Chapter 7: Attitudes, Beliefs and Consistency
What are Attitudes and Why do People Have Them?
Attitudes are ideas that often determine how people will act.
Attitudes vs. Beliefs
They are not the same thing.
Beliefs are pieces of information (facts and opinions) about something. Attitudes are
global evaluations towards some object or issue.
Logically, beliefs are for explaining while attitudes are for choosing. They both serve
Different evaluations of the same attitude object: an implicit attitude and an explicit
attitude. This is based on the theory that a person can have different, competing
attitudes in the conscious as opposed to the automatic parts of the mind.
Implicit attitudes are automatic and non-conscious evaluative responses. Explicit
attitudes are controlled and conscious evaluative responses. These two attitudes
Research has suggested that the two attitudes can be unrelated to each other and
can serve different functions. Instead of realizing that there is conflict, most people
are not even aware of it. They think that their only attitude is the conscious one,
since this is the one that comes to mind.
There are some private attitudes that often we would rather not share with others.
Also, we might not even be aware of all of our own attitudes.
There are several measures of implicit attitudes:
o Most involve measuring reaction times to stimuli
Implicit Association Test (IAT): measures attitudes and beliefs that
people are either unwilling or unable to report.
Eg: the elderly are a stigmatized group; both young and old
tend to have a preference for young people over old people.
o Stigma: an attribute that is deeply discrediting,
perceived by others as broadly negative. Eg: elderly,
sick people, poor people, obese people, the mentally
This test is also a measure of prejudice.
o Another test: Greek and non-Greeks
(sorority/fraternity members vs. non-members; each
had a preference for their own group).
It is suggested that the IAT test is tainted by other factors,
such as cognitive control capabilities. So the IAT test might measure personal attitudes, perceived societal views or a
combination of both.
Why people have attitudes
Attitudes help humans to cope with the complexity of life. Attitudes are necessary
and adaptive for humans. They help us adjust to new situations, and can even be a
matter of life or death.
Attitudes are mainly used to sort things into good or bad categories.
Understanding information is not enough; you can only make it through a
complicated world if you can sort between good and bad. These are among the most
basic categories of thought. The categories are abstract, but even children
understand them very early on.
o In children 2-6 years old, bad was more readily identified than good. This
occurs at all ages beyond 2 years, 5 months. This reflect the psychological
principle that bad is stronger than good.
As soon as you know what something is, you start to know whether you like it or
dislike it. The initial evaluation is immediate and unconscious, and can even occur
for things that we have never encountered before (eg: nonsense words).
o Basically, people have attitudes about everything.
Attitudes are helpful in making choices.
o Research has shown that possessing an attitude increases the ease, speed
and quality of decision making. Therefore attitudes have great functional
o Study showed that college students with attitudes concerning academically
relevant issues experienced better mental and physical health than other
1. Which concept can be defined as pieces of information (facts or opinions) about
2. Which concept can be defined as a global evaluation?
3. Conscious is to unconscious as ______ is to ______.
a. Explicit attitude, implicit attitude b. Implicit attitude, explicit attitude
c. Primacy effect, recency effect
d. Recency effect, primacy effect
4. Dual attitudes refer to ______ and ______ attitudes.
a. Implicit, explicit
b. New, old
c. Private, public
d. Rewarded, unrewarded
How Attitudes are Formed
Formation of Attitudes
Mere Exposure Effect
o The tendency for novel stimuli to be liked more after the individual has been
repeatedly exposed to them.
o 1968: social psychologist Robert Zajonc proposed that mere repeated
exposure of the individual to the stimulus is a sufficient condition for the
enhancement of his attitude towards it.
o BUT if you initially dislike something, being exposed to it repeatedly will not
make you like it more, it will actually make you like it less.
Three studies done to test this:
Participants were exposed to Turkish words, Chinese-like
characters, and yearbook photographs. The more frequently
participants saw these stimuli, the more they liked them.
o The mere exposure effect also occurs with animals and crickets, and also
o This effect can also influence attitudes towards the self.
Study: female college students chose a close friend to participate in
the study. The researchers took a photograph and made two prints: a
normal one and a reversed (mirror) one. Participants liked the
mirror print more than the normal one, while friends liked the
normal one more than the mirror one. This is because they both
liked what they were exposed to more frequently.
o Both implicit and explicit attitudes can be formed through classical
o Ivan Pavlov (Russian scientist):
Meat powder (unconditional stimulus) makes the dogs mouth
water (unconditional response). The first time a researcher rings a
bell (neutral stimulus), the dogs mouth does not water. But if the
researcher rings the bell each time the dog gets meat powder, the
dog begins to expect that every time it hears the bell it will be fed,
and the bell becomes a conditioned stimulus. Eventually, the sound