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Chapter 6

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Psychology 2720A/B
Clive Seligman

CHAPTER 6: ATTITUDES AND SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR What Are Attitudes? • Attitudes: Evaluations of Targets • Attitude: an individual’s evaluation of a target along a good-bad dimension • By calling it an evaluation, theorists mean that an attitude of whether a particular target is positive or negative • Attitudes always have a target • Three Parts of Attitudes • Attitudes can come from three sources: emotional reactions, cognitive information, and past behaviour • Whether an individual evaluates a target positively or negatively will depend on three things 1. How the object makes the person feel 2. The person’s beliefs about the object 3. The person’s previous actions towards the object • A potentially confusing issue in the attitudes literature: the two-way relation between attitudes and behaviour • The answer is that both directions of influence can occur • Past behaviours influence current attitudes and current attitudes influence future behaviour • People also will behave in the future in ways that reflect their different attitudes • Attitudes can have three components or sources: feelings, beliefs, and past behaviour • Argued that attitudes toward certain targets depend mostly on people’s feelings toward those targets. whereas attitudes toward other targets depend mostly on people’s knowledge and beliefs • Your attitude toward many individuals and social groups may include a mix of positive and negative feelings and beliefs • Ambivalent Attitudes: evaluations of targets that include both positive and negative elements • Ambivalent attitudes can lead to different behaviour over time because either the positive or the negative elements about the target may come to mind at a particular point, and whichever type of element is dominant will drive behaviour • Explicit Versus Implicit Attitudes • Explicit Attitudes: evaluations that people can report consciously • Implicit Attitudes: automatic evaluative responses to a target, which may occur without awareness • An implicit attitude is a spontaneous, immediate, good-bad response to the target that cannot b consciously controlled • Typically, implicit attitudes conform to explicit attitudes • Perceptions of Others’Attitudes • There is a common structure to people’s perceptions of others’ attitudes • Two dimensions are most important: liberal versus conservative and traditional versus novel Why Do We Evaluate? • Assessing Objects CHAPTER 6: ATTITUDES AND SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR • Object-Appraisal Function: a function of attitudes in which attitudes provide rapid evaluative judgements of targets, facilitating approach or avoidance • These attitudes give the individual a quick assessment of whether targets are likely to be helpful or hurtful • Expressing Values • People sometimes adopt attitudes to express their underlying values • Values: road, abstract standards or goals that people consider to be important guiding principles in their life • Symbolic attitudes have a value-expressive function • Value-Expressive Function: a function of attitudes in which attitudes communicate individuals’ identity and values s • Testing the Functions of Attitudes • Motivations underlying object-appraisal attitudes differ from those underlying value- expressive attitudes • Object-appraisal attitudes give the individual a quick evaluation of the target, whereas value-expressive attitudes tell other people about the individuals identity or values • Object appraisal attitudes responded to information about rewards, whereas value- expressive attitudes responded to information about image Measuring Attitudes • Self-Report Measures of Attitudes • Most attitude measurement techniques are self-report in nature • Likert-Type Scales • Likert-Type Scale: an attitude measurement techniques that requires respondents to indicate the extent of their agreement or disagreement with several statements on an issue • Typically researchers constructing a Likert-type scale conduct analyses to ensure that ll of the itms are valid reflections of the target attitude • Any items that do not correlate significantly with total scores are dropped from the scale • They are relatively easy for researchers to construct, are clear and simple for respondents to complete, and have been shown to produce reliable scores • Semantic Differential Scales • Semantic Differential Scales: an attitude measurement technique that requires respondent to rate a target on several evaluative dimensions (such as good- bad and favorable-unfavorable) • Opposing adjectives appear at each end of a 5-point scale, and the respondent is instructed to put an X or a check mark somewhere on the scale to indicate his or her evaluation • Some advantages of semantic differential scales are tat they are easy for researchers to construct and straightforward for respondent to complete • Assesses evaluation very directly, because participants rate the attitude object on dimensions that are explicitly evaluative • Opinion Surveys CHAPTER 6: ATTITUDES AND SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR • Opinion surveys are designed to assess public opinion about an issue, event, or group • Most opinion surveys contain just one or two items on a particular issue and responses are often limited to yes or no • Opinion surveys are very useful for gathering information about public opinion, but social psychologists rarely use them • Problems with Self-Report Measures • All of the report techniques we have described rest on at least two assumptions: 1. People who know what their attitudes are 2. They will report those attitudes honestly • If researchers are interested in implicit attitudes then they cannot use self- report measures • After one position on an issue is more socially desirable than other positions • Given that people want to appear likable, moral, and competent, they may be tempted to shift their answers to make themselves look better, which will reduce the accuracy of the measure of attitudes • Another problem with self-report techniques is that they typically do not yield a clear and easy way to measure the ambivalence of an individual’s attitude • Someone whose attitude has both good and bad elements cannot express such ambivalence on these sorts of scales • To measure ambivalence, some researchers have asked respondents to rate the target on both positive scales and negative scales separately • Nonverbal Measures of Attitudes • In response to the first two problems with self-report measures, social psychologists have developed several nonverbal measures of attitudes • Nonverbal measures may provide better assessments of people’s unconscious affective responses to objects than self-report measures • On the negative side, these measures are often difficult to obtain and may not be as sensitive for assessing explicit attitudes as self-report measures • Behavioural Measures • Some researchers have sued participants overt behaviour to infer their attitude toward an object • One advantage of behavioural measures of attitudes is that they are usually unobtrusive measure: participants usually do not realize that their attitudes are being assessed • By being unobtrusive, behavioural measures reduce problems of self presentation and social desirability • Physiological Measures • One category of physiological reactions that has received attention is symptoms of arousal, such as heart rate and blood pressure • Found that exposure to negative or disliked objects increases arousal as measured by these symptoms • It appears that although heart rate and blood pressure many sometimes indicate the intensity of people’s feelings about a target, arousal symptoms are poor at distinguishing between positive and negative evaluations CHAPTER 6: ATTITUDES AND SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR •Strong feelings of liking and strong feelings of disliking may produce similar levels of physiological arousal •Facial Electromyography (facial EMG): a procedure for measuring muscle contractions in the face that may be sensitive to positive versus negative responses to a stimulus •Some evidence that the magnitude of people’s eye blink response to a puff of air directed at their eye while they are looking at a target object reveals their affective response •Obtaining physiological measures is a complex and time-consuming procedure •Facial EMG appears to be quite sensitive to emotional reactions, but less sensitive to evaluation that lack a strong affective component •Possible for people to deliberately alter or inhibit some of their facial responses, thereby making facial EMG less accurate • Implicit Measures •Implicit attitudes are people’s automatic evaluative responses to a target •Implicit Association Test (IAT): a reaction time procedure that provides a measure of implicit attitudes; participants sort targets into a good or a bad category, and the speed at which the sorting is completed is taken as a measurement of implicit attitude toward the object •Participants complete the task in which the target is associated with good things more quickly than the task in which the target is associated with bad things, they are assumed to have a positive implicit attitude toward the target •Responses on the IAT and other implicit measures are influenced by idiosyncratic factors, such as recently generated thoughts by the respondents •Implicit measures of attitudes have been shown to predict individuals responses especially spontaneous, nonverbal reactions to targets, such as eye contact, speech hesitations and smiling How Do Attitudes Form? • Affective Sources of Attitudes • When an object, event, or action consistently produces positive feelings or pleasurable biological responses, we will form a favorable attitude toward it • Evaluative Conditioning •Evaluative Conditioning: a process by which objects come to evoke positive or negative affect simply by their association with affect-inducing events • Mere Exposure Event •Mere Exposure Event: the tendency for repeated contact with an object, even without reinforcement, to increase liking for the object •Why does the mere exposure effect occur? • One possibility is that we are uncertain about how to respond to novel objects, and this uncertainty is unpleasant • Another possibility is that when we are familiar with an object, we can perceive and categorize it more quickly and easily than unfamiliar objects • People tend to like the letters that appear in their own name more than do people whose names do not include those letters • The effect is especially strong for people’s first and last initials CHAPTER 6: ATTITUDES AND SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR •Repeated exposure
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