Attitudes: a psychological construct that represents your evaluations-your likes vs dislikes- of
people objects and ideas. There are some things that you may feel neutral about...so you have no
negative and positive feelings.
TheABC’s of attitude:
A- Affect (emotions)-
B- Behavior- motor cortex lights up for action
C- Cognition (thoughts)- thoughts attached to people or ideas
Is the bad stronger than the good?
- Losing $10 is more painful that gaining $10 is pleasurable.
- Frightening sound and bad smells are more physiologically arousing than delicious tastes.
- Brief contact with a cockroach destroys a delicious meal.
Where do attitudes come from?
- Personal experience. “I saw cockroaches on my peanut butter sandwich…I no longer eat
peanut butter sandwiches”.
- Social learning. “My friend wants to be a social psychologist so I want to be a social
- Genetic factors.Attitudes of identical twins more similar than of fraternal twins.
- Evolutionary factors. Some deep fears that we have may have been adaptive in our
Do our attitudes influence our behavior?
- In a study all women said no to casual and more than half the men agreed to casual sex.
- Lapiere Study: Chinese couple study. 250/251 establishments served the Chinese couple
when 90% of them in the letter said they “definitely would not” and the rest said they
- Bar study: people in a bar asked if they had sex with someone they just met would they
use a condom. 100% said yes. But, 56% actually used it in their last encounter, and 29%
always used it. - So, all these studies showed that attitudes don’t predict behavior well.
Why do attitudes inconsistently predict behavior?
- Sometimes our attitudes conflict with one another (affective and cognition not in
o You might like something that you have negative beliefs about. For example, you
like chocolate, but think that it is bad for your body.
o You might dislike something that you have positive beliefs about. For example
you don’t like jogging but think that it is good for your body.
- General attitudes don’t predict behavior well.
o Attitudes towards mass transit are a poor predictor of whether you will ride the
o Attitudes toward liberal vs conservative ideology are a poor predictor of how you
will vote in an election.
o Attitudes toward college is a poor predictor of whether you will like the class you
will like this class because this class may be mandatory.
- There are situational constraints on behavior.
o You break your diet despite the best of intentions because your roommate baked
chocolate chip cookies.
o You love organic food but don’t buy them because you don’t have enough money.
o You are in favor of condoms but don’t use them because your boyfriend/girlfriend
- Automatic behavior bypasses conscious attitudes
o I feel fear and may step away slightly when I am walking toward a black man on
o (attitudes do predict behavior when there are a few situational constraints)
WhenAttitudes and Behavior Clash:
- People experience situations in which their behaviors clash with their attitudes.
- This causes psychological discomfort - How do people deal with this discomfort?
- This is what cognitive dissonance theory is all about.
- The gap between our attitudes and behaviors produces psychological discomfort
- Core ideas:
o 1. Consonance is pleasant
o 2. Dissonance is unpleasant
o 3. We are motivated to reduce dissonance
- Situation producing consonance: in favor of protecting environment-I leave my sports car
at home and ride my bike- consonance- no pressure to change.
- Situation producing dissonance: in favor of protecting the environment- I drive a gas
guzzling sports car alone to work everyday- dissonance- pressure to change.
- (it is easier to change an attitude than a behavior)
Changing Our Tune (changing our attitude)
- Post-decision dissonance. “I didn’t really want that thing anyway”.
o University of Toronto, St. George. Pros: great variety of food options. Cons:
sitting for hours in traffic.
o University of Toronto, Mississauga. Pros: prof Impett teaches social psychology.
Cons: you have to live with your parents.
o Decision: Going to UTM. Having access to great food doesn’t really matter to me
because I can’t afford it anyways. Living with my parents won’t be all that bad
because I can save money.
o Horse Race study:
Horse enthusiasts asked to rate the chances that their horse would win the
race at 2 time points.
Ratings before they bet: “fair” on average. Ratings after they bet: “good”. (approached by a different researcher)
“Are you working with that other fellow there? Well, I just told him that
my horse had a fair chance of winning. Will you have him change that to a
good chance? No, by God, make that an excellent chance.” (we change or
attitude to make it consistent with our actions).
- Effort justification. ‘I worked my butt off for it, so I must like it”.
o Thinking “Why did I suffer for something that isn’t that great?” produces
o Finding reasons for why we have devoted time, effort, or money to something that
has turned out to be unpleasant or disappointing.
o Psychology of Sex Study:
Female college students volunteered to join a group to discuss the
psychology of sex.
To be admitted to the group, students had to pass a screening procedure.
(screening procedure was done by a male where they had to read out loud
very sexual words to a male researcher).
• Group 1: screening procedure was extremely demanding (sexually
• Group 2: screening procedure was mildly unpleasant (mildly
• Group 3: admitted to the group with no screening
All students listen in on what they think is a live discussion of the sex
The sex group discussed the lives of cockroaches (very dull)
How much did participants like the discussion?
Results: the ones who suffered the most reported liking the
discussion the most.
- Induced compliance. When we are forced to say or do something and we cant change our
behavior so we change our attitude. “I said it, so I must have meant it”. o Subtly compelling people to behave in a manner that is inconsistent with their
beliefs, attitudes, or values, which typically leads to dissonance and to a change in
their original attitudes or values in order to reduce dissonance.
o Boring task Study:
Participants worked on a series of boring tasks
Control group: asked how