Attitude toward a behaviour
Perceived behaviour control
Section 1: 177-185
The Study of Attitudes
A positive, negative, or mixed reaction to a person, object, or idea.
The study of what they are, where they come from, how they can be measured, what causes
them to change, and how they interact with behaviour is central to the whole field of social
Cannot be represented along single continuum ranging from wholly positive to wholly
negative (like lever on thermostat ranges from higher to lower temp.). Rather can vary in
strength along both positive and negative dimensions. Can react to something with positive or
negative affect, with ambivalence (strong but mixed emotions), or with apathy and
indifference. Fig. 6.1. Can have both positive and negative reactions to same attitude object
with no conflict
Ex: Macdonald and Zanna found that men with ambivalent attitudes towards feminists
indicated admiration for them but no affection.
Everyone routinely forms evaluations to people, places, etc like a reflex. Now appears people
differ in extent to which they react to stimuli in strong positive or negative terms. People who
are high rather than low in
need for evaluation
more likely to view their daily experiences in
judgmental terms, and also more opinionated on whole range of social, political, and moral
Why do we bother to have attitudes? Researchers found they serve important functions
enable us to judge, quickly and without much thought, whether something we encounter is
good or bad, helpful or hurtful, to be sought or avoided.
Problem: Having pre-existing attitudes can cause us to be close-minded, bias in our
interpretations, and resistant to change. Ex: Study found that people who were more focused
on their positive or negative attitudes towards computerized faces, compared to those who
were not, were slower to notice when the faces were “morphed” and no longer the same.
How Attitudes are Measured
Attitudes can be difficult to measure; one review of research uncovered over 500 different ways.
Easiest way to assess a person’s attitude is by asking. Ipsos-Reid polls in 2006 found that
majority of Canadians prefer public vs. private health care, believe gun violence result of drugs,
gangs, and lenient judges, and Canadian children prefer grilled cheese to peanut butter and jelly
just by asking.
Sometimes attitudes are too complex to be measured by single question, and can be influenced by
their wording, context in which they are asked and other factors.
To avoid this often use
: Multiple-item questionnaire designed to measure person’s
attitude towards some object.