likely to rely on general impressions (e.g. "this feels right/good"), early parts of the message, their own mood, positive and negative cues of the persuasion context, etc. The individual is encouraged to not look at the content but at the source. Credibility is a low-effort and somewhat reliable way to answer what to decide and/or believe without having to put in much work to think it through. This is commonly seen in modern advertisements that feature celebrities. This relies on a crucial aspect of an individual - that they are 'cognitive misers' and tend to use shortcuts and rely on heuristics (i.e. quick problem solving rather than detailed/analytical process).
➤ Steps in Persuasion Process
- Establish credibility: Credibility grows out of expertise and relationships. A persuader needs strong emotional characteristics and integrity. The need to listen carefully to other people's suggestions and establish an atmosphere where their opinions are valued.
- Framing common goal with colleagues: Effective persuader must be adept at describing the position in terms that illuminate the person's point advantages that he/ she is trying to persuade. It is a process of identifying shared benefits. This requires conversations to collect essential information by asking thoughtful questions. This process will often prompt to alter the initial argument or include compromises.
- Reinforce positions with vivid language and compelling evidence: Persuasion requires presentation of evidence — strong data in multiple forms (stories, graphs, images, metaphors and examples). Persuaders need to make positions come alive by using vivid language that complements graphics.
- Connecting emotionally with audiences: Good persuaders are aware of primacy of emotions and are responsive to them. They know how to maintain a balance between professionalism and their own emotional commitment to their advocating position. Their connection to their audience demonstrates both intellectual and emotional commitment to their position.
Successful persuaders cultivate an accurate sense of their audience's emotional state, and they adjust their arguments accordingly. Whatever their position, they must match their emotional fervour to their audience's ability to receive their message.
➤ Effective Persuasion
Everyone is susceptible to being persuaded; persuasion is a process whose objective is to change a person's attitude and/or behaviour towards an idea, event, person or an object. Broadly speaking effective persuasion should have desirable source (having credibility), desirable message characteristics (having fear, rational, and emotional appeals). In more detail, persuasion to be effective must have following things:
- Establish a common ground: The persuader should establish positive rapport with target people.
- Point out the benefits: Persuader should highlight the major benefits of changed behaviour or attitude. However, the persuader should avoid trying to push for the change, as it will make him look desperate.
- Turn objections into strengths: Objections to change are natural but the persuader should turn them into opportunities. For this he may agree with the prospect's objection and then illustrate how the proposed change easily overcomes it.
- Commitment and consistency: Persuader should try to get the target section (prospect) to believe in something small or take a small action first. Once committed, the prospect will most likely agree to a larger idea later. This technique employs the fact that people tend to behave consistently, once they take a stand, they will act in ways consistent to the decision as a means of defending and justifying it. Rationality commands an innate appeal to the human mind.
- Use the reciprocity principle: The principle implies that when someone does something for us we feel obliged to return the favour. This may include appropriately rewarding the target population for the changed behaviour/attitude. This helps in strengthening and sustaining the change.
- Social proof technique: People tend to follow others (bandwagon effect) more so when they don't have sufficient information to make the decision on their own. This technique will involve you telling the target population that other people are getting benefits from the suggested change, with empirical evidence. For this the persuader may invoke the examples of some well-known personality. For example, in campaigning against female feticide in Haryana we may invoke the examples of some female sportspersons who have won laurels, S. Nehwal in Badminton, or Kangana Ranaut in Bollywood etc.
- Scarcity: This involves letting people know that they stand to lose on a chance to get the benefits out of the proposed change.