NCERT Textbook - Attitude and Social Cognition Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

Psychology Class 12

Humanities/Arts : NCERT Textbook - Attitude and Social Cognition Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

 Page 1


Psychology
106
AT AT
AT AT ATTITUDE AND SOCIAL COGNITION TITUDE AND SOCIAL COGNITION
TITUDE AND SOCIAL COGNITION TITUDE AND SOCIAL COGNITION TITUDE AND SOCIAL COGNITION
Introduction
Explaining Social Behaviour
Nature and Components of Attitudes
A ‘Green Environment’ : The A-B-C Components of an
Attitude (Box 6.1)
Attitude Formation and Change
Attitude Formation
Attitude Change
Telling a Lie for Twenty Dollars (Box 6.2)
Attitude-Behaviour Relationship
Prejudice and Discrimination
Strategies for Handling Prejudice
Social Cognition
Schemas and Stereotypes
Impression Formation and Explaining
Behaviour of Others through Attributions
Impression Formation
Attribution of Causality
Behaviour in the Presence of Others
Pro-social Behaviour
Factors Affecting Pro-social Behaviour
CONTENTS
Key Terms
Summary
Review Questions
Project Ideas
Weblinks
Pedagogical Hints
After reading this chapter, you would be able to:
understand what are attitudes, how they are formed and changed,
analyse how people interpret and explain the behaviour of others,
comprehend how the presence of others influences our behaviour,
explain why people help or do not help others in distress, and
understand the concept of pro-social behaviour and factors affecting it.
Page 2


Psychology
106
AT AT
AT AT ATTITUDE AND SOCIAL COGNITION TITUDE AND SOCIAL COGNITION
TITUDE AND SOCIAL COGNITION TITUDE AND SOCIAL COGNITION TITUDE AND SOCIAL COGNITION
Introduction
Explaining Social Behaviour
Nature and Components of Attitudes
A ‘Green Environment’ : The A-B-C Components of an
Attitude (Box 6.1)
Attitude Formation and Change
Attitude Formation
Attitude Change
Telling a Lie for Twenty Dollars (Box 6.2)
Attitude-Behaviour Relationship
Prejudice and Discrimination
Strategies for Handling Prejudice
Social Cognition
Schemas and Stereotypes
Impression Formation and Explaining
Behaviour of Others through Attributions
Impression Formation
Attribution of Causality
Behaviour in the Presence of Others
Pro-social Behaviour
Factors Affecting Pro-social Behaviour
CONTENTS
Key Terms
Summary
Review Questions
Project Ideas
Weblinks
Pedagogical Hints
After reading this chapter, you would be able to:
understand what are attitudes, how they are formed and changed,
analyse how people interpret and explain the behaviour of others,
comprehend how the presence of others influences our behaviour,
explain why people help or do not help others in distress, and
understand the concept of pro-social behaviour and factors affecting it.
Chapter 6 • Attitude and Social Cognition
107
EXPLAINING SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR
Social behaviour is a necessary part of
human life, and being social means much
more than merely being in the company of
others. You may recall from what you
studied in Class XI that social psychology
deals with all behaviour that takes place in
the actual, imagined, or implied presence
of others. Take this simple example: if you
have to memorise a poem and recite it, you
may have no problem in doing this when
you are by yourself.  But if you have to recite
this poem to an audience, your performance
might get influenced, because you are now
in a social situation.  Even imagining that
people are listening to your recitation
(although they may not be physically
present) may change your performance.
This is just one example that demonstrates
how our social environment influences our
thoughts, emotions and behaviour in
complex ways. Social psychologists examine
various forms of social behaviour, and try
to explain their basis. Because of social
influences, people form views, or attitudes
about people, and about different issues in
life, that exist in the form of behavioural
tendencies.  When we meet people, we make
inferences about their personal qualities.
This is called impression formation. We
are also interested in why people behave in
Social psychology is that branch of psychology which investigates how the
behaviour of individuals is affected by others and the social environment.
All of us form attitudes, or ways of thinking about specific topics and people.
We also form impressions about persons we meet, and assign causes to
their behaviour. Besides, our own behaviour gets influenced by other
individuals and groups. In some situations, people show pro-social
behaviour , that is, helping the needy and the distressed, without expecting
anything in return.  Many of these social behaviours seem to be simple. Yet,
explaining the processes that lie behind these behaviours is a complex matter .
This chapter will describe the basic ideas related to attitudes, social cognition
and pro-social behaviour as explained by social psychologists.
Introduction
the ways they do — that is, we assign causes
to the behaviour shown in specific social
situations. This process is called
attribution. Very often, impression
formation and attributions are influenced
by attitudes. These three processes are
examples of mental activities related to the
gathering and interpretation of information
about the social world, collectively called
social cognition. Moreover, social cognition
is activated by cognitive units called
schemas. Cognitive processes cannot be
directly seen; they have to be inferred on
the basis of externally shown behaviour.
There are other examples of social influence
that are in the form of observable behaviour.
Two such examples are social facilitation/
inhibition, i.e. the improvement/decline in
performance in the presence of others, and
helping, or pro-social behaviour, i.e.
responding to others who are in need or
distress.  In order to understand completely
how the social context influences the
individual, it is necessary to study both
social-cognitive processes and social
behaviour.  Social psychologists have shown
that one must go beyond common sense
and folk wisdom in order to explain how
people observe and make sense of their own
and others’ diverse behaviours. Through
systematic and objective observations, and
by adopting scientific methods, it is possible
Page 3


Psychology
106
AT AT
AT AT ATTITUDE AND SOCIAL COGNITION TITUDE AND SOCIAL COGNITION
TITUDE AND SOCIAL COGNITION TITUDE AND SOCIAL COGNITION TITUDE AND SOCIAL COGNITION
Introduction
Explaining Social Behaviour
Nature and Components of Attitudes
A ‘Green Environment’ : The A-B-C Components of an
Attitude (Box 6.1)
Attitude Formation and Change
Attitude Formation
Attitude Change
Telling a Lie for Twenty Dollars (Box 6.2)
Attitude-Behaviour Relationship
Prejudice and Discrimination
Strategies for Handling Prejudice
Social Cognition
Schemas and Stereotypes
Impression Formation and Explaining
Behaviour of Others through Attributions
Impression Formation
Attribution of Causality
Behaviour in the Presence of Others
Pro-social Behaviour
Factors Affecting Pro-social Behaviour
CONTENTS
Key Terms
Summary
Review Questions
Project Ideas
Weblinks
Pedagogical Hints
After reading this chapter, you would be able to:
understand what are attitudes, how they are formed and changed,
analyse how people interpret and explain the behaviour of others,
comprehend how the presence of others influences our behaviour,
explain why people help or do not help others in distress, and
understand the concept of pro-social behaviour and factors affecting it.
Chapter 6 • Attitude and Social Cognition
107
EXPLAINING SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR
Social behaviour is a necessary part of
human life, and being social means much
more than merely being in the company of
others. You may recall from what you
studied in Class XI that social psychology
deals with all behaviour that takes place in
the actual, imagined, or implied presence
of others. Take this simple example: if you
have to memorise a poem and recite it, you
may have no problem in doing this when
you are by yourself.  But if you have to recite
this poem to an audience, your performance
might get influenced, because you are now
in a social situation.  Even imagining that
people are listening to your recitation
(although they may not be physically
present) may change your performance.
This is just one example that demonstrates
how our social environment influences our
thoughts, emotions and behaviour in
complex ways. Social psychologists examine
various forms of social behaviour, and try
to explain their basis. Because of social
influences, people form views, or attitudes
about people, and about different issues in
life, that exist in the form of behavioural
tendencies.  When we meet people, we make
inferences about their personal qualities.
This is called impression formation. We
are also interested in why people behave in
Social psychology is that branch of psychology which investigates how the
behaviour of individuals is affected by others and the social environment.
All of us form attitudes, or ways of thinking about specific topics and people.
We also form impressions about persons we meet, and assign causes to
their behaviour. Besides, our own behaviour gets influenced by other
individuals and groups. In some situations, people show pro-social
behaviour , that is, helping the needy and the distressed, without expecting
anything in return.  Many of these social behaviours seem to be simple. Yet,
explaining the processes that lie behind these behaviours is a complex matter .
This chapter will describe the basic ideas related to attitudes, social cognition
and pro-social behaviour as explained by social psychologists.
Introduction
the ways they do — that is, we assign causes
to the behaviour shown in specific social
situations. This process is called
attribution. Very often, impression
formation and attributions are influenced
by attitudes. These three processes are
examples of mental activities related to the
gathering and interpretation of information
about the social world, collectively called
social cognition. Moreover, social cognition
is activated by cognitive units called
schemas. Cognitive processes cannot be
directly seen; they have to be inferred on
the basis of externally shown behaviour.
There are other examples of social influence
that are in the form of observable behaviour.
Two such examples are social facilitation/
inhibition, i.e. the improvement/decline in
performance in the presence of others, and
helping, or pro-social behaviour, i.e.
responding to others who are in need or
distress.  In order to understand completely
how the social context influences the
individual, it is necessary to study both
social-cognitive processes and social
behaviour.  Social psychologists have shown
that one must go beyond common sense
and folk wisdom in order to explain how
people observe and make sense of their own
and others’ diverse behaviours. Through
systematic and objective observations, and
by adopting scientific methods, it is possible
Psychology
108
to establish logical cause-and-effect
relationships that explain social behaviour.
This chapter will give an account of the
fundamental aspects of the topics
mentioned above. We will begin with a
description of attitudes.
NATURE AND COMPONENTS OF ATTITUDES
For a few minutes quietly do the following
mental exercise. Today, how many times did
you tell yourself : “In my opinion…” or
“Others may say so and so, but I feel…”?
What you fill in the blanks are called
opinions.  Now continue the exercise : how
important are these opinions to you? The
topics of some of these opinions may be only
moderately important to you; they are
simply ways of thinking, and it does not
matter much to you that others agree or
disagree with your views. On the other
hand, you may find that some other topics
are extremely important to you. If someone
opposes or challenges your views about
these topics, you get emotional. You may
have made some of these views part of your
behaviour. In other words, if your views are
not merely thoughts, but also have
emotional and action components, then
these views are more than ‘opinions’; they
are examples of attitudes.
All definitions of attitudes agree that an
attitude is a state of the mind, a set of views,
or thoughts, regarding some topic (called
the ‘attitude object’), which have an
evaluative feature (positive, negative or
neutral quality). It is accompanied by an
emotional component, and a tendency to
act in a particular way with regard to the
attitude object. The thought component is
referred to as the cognitive aspect, the
emotional component is known as the
affective aspect, and the tendency to act
is called the behavioural (or conative)
aspect.  Taken together, these three aspects
have been referred to as the A-B-C
components (Affective-Behavioural-
Cognitive components) of attitude. Note that
attitudes are themselves not behaviour, but
they represent a tendency to behave or act
in certain ways.  They are part of cognition,
along with an emotional component, and
cannot be observed from outside. Box 6.1
presents an example of an attitude towards
the environment, showing the relationship
between the three components.
Attitudes have to be distinguished from
two other closely related concepts, namely,
Box
6.1
A ‘Green Environment’ : The A-B-C Components of an Attitude
Suppose a group of people in your neighbourhood start a tree plantation campaign as part
of a ‘green environment’ movement. Based on sufficient information about the environment,
your view towards a ‘green environment’ is positive (cognitive or ‘C’ component, along with
the evaluative aspect). You feel very happy when you see greenery. You feel sad and angry
when you see trees being cut down. These aspects reflect the affective (emotional), or ‘A’
component of the same attitude. Now suppose you also actively participate in the tree
plantation campaign. This shows the behavioural or ‘B’ component of your attitudes towards
a ‘green environment’. In general, we expect all three components to be consistent with
each other, that is, in the same direction. However, such consistency may not necessarily
be found in all situations. For example, it is quite possible that the cognitive aspect of your
‘green environment’ attitude is very strong, but the affective and behavioural components
may be relatively weaker. Or, the cognitive and affective components may be strong and
positive, but the behavioural component may be neutral. Therefore, predicting one
component on the basis of the other two may not always give us the correct picture about
an attitude.
Page 4


Psychology
106
AT AT
AT AT ATTITUDE AND SOCIAL COGNITION TITUDE AND SOCIAL COGNITION
TITUDE AND SOCIAL COGNITION TITUDE AND SOCIAL COGNITION TITUDE AND SOCIAL COGNITION
Introduction
Explaining Social Behaviour
Nature and Components of Attitudes
A ‘Green Environment’ : The A-B-C Components of an
Attitude (Box 6.1)
Attitude Formation and Change
Attitude Formation
Attitude Change
Telling a Lie for Twenty Dollars (Box 6.2)
Attitude-Behaviour Relationship
Prejudice and Discrimination
Strategies for Handling Prejudice
Social Cognition
Schemas and Stereotypes
Impression Formation and Explaining
Behaviour of Others through Attributions
Impression Formation
Attribution of Causality
Behaviour in the Presence of Others
Pro-social Behaviour
Factors Affecting Pro-social Behaviour
CONTENTS
Key Terms
Summary
Review Questions
Project Ideas
Weblinks
Pedagogical Hints
After reading this chapter, you would be able to:
understand what are attitudes, how they are formed and changed,
analyse how people interpret and explain the behaviour of others,
comprehend how the presence of others influences our behaviour,
explain why people help or do not help others in distress, and
understand the concept of pro-social behaviour and factors affecting it.
Chapter 6 • Attitude and Social Cognition
107
EXPLAINING SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR
Social behaviour is a necessary part of
human life, and being social means much
more than merely being in the company of
others. You may recall from what you
studied in Class XI that social psychology
deals with all behaviour that takes place in
the actual, imagined, or implied presence
of others. Take this simple example: if you
have to memorise a poem and recite it, you
may have no problem in doing this when
you are by yourself.  But if you have to recite
this poem to an audience, your performance
might get influenced, because you are now
in a social situation.  Even imagining that
people are listening to your recitation
(although they may not be physically
present) may change your performance.
This is just one example that demonstrates
how our social environment influences our
thoughts, emotions and behaviour in
complex ways. Social psychologists examine
various forms of social behaviour, and try
to explain their basis. Because of social
influences, people form views, or attitudes
about people, and about different issues in
life, that exist in the form of behavioural
tendencies.  When we meet people, we make
inferences about their personal qualities.
This is called impression formation. We
are also interested in why people behave in
Social psychology is that branch of psychology which investigates how the
behaviour of individuals is affected by others and the social environment.
All of us form attitudes, or ways of thinking about specific topics and people.
We also form impressions about persons we meet, and assign causes to
their behaviour. Besides, our own behaviour gets influenced by other
individuals and groups. In some situations, people show pro-social
behaviour , that is, helping the needy and the distressed, without expecting
anything in return.  Many of these social behaviours seem to be simple. Yet,
explaining the processes that lie behind these behaviours is a complex matter .
This chapter will describe the basic ideas related to attitudes, social cognition
and pro-social behaviour as explained by social psychologists.
Introduction
the ways they do — that is, we assign causes
to the behaviour shown in specific social
situations. This process is called
attribution. Very often, impression
formation and attributions are influenced
by attitudes. These three processes are
examples of mental activities related to the
gathering and interpretation of information
about the social world, collectively called
social cognition. Moreover, social cognition
is activated by cognitive units called
schemas. Cognitive processes cannot be
directly seen; they have to be inferred on
the basis of externally shown behaviour.
There are other examples of social influence
that are in the form of observable behaviour.
Two such examples are social facilitation/
inhibition, i.e. the improvement/decline in
performance in the presence of others, and
helping, or pro-social behaviour, i.e.
responding to others who are in need or
distress.  In order to understand completely
how the social context influences the
individual, it is necessary to study both
social-cognitive processes and social
behaviour.  Social psychologists have shown
that one must go beyond common sense
and folk wisdom in order to explain how
people observe and make sense of their own
and others’ diverse behaviours. Through
systematic and objective observations, and
by adopting scientific methods, it is possible
Psychology
108
to establish logical cause-and-effect
relationships that explain social behaviour.
This chapter will give an account of the
fundamental aspects of the topics
mentioned above. We will begin with a
description of attitudes.
NATURE AND COMPONENTS OF ATTITUDES
For a few minutes quietly do the following
mental exercise. Today, how many times did
you tell yourself : “In my opinion…” or
“Others may say so and so, but I feel…”?
What you fill in the blanks are called
opinions.  Now continue the exercise : how
important are these opinions to you? The
topics of some of these opinions may be only
moderately important to you; they are
simply ways of thinking, and it does not
matter much to you that others agree or
disagree with your views. On the other
hand, you may find that some other topics
are extremely important to you. If someone
opposes or challenges your views about
these topics, you get emotional. You may
have made some of these views part of your
behaviour. In other words, if your views are
not merely thoughts, but also have
emotional and action components, then
these views are more than ‘opinions’; they
are examples of attitudes.
All definitions of attitudes agree that an
attitude is a state of the mind, a set of views,
or thoughts, regarding some topic (called
the ‘attitude object’), which have an
evaluative feature (positive, negative or
neutral quality). It is accompanied by an
emotional component, and a tendency to
act in a particular way with regard to the
attitude object. The thought component is
referred to as the cognitive aspect, the
emotional component is known as the
affective aspect, and the tendency to act
is called the behavioural (or conative)
aspect.  Taken together, these three aspects
have been referred to as the A-B-C
components (Affective-Behavioural-
Cognitive components) of attitude. Note that
attitudes are themselves not behaviour, but
they represent a tendency to behave or act
in certain ways.  They are part of cognition,
along with an emotional component, and
cannot be observed from outside. Box 6.1
presents an example of an attitude towards
the environment, showing the relationship
between the three components.
Attitudes have to be distinguished from
two other closely related concepts, namely,
Box
6.1
A ‘Green Environment’ : The A-B-C Components of an Attitude
Suppose a group of people in your neighbourhood start a tree plantation campaign as part
of a ‘green environment’ movement. Based on sufficient information about the environment,
your view towards a ‘green environment’ is positive (cognitive or ‘C’ component, along with
the evaluative aspect). You feel very happy when you see greenery. You feel sad and angry
when you see trees being cut down. These aspects reflect the affective (emotional), or ‘A’
component of the same attitude. Now suppose you also actively participate in the tree
plantation campaign. This shows the behavioural or ‘B’ component of your attitudes towards
a ‘green environment’. In general, we expect all three components to be consistent with
each other, that is, in the same direction. However, such consistency may not necessarily
be found in all situations. For example, it is quite possible that the cognitive aspect of your
‘green environment’ attitude is very strong, but the affective and behavioural components
may be relatively weaker. Or, the cognitive and affective components may be strong and
positive, but the behavioural component may be neutral. Therefore, predicting one
component on the basis of the other two may not always give us the correct picture about
an attitude.
Chapter 6 ? Attitude and Social Cognition
109
beliefs and values. Beliefs refer to the
cognitive component of attitudes, and form
the ground on which attitudes stand, such
as belief in God, or belief in democracy as a
political ideology. Values are attitudes or
beliefs that contain a ‘should’ or ‘ought’
aspect, such as moral or ethical values.  One
example of a value is the idea that one
should work hard, or that one should
always be honest, because honesty is the
best policy. Values are formed when a
particular belief or attitude becomes an
inseparable part of the person’s outlook on
life. Consequently, values are difficult to
change.
What is the purpose served by an
attitude? We find that attitudes provide a
background that makes it easier for a
person to decide how to act in new
situations. For example, our attitude
towards foreigners may indirectly provide
a mental ‘layout’ or ‘blueprint’ for the way
in which we should behave whenever we
meet one.
In addition to the affective, cognitive and
behavioural components, attitudes also
have other properties. Four significant
features of attitudes are : Valence (positivity
or negativity), Extremeness, Simplicity or
Complexity (multiplexity), and Centrality.
Valence (positivity or negativity) : The
valence of an attitude tells us whether an
attitude is positive or negative towards the
attitude object. Suppose an attitude (say,
towards nuclear research) has to be
expressed on a 5-point scale, ranging from
1 (Very bad), 2 (Bad), 3 (Neutral — neither
good nor bad), and 4 (Good), to 5 (Very
good). If an individual rates her/his view
towards nuclear research as 4 or 5, this is
clearly a positive attitude. This means that
the person likes the idea of nuclear research
and thinks it is something good. On the
other hand, if the rating is 1 or 2, the
attitude is negative. This means that the
person dislikes the idea of nuclear research,
and thinks it is something bad. We also
allow for neutral attitudes. In this example,
a neutral attitude towards nuclear research
would be shown by a rating of 3 on the same
scale. A neutral attitude would have neither
positive nor negative valence.
Extremeness : The extremeness of an
attitude indicates how positive or negative
an attitude is. Taking the nuclear
research example given above, a rating of
1 is as extreme as a rating of 5 : they are
only in the opposite directions (valence).
Ratings of 2 and 4 are less extreme. A
neutral attitude, of course, is lowest on
extremeness.
Simplicity or Complexity (multiplexity) :
This feature refers to how many attitudes
there are within a broader attitude. Think
of an attitude as a family containing several
‘member’ attitudes. In case of various topics,
such as health and world peace, people hold
many attitudes instead of single attitude.
An attitude system is said to be ‘simple’ if it
contains only one or a few attitudes, and
‘complex’ if it is made up of many attitudes.
Consider the example of attitude towards
health and well-being. This attitude system
is likely to consist of several ‘member’
attitudes, such as one’s concept of physical
and mental health, views about happiness
and well-being, and beliefs about how one
should achieve health and happiness. By
contrast, the attitude towards a particular
person is likely to consist of mainly one
attitude. The multiple member-attitudes
within an attitude system should not be
confused with the three components
described earlier. Each member attitude
that belongs to an attitude system also has
A-B-C components.
Centrality : This refers to the role of a
particular attitude in the attitude system.
An attitude with greater centrality would
influence the other attitudes in the system
much more than non-central (or peripheral)
attitudes would. For example, in the
attitude towards world peace, a negative
Page 5


Psychology
106
AT AT
AT AT ATTITUDE AND SOCIAL COGNITION TITUDE AND SOCIAL COGNITION
TITUDE AND SOCIAL COGNITION TITUDE AND SOCIAL COGNITION TITUDE AND SOCIAL COGNITION
Introduction
Explaining Social Behaviour
Nature and Components of Attitudes
A ‘Green Environment’ : The A-B-C Components of an
Attitude (Box 6.1)
Attitude Formation and Change
Attitude Formation
Attitude Change
Telling a Lie for Twenty Dollars (Box 6.2)
Attitude-Behaviour Relationship
Prejudice and Discrimination
Strategies for Handling Prejudice
Social Cognition
Schemas and Stereotypes
Impression Formation and Explaining
Behaviour of Others through Attributions
Impression Formation
Attribution of Causality
Behaviour in the Presence of Others
Pro-social Behaviour
Factors Affecting Pro-social Behaviour
CONTENTS
Key Terms
Summary
Review Questions
Project Ideas
Weblinks
Pedagogical Hints
After reading this chapter, you would be able to:
understand what are attitudes, how they are formed and changed,
analyse how people interpret and explain the behaviour of others,
comprehend how the presence of others influences our behaviour,
explain why people help or do not help others in distress, and
understand the concept of pro-social behaviour and factors affecting it.
Chapter 6 • Attitude and Social Cognition
107
EXPLAINING SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR
Social behaviour is a necessary part of
human life, and being social means much
more than merely being in the company of
others. You may recall from what you
studied in Class XI that social psychology
deals with all behaviour that takes place in
the actual, imagined, or implied presence
of others. Take this simple example: if you
have to memorise a poem and recite it, you
may have no problem in doing this when
you are by yourself.  But if you have to recite
this poem to an audience, your performance
might get influenced, because you are now
in a social situation.  Even imagining that
people are listening to your recitation
(although they may not be physically
present) may change your performance.
This is just one example that demonstrates
how our social environment influences our
thoughts, emotions and behaviour in
complex ways. Social psychologists examine
various forms of social behaviour, and try
to explain their basis. Because of social
influences, people form views, or attitudes
about people, and about different issues in
life, that exist in the form of behavioural
tendencies.  When we meet people, we make
inferences about their personal qualities.
This is called impression formation. We
are also interested in why people behave in
Social psychology is that branch of psychology which investigates how the
behaviour of individuals is affected by others and the social environment.
All of us form attitudes, or ways of thinking about specific topics and people.
We also form impressions about persons we meet, and assign causes to
their behaviour. Besides, our own behaviour gets influenced by other
individuals and groups. In some situations, people show pro-social
behaviour , that is, helping the needy and the distressed, without expecting
anything in return.  Many of these social behaviours seem to be simple. Yet,
explaining the processes that lie behind these behaviours is a complex matter .
This chapter will describe the basic ideas related to attitudes, social cognition
and pro-social behaviour as explained by social psychologists.
Introduction
the ways they do — that is, we assign causes
to the behaviour shown in specific social
situations. This process is called
attribution. Very often, impression
formation and attributions are influenced
by attitudes. These three processes are
examples of mental activities related to the
gathering and interpretation of information
about the social world, collectively called
social cognition. Moreover, social cognition
is activated by cognitive units called
schemas. Cognitive processes cannot be
directly seen; they have to be inferred on
the basis of externally shown behaviour.
There are other examples of social influence
that are in the form of observable behaviour.
Two such examples are social facilitation/
inhibition, i.e. the improvement/decline in
performance in the presence of others, and
helping, or pro-social behaviour, i.e.
responding to others who are in need or
distress.  In order to understand completely
how the social context influences the
individual, it is necessary to study both
social-cognitive processes and social
behaviour.  Social psychologists have shown
that one must go beyond common sense
and folk wisdom in order to explain how
people observe and make sense of their own
and others’ diverse behaviours. Through
systematic and objective observations, and
by adopting scientific methods, it is possible
Psychology
108
to establish logical cause-and-effect
relationships that explain social behaviour.
This chapter will give an account of the
fundamental aspects of the topics
mentioned above. We will begin with a
description of attitudes.
NATURE AND COMPONENTS OF ATTITUDES
For a few minutes quietly do the following
mental exercise. Today, how many times did
you tell yourself : “In my opinion…” or
“Others may say so and so, but I feel…”?
What you fill in the blanks are called
opinions.  Now continue the exercise : how
important are these opinions to you? The
topics of some of these opinions may be only
moderately important to you; they are
simply ways of thinking, and it does not
matter much to you that others agree or
disagree with your views. On the other
hand, you may find that some other topics
are extremely important to you. If someone
opposes or challenges your views about
these topics, you get emotional. You may
have made some of these views part of your
behaviour. In other words, if your views are
not merely thoughts, but also have
emotional and action components, then
these views are more than ‘opinions’; they
are examples of attitudes.
All definitions of attitudes agree that an
attitude is a state of the mind, a set of views,
or thoughts, regarding some topic (called
the ‘attitude object’), which have an
evaluative feature (positive, negative or
neutral quality). It is accompanied by an
emotional component, and a tendency to
act in a particular way with regard to the
attitude object. The thought component is
referred to as the cognitive aspect, the
emotional component is known as the
affective aspect, and the tendency to act
is called the behavioural (or conative)
aspect.  Taken together, these three aspects
have been referred to as the A-B-C
components (Affective-Behavioural-
Cognitive components) of attitude. Note that
attitudes are themselves not behaviour, but
they represent a tendency to behave or act
in certain ways.  They are part of cognition,
along with an emotional component, and
cannot be observed from outside. Box 6.1
presents an example of an attitude towards
the environment, showing the relationship
between the three components.
Attitudes have to be distinguished from
two other closely related concepts, namely,
Box
6.1
A ‘Green Environment’ : The A-B-C Components of an Attitude
Suppose a group of people in your neighbourhood start a tree plantation campaign as part
of a ‘green environment’ movement. Based on sufficient information about the environment,
your view towards a ‘green environment’ is positive (cognitive or ‘C’ component, along with
the evaluative aspect). You feel very happy when you see greenery. You feel sad and angry
when you see trees being cut down. These aspects reflect the affective (emotional), or ‘A’
component of the same attitude. Now suppose you also actively participate in the tree
plantation campaign. This shows the behavioural or ‘B’ component of your attitudes towards
a ‘green environment’. In general, we expect all three components to be consistent with
each other, that is, in the same direction. However, such consistency may not necessarily
be found in all situations. For example, it is quite possible that the cognitive aspect of your
‘green environment’ attitude is very strong, but the affective and behavioural components
may be relatively weaker. Or, the cognitive and affective components may be strong and
positive, but the behavioural component may be neutral. Therefore, predicting one
component on the basis of the other two may not always give us the correct picture about
an attitude.
Chapter 6 ? Attitude and Social Cognition
109
beliefs and values. Beliefs refer to the
cognitive component of attitudes, and form
the ground on which attitudes stand, such
as belief in God, or belief in democracy as a
political ideology. Values are attitudes or
beliefs that contain a ‘should’ or ‘ought’
aspect, such as moral or ethical values.  One
example of a value is the idea that one
should work hard, or that one should
always be honest, because honesty is the
best policy. Values are formed when a
particular belief or attitude becomes an
inseparable part of the person’s outlook on
life. Consequently, values are difficult to
change.
What is the purpose served by an
attitude? We find that attitudes provide a
background that makes it easier for a
person to decide how to act in new
situations. For example, our attitude
towards foreigners may indirectly provide
a mental ‘layout’ or ‘blueprint’ for the way
in which we should behave whenever we
meet one.
In addition to the affective, cognitive and
behavioural components, attitudes also
have other properties. Four significant
features of attitudes are : Valence (positivity
or negativity), Extremeness, Simplicity or
Complexity (multiplexity), and Centrality.
Valence (positivity or negativity) : The
valence of an attitude tells us whether an
attitude is positive or negative towards the
attitude object. Suppose an attitude (say,
towards nuclear research) has to be
expressed on a 5-point scale, ranging from
1 (Very bad), 2 (Bad), 3 (Neutral — neither
good nor bad), and 4 (Good), to 5 (Very
good). If an individual rates her/his view
towards nuclear research as 4 or 5, this is
clearly a positive attitude. This means that
the person likes the idea of nuclear research
and thinks it is something good. On the
other hand, if the rating is 1 or 2, the
attitude is negative. This means that the
person dislikes the idea of nuclear research,
and thinks it is something bad. We also
allow for neutral attitudes. In this example,
a neutral attitude towards nuclear research
would be shown by a rating of 3 on the same
scale. A neutral attitude would have neither
positive nor negative valence.
Extremeness : The extremeness of an
attitude indicates how positive or negative
an attitude is. Taking the nuclear
research example given above, a rating of
1 is as extreme as a rating of 5 : they are
only in the opposite directions (valence).
Ratings of 2 and 4 are less extreme. A
neutral attitude, of course, is lowest on
extremeness.
Simplicity or Complexity (multiplexity) :
This feature refers to how many attitudes
there are within a broader attitude. Think
of an attitude as a family containing several
‘member’ attitudes. In case of various topics,
such as health and world peace, people hold
many attitudes instead of single attitude.
An attitude system is said to be ‘simple’ if it
contains only one or a few attitudes, and
‘complex’ if it is made up of many attitudes.
Consider the example of attitude towards
health and well-being. This attitude system
is likely to consist of several ‘member’
attitudes, such as one’s concept of physical
and mental health, views about happiness
and well-being, and beliefs about how one
should achieve health and happiness. By
contrast, the attitude towards a particular
person is likely to consist of mainly one
attitude. The multiple member-attitudes
within an attitude system should not be
confused with the three components
described earlier. Each member attitude
that belongs to an attitude system also has
A-B-C components.
Centrality : This refers to the role of a
particular attitude in the attitude system.
An attitude with greater centrality would
influence the other attitudes in the system
much more than non-central (or peripheral)
attitudes would. For example, in the
attitude towards world peace, a negative
Psychology
110
attitude towards high military expenditure
may be present as a core or central attitude
that influences all other attitudes in the
multiple attitude system.
ATTITUDE FORMATION AND CHANGE
Attitude Formation
One important question that psychologists
are interested in answering is : how are
attitudes formed? Like many other thoughts
and concepts that develop and become part
of our cognitive system, attitudes towards
different topics, things and people also are
formed as we interact with others. However,
there are specific conditions that lead to the
formation of specific attitudes.
In general, attitudes are learned
through one’s own experiences, and
through interaction with others. There are
a few research studies that show some sort
of inborn aspect of attitudes, but such
genetic factors influence attitudes only
indirectly, along with learning. Therefore,
most social psychologists have focused on
the conditions which lead to the learning
of attitudes.
Process of Attitude Formation
The processes and conditions of learning
may be different, resulting in varying
attitudes among people.
? Learning attitudes by association : You
might have seen that 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.
? 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.
? 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.
? 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 described
above — learning through association,
reward or punishment, and modelling.
For example, offering money, sweets,
fruit and flowers in a place of worship is
a normative behaviour in some religions.
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