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Chapter 7 - Attitudes, Behavior, and Rationalization.doc

Course Code
PSYC 215
John Lydon

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Chapter Seven:
Attitudes, Behavior and Rationalization
the influence of attitudes on behaviors is a bit weaker than most people suspect
the influence of behavior on attitudes is much stronger than people suspect
attitudes are surprisingly poor predictors of behavior, but it specifies the circumstances in
which attitudes predict behavior rather well
The Three Components of Attitudes
attitude – an evaluation of an object in a positive or negative fashion that includes the three
elements of affect, cognition, and behavior
affect – how much people like or dislike an object
nearly all objects trigger some degree of positive or negative emotion
cognitions – thoughts that typically reinforce a person's feelings
include knowledge and beliefs about the object, as well as associated memories and
behaviors – actions, usually a tendency to either approach or avoid
when specific attitudes are primed, people are more likely to act in a way consistent
with that attitude
our attitudes activate particular regions in the brain that support specific actions
Measuring Attitudes
attitudes are most commonly measured through simple survey questions
researchers typically ask their participants to rate an attitude object on a Likert scale
Likert scale – a numerical scale used to assess people's attitudes; includes a set of
possible answers with labeled anchors on each extreme
ex. - 1= never; 7 = always
responses to these sort of simple scales are likely to miss some important elements when
it comes to complex attitudes
people differ in the strength and depth of their attitudes toward complex issues
to capture the richness of people's attitudes:
measure the accessibility of the attitude
how readily the attitude can be activated in the individual's mind
response latency – the time it takes for an individual to respond to an attitude
determine the centrality of the attitude to the individual's belief system
researchers measure a variety of attitudes within a domain and calculate how
strongly each attitude is linked to the others
if an attitude is very important to you, it should be highly correlated with your
attitudes towards certain other issues
implicit attitude measures – indirect measures of attitudes that do not involve self-
utilized when there is reason to believe that people may be unwilling or unable to
report their true attitudes
two widely used measures:
affective priming
implicit association test (IAT)
allow researchers to tap into automatic attitudes, or people's immediate evaluative

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reactions that they may or may not be conscious of, or that may conflict with their
consciously endorsed attitudes
researchers can use nonverbal measures of attitudes
people's smiling behaviors
people's degree of physical closeness
researchers can measure physiological indicators
increased heartbeat associated with fear
sweaty palms associated with fear
Box 7.1 – negative evaluations are stronger than positive evaluations
makes evolutionary sense (food and mates are available tmrw; if a predator is not
successfully avoided, there is no tmrw)
Predicting Behavior from Attitudes
1930's, Richard LaPiere
spent two years traveling the States with a young Chinese couple in the 30's
went to 250 establishments; refused service in one establishment
LaPiere wrote to each establishment asking whether or not they employ a policy to
refuse service to Orientals
~90% replied that they would NOT provide service to an Oriental
conclusion: attitudes do not predict behavior very well
1960's, a review
“the present review provides little evidence to support the postulated existence of stable
underlying attitudes within the individual which influence both his verbal expressions
and his actions”
people are surprised by this because
we see plenty of evidence every day that attitudes and behavior go together
this evidence only tells us that if people behave in a certain way, they are likely
to have a positive attitude toward that behavior
this does not mean that people with a positive attitude towards a given behavior
are likely to behave in a manner consistent with their attitude
people may have many reasons for failing to act on their attitudes
Attitudes Sometimes Conflict with Other Powerful Determinants of Behavior
attitudes compete with other determinants of behavior
attitudes do not always win out over these other determinants and therefore are not always
tightly connected to behavior
one determinant that can weaken the relationship between attitudes and behavior is an
individual's understanding of the prevailing norms of appropriate behavior
Attitudes are Sometimes Inconsistent
attitudes may conflict with one another
different components of attitudes may not always align
in particular, there can be a rift between the affective and cognitive components of
affective component – what we feel about the subject
cognitive component – what we think about the subject
cognitive components might determine the attitudes we express, but the affective
components might determine our behavior (or vice versa)

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Introspecting about the Reasons for Our Attitudes
sometimes it's not easy to know exactly why we hold the attitudes we do
when we introspect about the reasons why we like something, we may focus on what is easy
to justify, easy to identify, and easy to capture in words
in doing so, we may miss the real reason for our attraction
thinking about why we like someone can sometimes lead to confusion about what our true
feelings really are
introspection about the reasons for our attitudes about all sorts of things can determine how
well those attitudes might guide our behavior
when people are induced to think carefully about the reasons they prefer one product
over another, they are more likely to regret their choice later, and their choices are less
likely to correspond to the “true” value of the product as determined by experts
in many cases, the real reasons for our attitudes are perfectly easy to identify and articulate
introspection therefore produces no rift between the variables we think are guiding our
attitudes and those that actually are
the contaminating effect of introspection is limited to those times when the true source of
our attitude is hard to pin down (a.k.a. the basis of our attitude is largely affective)
a cognitive analysis is likely to seize on seemingly plausible but misleading cognitive
when the basis of our attitude is largely cognitive, the search for reasons is more likely to
yield the real reasons, and introspection is unlikely to diminish the relationship between
attitude and behavior
Attitudes are Sometimes Based on Secondhand Information
attitudes based on direct (firsthand) information and experience predict subsequent behavior
much better than those derived indirectly (secondhand)
when the attitude we have about some object or event is based on firsthand experience,
our attitude may turn out to be a rather telling guide to our subsequent actions after all
The Mismatch between General Attitudes and Specific Targets
people generally express attitudes that are about general classes of things
attitude-relevant behavior that is typically assessed deals with a particular instance of that
because of the great mismatch between general attitudes and specific instances of real
behavior, it is no wonder that attitudes do not always predict behavior particularly well
consistency between attitudes and behavior is higher when the attitude and behavior are at
the same level of specificity
highly specific attitudes do a better job at predicting specific behaviors
if you want to measure a specific behavior accurately, you have to measure people's
atitudes towards that specific type of behavior
general attitudes tend to do a better job of predicting how a person behaves “in general”
across a number of different instances
what people generally think of as attitudes toward different classes of people places things
and events are often expressions of attitudes towards a prototype of a given category
if we encounter a specific situation or behavior who doesn't fit the prototype, our behavior is
not likely to reflect our stated attitude
our general attitude doesn't apply to that sort of person
Lord, Lepper, &Mackie, 1984
“John B. experiment
assessment of attitudes vs. behaviors towards gay men
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