ATTITUDES, BEHAVIOR, AND RATIONALIZATION
The Three Components of Attitudes
1. Attitude: an evaluation of an object along a positive-negative
2. Cognitions: Thoughts that typically reinforce a person’s feelings.
a. Knowledge and beliefs about the object
b. Associate memories and images.
3. Attitudes are associated with specific behaviors.
4. Out attitudes activate particular regions in the brain areas of
the motor cortex.
1. Attitude questionnaires may be the most widely used
methodology in social psychology.
1. Likert scale: A numerical scale used to assess people’s attitudes;
it includes a set of possible answers with labeled anchors on each
extreme. (i.e. 1= never 10= always)
a. When it comes to complex attitudes, responses to these
sorts of simple scales are likely to miss some important
i. I.e. how much do you value freedom, how strongly do
you feel about the need to reduce discrimination, how
important is a less polluted environment. Generally all
will answer positively, but how would you know the
difference in depth?
2. Measuring of attitudes
a. Accessibility of the attitude: how readily the attitude can
be activated in the individual’s mind, thereby guiding
thought and behavior.
i. Response latency: Assessing the time it takes the
individual to respond to the attitude question. (method
b. Centrality: A measure of a variety of attitudes within a
domain and calculate how strongly each attitude is linked
to the others.
i. I.e. If abortion is a defining social issue for you, then
your attitude toward abortion is likely to be strongly
correlated with your attitudes toward stem cell
research and sex education, and perhaps even with
your attitudes toward gay marriage and taxation.
c. Implicit attitude measures: indirect measures of attitudes
that do not involve self-report. (Used when people may be
unwilling or unable to report their true attitudes.)
i. Affective priming implicit association test (IAT)
1. Allow researchers to tap automatic attitudes:
People’s immediate evaluative reactions that
they may not be conscious of, or that may conflict with their consciously endorsed
ii. Researchers also use nonverbal measures of attitudes
as indices of positive attitudes toward others.
1. People’s smiling behavior or degree of physical
iii. Measure physiological indicators
1. Increased heart rate & sweaty palms = fear.
2. Describes how patterns of brain activity
recorded from the surface of the scalp reveal
the strength of people’s positive and negative
Predicting Behavior from Attitudes
1. LaPiere shows how well attitudes predict behavior by touring for
two years with a young Chinese couple, visiting numerous hotels,
auto camps, restaurants, and cafés. (prejudice and discrimination
against Chinese individuals were common at the time) BUT they
were only denied service once out of 250 establishments.
a. He asked the establishments they had visited about
whether their policy would serve “Orientals” East Asians
a. 90% said they would not, which is inconsistent
with LaPiere’s observations during the tour.
1. Thus showing that attitudes do not
predict behavior very well.
b. Evidence of a tight connection between attitudes and
behavior is all around us, but all it tells us is that if people
behave in a certain way, they are likely to have a positive
attitude toward that behavior, BUT it does not mean that
people with a positive attitude toward a given behavior are
likely to behave in a manner consistent with their attitude.
Attitudes Sometimes Conflict with Other Powerful
Determinants of Behavior
1. Attitudes in general all compete with other
determinants of behavior.
2. Attitudes do not always win out over these other
3. One particularly potent determinant of a person’s
actions that can weaken the relationship between
attitudes and behavior is an individual’s
understanding of the prevailing norms of appropriate
a. I.e. Not doing something because people just
don’t do it.
i. In LaPiere’s study, owners may have
wanted to refuse service to the Chinese
couple, but refrained from doing so out of the concern about how it would look and the
scene it might cause.
Attitudes Are Sometimes Inconsistent
1. Attitudes may conflict with one another. Also
different components of an attitude may not always
i. Rift between affective component &
ii. Affective Component: feelings or
emotions that something evokes. e.g.
fear, sympathy, hate. May dislike welfare
b. Cognitive Component our thoughts, beliefs,
and ideas about something. When a human
being is the object of an attitude, the cognitive
component is frequently a stereotype, i.e.
"welfare recipients are lazy"
i. When not consistent, attitude does not
predict behavior well.
c. LaPiere Owners might have thought it was
bad for their business to serve Chinese
individuals, but the feelings aroused by a living
breathing Chinese couple may have made it hard
to deny them service.
Introspecting about the Reasons our Attitudes
1. Consider your attitude toward someone you like,
give the reasons why: We may focus on what is easy to
identify, easy to justify, and easy to capture in words,
and miss the real reasons of our attraction.
2. The attitudes of participants in the first group,
who evaluated the relationship without considering the
reasons, were much more accurate predictors of the
current status of the relationship than were those of
participants who had introspected about their reasons
for liking their partners
3. Thinking about why we like someone can
sometimes lead to confusion about what our true
feelings really are.
4. Introspecting about the reasons for our attitudes
about all sorts of things can undermine how well those
attitudes guide our behavior.
5. Does this mean that introspection is always
harmful and that we should forgo careful analysis and
always go with our gut?
i. In many cases the real reasons for our
attitude are perfectly easy to identify and
articulate, and in those cases introspection produces no rift between
the variables we think are guiding our
attitude and those that actually are.
1. I.e. whether to launch a military
campaign, nothing can be left
ii. Contaminating effect of introspection is
limited to those times when the true
source of your attitude is hard to pin
i. In such cases, cognitive
analysis is likely to
seize on seemingly
reasons. When the
basis of our attitudes is
however, the search for
reasons is more likely
to yield the real reason,
and introspection is
unlikely to diminish the
attitude and behavior.
Attitudes Are Sometimes Based on Secondhand
1. Even though you have never been to Bali, never
met Secretary Clinton, and never meet the British Royal
family, you most likely have attitudes about all three of
them, maybe even strong ones.
i. Attitude may be a bit off the mark, and
may not match how you would actually
behave if you came in contact with the
ii. (LaPiere owners may have had little of
no previous exposure to Chinese
individuals, and the actual attitude may
not have matched the actual Chinese
couple they encountered; thus their
abstract attitude toward Orientals did not
predict the behavioral response elicited
by the Chinese couple.
2. Attitudes based on direct (firsthand) experience
predict subsequent behavior much better than those
derived indirectly (secondhand) 3. Correlation between students’ attitudes and their
overt behavior was higher among the directly affected
students than among others. Among students who were
not directly affected this relationship was much weaker.
4. Attitudes about participation in psychological
research predict actual participation much more
strongly among those who have previously taken part in
research than among those who have not.
The Mismatch between General Attitudes And
1. Attitude relevant behavior that is typically
assessed deals with a particular instance of that class.
2. Highly specific attitudes typically do a better job
or predicting specific behaviors, and general attitudes
typically do a better job or predicting how a person
behaves “in general” across a number of different
3. If you want to predict a specific type of behavior
accurately, you have to measure people’s attitudes
toward that specific type of behavior.
4. If we encounter a specific situation or person who
doesn’t fit the prototype, our behavior is not likely to
reflect our stated attitude.
“Automatic Behavior That Bypasses Conscious
1. We reflect on our attitudes and then decide how
2. One of the purposes of attitudes is to allow us to
respond quickly, without having to do much weighing of
pros and cons. We go with our gut feeling.
i. Some types of automatic behavior
bypass our attitudes altogether, as when
we jump away from something that looks
like a snake in the grass.
Predicting Attitudes from Behavior
1. Over time, mere outward behavior can give way
to genuine inner conviction.
2. Cognitive consistency theories: attempt to
account for some of the most common sources of
rationalization people use to bring their attitudes in line
with their actions.
1. Balance Theory: theory holding that people try to
maintain balance among their beliefs, cognitions, and
2. Balance is achieved by my liking that person (+):(-)
x (+)= + a. Beloved celebrity (+) say positive things (+)
about a product.
3. Someone you know loves basketball, then you are
likely to assume her best friend does too.
Cognitive Dissonance Theory
1. Most influential consistency theory.
2. Cognitive dissonance theory: A theory that
maintains that inconsistencies among a person’s
thoughts, sentiments, and actions create an aversive
emotional state (dissonance) that leads to efforts to
3. Aversive emotional state (dissonance) is aroused
whenever people experience inconsistency between two
a. Decisions and Dissonance:
i. All hard decisions arouse some
ii. Once you’ve mad an irrevocable decision,
you’ll exert mental effort to reduce this
dissonance, you’ll rationalize.
iii. We rationalize to make us more
comfortable with our choices.
iv. “There is a clear and undeniable
difference between the cognitive process
that occur during the period of making a
decision and those that occur after the
decision has been made.”
v. Same sorts of rationalization and
distortion that occur after people make a
decision also subconsciously take place
before they make the decision.
b. Effort Justification
i. Effort Justification: People’s tendency to
reduce dissonance by justifying the time,
effort, or money they have devoted to
something that has turned out to be
unpleasant of disappointing.
ii. If you pay a high price for something and
it turns out to be disappoint, you’re likely
to experience dissonance.
iii. Someone who undergoes a painful or
humiliating initiation ritual will have a
need to believe it was all worthwhile.
iv. Sweet Lemons rationalization: ( it’s
really not so bad)
v. Discussion group by participants who
experienced no initiation, a mild initiation, or a severe initiation to join the
group. (the discussion ended up being
boring) Then participants rated the
i. Those in the severe
rated it more favorable
than those in the other
vi. “I suffered to get into this group” is
inconsistent with the realization that “this
group is worthless and boring.”
c. Induced Compliance and Attitude Change
i. Induced (forced) compliance: Subtly
compelling individuals to behave in a
manner that is inconsistent with their
beliefs, attitudes, or values, in order to
elicit dissonance, and therefore a change
in their originals attitudes of values.
ii. Participants were paid from $1-$20 to
say something they don’t believe.
i. Words were
inconsistent with their
beliefs, and $1 was not
enough to justify the
lie. Those given $20
could at least tell
themselves that they
were justified in lying
because the pay was
good and the lie was of
iii. If you want to persuade people to do
something, and you want them to
internalize the broader message being
the behavior, you should use the smallest
amount of incentive or coercion
necessary to get them to do it.
iv. In the inducements are too substantial
people will justify their behavior by the
inducements, and they will not need to
rationalize their behavior by coming to
believe in the broader purpose or
philosophy behind it. But if the
inducement are just barely sufficient,
people’s need to rationalize will tend to produce a deep-seated attitude change in
line with their behavio