1. Define attitude. Discuss the components of an attitude.
Answer : Attitude is the tendency to react positively or negatively to a person or circumstances and can be defined as state of the mind, a set of views, or thoughts, regarding some topic which have an evaluative feature (positive, negative or neutral quality).
Attitude have three components:
(i) The thought component is referred to as the cognitive aspect: It consists of belief, ideas, values and other information that a person may possess or has faith in. It makes little difference if the information is correct or incorrect.
(ii) The emotional component is known as the affective aspect: It is related to person’s feelings about another person, which may be positive, negative or neutral.
(iii) The tendency to act is called the behavioural (or conative) aspect: It is related to impact of various situations or objects that lead to individual’s behaviour based on cognitive and affective components. Only this components of attitude is visible.
These three aspects have been referred to as the A-B-C components (Affective-Behavioural-Cognitive components) of attitude. This can be understood by the following example:
Suppose a group of people in our neighbourhood start a tree plantation campaign as part of a ‘green environment’ movement. Based on sufficient information about the environment, our view towards a ‘green environment’ is positive (cognitive or ‘C’ component, along with the evaluative aspect). We feel very happy when we see greenery. We feel sad and angry when we see trees being cut down. These aspects reflect the affective (emotional), or ‘A’ component of the same attitude. Now suppose we also actively participate in the tree plantation campaign. This shows the behavioural or ‘B’ component of our attitudes towards a ‘green environment’.
2. Are attitudes learnt? Explain how?
Answer : Yes, attitudes are learnt through one's own experience and through interaction with others. There are also some sort of inborn aspect of attitudes, but such genetic factors influence attitudes only indirectly, along with learning. The processes and conditions of learning may be different, resulting in varying attitudes among people.
(i) Learning attitudes by association: Some students often develop a liking for a particular subject because of the teacher. This is because they see many positive qualities in that teacher; these positive qualities get linked to the subject that s/he teaches, and ultimately get expressed in the form of liking for the subject. In other words, a positive attitude towards the subject is learned through the positive
association between a teacher and a student.
(ii) Learning attitudes by being rewarded or punished: If an individual is praised for showing a particular attitude, chances are high that s/he will develop that attitude further. For example, if a
teenager does yogasanas regularly, and gets the honour of being ‘Miss Good Health’ in her school, she may develop a positive attitude towards yoga and health in general. Similarly, if a child constantly falls ill because s/he eats junk food instead of proper meals, then the child is likely to develop a negative attitude towards junk food, and also a positive attitude towards eating healthy food.
(iii) Learning attitudes through modelling (observing others) : Often it is not through association, or through reward and punishment, that we learn attitudes. Instead, we learn them by observing others being rewarded or punished for expressing thoughts, or showing behaviour of a particular kind
towards the attitude object. For example, children may form a respectful attitude towards elders, by observing that their parents show respect for elders, and are appreciated for it.
(iv) Learning attitudes through group or cultural norms: Very often, we learn attitudes through the norms of our group or culture. Norms are unwritten rules about behaviour that everyone is supposed to show under specific circumstances. Over time, these norms may become part of our social cognition, in the form of attitudes. Learning attitudes through group or cultural norms may actually be an example of all three forms of learning i.e. learning through association, reward or punishment, and modelling.
(v) Learning through exposure to information: Many attitudes are learned in a social context, but not necessarily in the physical presence of others. Today, with the huge amount of information that is being provided through various media, both positive and negative attitudes are being formed. By reading the biographies of self-actualised persons, an individual may develop a positive attitude towards hard work and other aspects as the means of achieving success in life.
3. What are the factors that influence the formation of an attitude?
Answer : The following factors provide the context for the learning of attitude through various processes:
(i) Family and School Environment: Parents and other family-members play a significant role in attitude formation. Learning of attitudes within the family and school usually takes place by association, through rewards and punishment and through modelling.
(ii) Reference Groups: Attitudes towards political, religious and social groups, occupations, national and other issues are often developed through reference groups. Reference groups indicate to an individual the norms regarding acceptable behaviour and ways of thinking. Various institutions, religion, culture and communities are form of reference groups.
(iii) Personal Experiences: Many attitudes are formed, not in the family environment or through reference groups, but through direct personal experiences which bring about a drastic change in our attitude towards people and our own life.
(iv) Media Related Influences: Technological advances have made audio-visual media and internet as very powerful sources for attitude formation. School textbooks also influence attitude formation. The media can be used to create consumerist attitude. The media can exert both good and bad influences on attitudes.
4. Is behaviour always a reflection of one’s attitude? Explain with a relevant example.
Answer : It usually expected behaviour to follow logically from attitudes. However, an individual’s attitudes may not always be exhibited through behaviour. Likewise, one’s actual behaviour may be contrary to one’s attitude towards a particular topic.
It also have found that there would be consistency between attitudes and behaviour when:
(i) The attitude is strong, and occupies a central place in the attitude system,
(ii) the person is aware of her/his attitude,
(iii) There is very little or no external pressure for the person to behave in a particular way. For example, when there is no group pressure to follow a particular norm.
(iv) The person’s behaviour is not being watched or evaluated by others, and
(v) The person thinks that the behaviour would have a positive consequence, and therefore, intends to engage in that behaviour.
In the days when Americans were said to be prejudiced against the Chinese, Richard LaPiere, an American social psychologist, conducted the following study. He asked a Chinese couple to travel across the United States, and stay in different hotels. Only once during these occasions they were refused service by one of the hotels. Sometime later, LaPiere sent out questionnaires to managers of hotels and tourist homes in the same areas where the Chinese couple had travelled, asking them if they would give accommodation to Chinese guests. A very large percentage said that they would not do so. This response showed a negative attitude towards the Chinese, which was inconsistent with the positive behaviour that was actually shown towards the travelling Chinese couple. Thus, attitudes may not always predict actual pattern of one’s behaviour.
5. Highlight the importance of schemas in social cognition.
Answer : A schema is defined as a mental structure that provides a framework, set of rules or guidelines for processing information about any object. Schemas (or ‘schemata’) are the basic units stored in our memory, and function as shorthand ways of processing information, thus reducing the time and mental effort required in cognition.
In the case of social cognition, the basic units are social schemas. Some attitudes may also function like social schemas. We use many different schemas, and come to know about them through analysis and examples.
Most of the schemas are in the form of categories or classes. Schemas that function in the form of categories are called prototypes, which are the entire set of features or qualities that help us to define an object completely. In social cognition, category-based schemas that are related to groups of people are called stereotypes. These are category-based schemas that are overgeneralised, are not directly verified, and do not allow for exceptions. For example, suppose you have to define a group G. If you have never directly known or interacted with a member of this group, you will most likely use your ‘general knowledge’ about the typical member of group G. To that information you will add your likes and dislikes. If you have heard more positive things about group G, then your social schema about the whole group will be more positive than negative. On the other hand, if you have heard more negative things about group G, your social schema will be in the form of a negative stereotype.
6. Differentiate between prejudice and stereotype.
Answer : Prejudices are examples of attitudes towards a particular group. They are usually negative, and in many cases, may be based on stereotypes (the cognitive component) about the specific group while stereotype is a cluster of ideas regarding the characteristics of a specific group.
Prejudice generally based on ethnicity, race, gender, caste and the like who mostly tend to show negative feelings towards people belonging to other groups while Stereotype described as classifying people based on their membership in a particular group, based on a certain preconceived belief which can be negative, positive or neutral and can be based on factors like gender, ethnicity, occupation etc.
Stereotypes consist of undesirable characteristics about the target group, and they lead to negative attitudes or prejudices towards members of specific groups. The cognitive component of prejudice is frequently accompanied by dislike or hatred, the affective component while Prejudice may also get translated into discrimination, the behavioural component, whereby people behave in a less positive way towards a particular target group compared to another group which they favour.
Prejudice is not based on a truth and usually originates from the lack of knowledge about a certain group of people while stereotype might be based on a truth. However, a stereotype can originate from prejudice.