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Chapter 7

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PSYC 215
John Lydon

ATTITUDES, BEHAVIOR, AND RATIONALIZATION The Three Components of Attitudes 1. Attitude: an evaluation of an object along a positive-negative dimension. 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. Measuring Attitudes 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 elements. 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 do measure) 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 attitudes. ii. Researchers also use nonverbal measures of attitudes as indices of positive attitudes toward others. 1. People’s smiling behavior or degree of physical closeness. 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 attitudes. 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 determinants. 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 behavior. 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 align i. Rift between affective component & cognitive component ii. Affective Component: feelings or emotions that something evokes. e.g. fear, sympathy, hate. May dislike welfare recipients. 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 unturned. ii. Contaminating effect of introspection is limited to those times when the true source of your attitude is hard to pin down. i. In such cases, cognitive analysis is likely to seize on seemingly plausible but misleading cognitive reasons. When the basis of our attitudes is largely cognitive, however, the search for reasons is more likely to yield the real reason, and introspection is unlikely to diminish the relationship between attitude and behavior. Attitudes Are Sometimes Based on Secondhand Information 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 three scenarios. 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 Specific Targets 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 instances. 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 Attitudes 1. We reflect on our attitudes and then decide how to behave. 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. Balance Theory 1. Balance Theory: theory holding that people try to maintain balance among their beliefs, cognitions, and sentiments. 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 restore consistency. 3. Aversive emotional state (dissonance) is aroused whenever people experience inconsistency between two cognitions. a. Decisions and Dissonance: i. All hard decisions arouse some dissonance. 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 discussion. i. Those in the severe initiation condition rated it more favorable than those in the other two conditions 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 little consequence. 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
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