Thursday, March 1st, 2012
Link Between Attitudes and Behaviour
The study was criticized because it was said that the way it was conducted limited the
number of conclusions that can be drawn from it. They said that the situation was not that
the Chinese couple were going to a restaurant, but that a Chinese couple was being
accompanied by a Caucasian American; this is different than if they were alone. Also, people
indicated that it is a specific person telling someone that they cannot eat there. LaPierre did
not know if the person who had responded to the letter was the person who had served
We discussed this already; the study conducted in the mall at the top of an escalator that
takes them down to the food court. The manipulation is not to change their opinion about
the food guide, but to bring the attitude into consciousness (for half of the people).
It looks like an attitude will have the greatest impact on behaviour if it is in consciousness
when making a choice. So researchers began thinking of situations when you would be
more or less likely to make decisions based on attitudes.
When attitudes predict behaviour
The stronger the attitude you have, the more likely it will be associated with behaviour. The
more aware you are (eg: putting a mirror in front of people), the more attitudes will
influence decisions. As for accessibility of the attitude, the easier that an attitude will come
to mind, the more likely that it will be influencing behaviour. The specificity of the attitude
is important; for example, if you ask people a general question, certain indicators (eg:
generosity; giving money) is not a good measure of acting on attitudes because there are
many different instances of showing generosity. You can come to stronger conclusions if the
question is more specific. So the more you try to find a relationship between general
attitudes and specific behaviour, the less likely it will be that you do so. Also, you will get a
better measure of behaviour if the measure of behaviour is aggregated over time.
So these are factors that will play a role in determining how attitudes predict behaviour.
Behaviour Changing Attitudes?
People suggest that even though you think that cognition, or attitudes, is something that will
determine/drive behaviour, in actuality it is the other way around. People like Spinoza say
that we have no idea why we do what we do, and once we do it, we infer our attitudes from
Behaviour Determines Attitudes: Role Playing
At least under some circumstances, you can be made to behave in certain ways, which will
influence attitudes about certain people. A demonstration in the power of behaviour in
determining attitudes is the Stanforn Prison Study. They made the basement of Stanford
University look like a prison, and they assigned students to either guards or prisoners. They
were just supposed to pretend for a week that this was a prison, and they were supposed to be observed. But they had to discontinue this study on the second day, because guards
starting beating prisoners. So the role identity was adopted whole-heartedly by the people,
and they started taking on the attitudes for the assigned behaviours.
Also, we know that when we try to shape the attitudes of our children, we do not try to
appeal to information. We think we will have better luck changing behaviour, and those
behaviour changes will have better luck changing attitudes. For example, when you try to
teach your kids about positive dental hygiene attitudes, chances are they did not explain
gingivitis. Instead, they probably made you brush your teeth; they repeatedly take control of
your behaviour, so that you would behave in a way as if you had positive attitudes towards
dental hygiene, until your attitudes towards it became positive. Another example was seat
belts; law changes behaviour.
What they did was that if you were a participant, you just did the most boring study ever, In
the study, you monitor a dot coming onto a screen, or you go through pages and pages of
letters and you cross off all the Cs. Finally the experiment is over, and right before it is time
to leave, the investigator says that they are having trouble getting people to participate, so
he asks you to tell the person in the waiting room that it is such an exciting experiment (he
will give you $20 to do it). So they did it. Just before you are about the leave the lab, the
experimenter also asks you your true attitude towards the experiment. In another
condition, they ask you to do the same with the person in the waiting room, and they offer
only $1. Again, your true attitude is measured. What they found was that the people not
asked to tell a lie thought it was a horribly boring experiment. The people who were given
$1, now believe that it was an exciting experiment. The people with $20 fall in between.
What is happening here? Why was the lower reward value associated with attitude change?
Festinger argued that you are asked to lie; something against your values. Your justification
for this is that you got $1. It will be hard to accept that situation in consciousness; that you
would betray your values about honesty for such little money. So you now have to do
something to allow this situation to rest. The easiest solution is for you to believe that this is
an exciting experiment. In the $20 condition, this is a lot of money; it is ok (it is a little lie for
a lot of reward; internal tension is small).
A number of studies have shown that, for example, say everyone knows you want to vote for
Adam Vaughan. Someone comes to the door and asks if you will put it on your fence. People
will say no generally (83%). But if the situation was such that a week before someone had
come to you and asked if you would put a small card in your window (everyone says yes),
76% say yes a week later for the big sign on the fence. What they have done is to create a
situation where they will start to get you to behave in a way consistent with what they want
as the second request.
Theory of planned behaviour
Put forward to try to understand the mechanics or processes involved in linking an attitude
to a behaviour. Shows the essential pieces needed to be in place to link an attitude to a
behaviour. One thing that plays a role is the subjective norm (what is everyone else doing?)
before you act in a way consistent with the attitude; you are seeking consensus information. If the subjective norm is one that fosters the enactment of the behaviour, it is more likely
your attitudes will act on behaviour. Another factor is whether or not you believe that you