Theories of Attitude

Everyone has their own opinion regarding a particular topic. However, how is that opinion formed? Does one analyze things on their own and then form that opinion or attitude, or one sees another person having that notion, so they imbibe it from there? How are attitudes formed, and is behavior influenced by what we think? Does behavior influence attitude? If we have an attitude about something, is it that strong or lacks strength? Can attitudes be learned, or do social factors influence them?

Meaning of Attitude

A definable abstract or tangible object or statement may elicit a positive or negative affective reaction, according to Bruvold. According to Zimbardo, attitudes can be attributed to learned opinions about which behaviors are appropriate for dealing with different categories of people or problems. Although reasonably steady, attitudes can nonetheless be changed. Kegan, Havemann, and Segal claim that as a person matures, they develop strong opinions and beliefs regarding people from other ethnic backgrounds, outsiders, the wealthy and the poor, men and women, social issues, and governmental policies, among other things. People form strong opinions about political parties, national security, and all other social issues and institutions. We frequently carry our attitudes with us throughout life. People favor things toward which we have a positive attitude and strongly oppose things toward which we have a bad attitude. The idea of "attitude" results from attempts to explain observed patterns in the behavior of specific people. The level of someone is observable; evaluative reactions are used to assess attitudes. While one could use their own inner experiences as proof of their attitudes, An attitude relates to something very important. As a result, it is much less change-resistant than an opinion.

Types of Attitudes

According to Jung's concept of attitudes, there are various sorts of attitudes that can be explored under the following headings

  • Implicit and explicit attitudes − These relate to how internal motivation and environmental factors influence behavior and attitudinal shifts in people.

  • The conscious and subconscious attitudes − "It is very common to have two attitudes present simultaneously, one conscious and the other unconscious." This means that consciousness's contents differ from the unconscious, and neurosis is a prime example of this duality.

  • Extraversion and introversion attitudes − The attitudes of extraversion and introversion are so fundamental to Jung's idea of attitude types that he called them "attitude types." Some people are gregarious, while others are more reserved. Individual attitudes toward a certain object, event, scenario, or phenomenon are influenced by these characteristics of individual diversity.

  • Individual and social attitudes − This has to do with social norms for appropriate behavior in a certain setting. An attitude that is acceptable in one society might not be in another.

Theories of Attitude

Various social psychologists developed their own theories of attitude. But some famous theories of attitude are

Dissonance Theory

According to Festinger's cognitive dissonance hypothesis, we have an innate desire to keep our attitudes and actions in harmony and steer clear of discord (or dissonance). The concept of cognitive consistency refers to this. Dissonance occurs when attitudes or behaviors are inconsistent, and this dissonance needs to be resolved. One of three strategies can be used to lessen dissonance: a) altering current beliefs, b) introducing new beliefs, or c) lowering the value of the beliefs.

Theory of Individual Differences

an area of psychological research that examines intellect, abnormal behavior, and personality. Therefore, the things we have in common yet disagree on are our distinctions. Our genetic heritage is thought to impact individual differences. Alternatively, our biology, to some extent, determines our personality, deviant behavior, and IQ. The more perceptive person may understand that these areas share a biological basis for their similarities. Our genetic heritage impacts personality, or temperament, which is the foundation of personality. As is intelligence and any inherited biological proclivity for the emergence of abnormal behavior.

Persuasive Theory

Attitudes can be formed or changed through persuasion. In order to successfully persuade others, one must first capture their attention, then communicate with them effectively, and lastly, make sure that they interpret our message the way we want them to. Additionally, persuaders must think about their strategies' cognitive, emotional, and behavioral components to achieve these objectives. Additionally, persuaders must comprehend how the message recipient's motives, interests, and objectives relate to the communication they deliver. According to research, an identical message will have a greater impact if communicated by a more convincing communicator.

Attribution Theory

The study of attribution theory looks at the several ways we explain where our actions come from. Attributing acts to personal characteristics is often known as "disposition" (or "person") attribution. Situational attribution is the practice of attributing behaviors to contextual or external variables. Defensive attribution is the tendency to blame external causes for our failures while attributing our successes to our efforts (dispositional) (situational). Individuals tend to overemphasize personal (dispositional) explanations for other people's behavior while underemphasizing personal (internal) causes for their behavior (dispositional).In collectivist cultures rather than individualist cultures, fundamental attribution mistakes are more likely to happen. Stable attribution refers to constant circumstances, and unstable attribution refers to inconsistent circumstances and may occasionally or sporadically be applied.

Conformity Theory

Conformity is the most prevalent and ubiquitous type of the social influence. It is defined broadly as the proclivity to act or think differently than others. A group's members' size, unanimous agreement, cohesion, standing, and previous all determine a person's degree of conformance. Although conformity is typically seen as a bad quality in American culture, it is not only necessary and normal but also likely necessary for a community to function. Normative influence and the need to fit in are the two main drivers of conformity. Tendency to fit in to win approval from others and to avoid social peer pressure, which is based on the desire to gain useful knowledge through conformity; informational influence, which is based on rejection or disagreement.

Learning Theory

According to learning theory, learning can be used to form and change attitudes. People who use observational learning, classical conditioning, and operant conditioning

Classical conditioning

The emotional component of attitudes can be developed through classical conditioning. An attractive model wearing a sweater, for instance, is paired with a billboard by a clothing business to provoke a positive emotional response. Due to this, people may have a favorable opinion of the sweater and the apparel brand.

Operant conditioning

They states that if someone expresses an attitude and receives a favorable response from others, that attitude will be reinforced and will likely get stronger. However, her attitude will likely deteriorate if she receives criticism from others.

Observational learning

Someone may adopt certain attitudes after observing others do so, and after observing them, they may receive praise for displaying those attitudes.


Attitudes are opinions or notions regarding any issue that guide our behavior. Attitudes can be central to our system, which means they hold much importance for how we perceive the world and also guide our behavior. Attitudes can be learned or acquired. Different psychologists explained how attitudes are required and offered various theories. Attitudes influence how we behave socially and form interpersonal relationships, so a thorough understanding of attitudes is required.

Updated on: 29-Dec-2022

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