Textbook & Lecture Notes: Soc Psy 1Z03:
Chapter 5 – Attitudes
Attitudes: A predisposition to respond to a particular object in a generally favorable or
unfavorable way. How we perceive/respond to the world. Attitudes influence attention (ex, if
you like Green Day, more likely to respond to news stories about the band). Attitudes influence
behavior. A particular attitude does not exist in isolation. An attitude exists in a person’s mind;
it is a mental state, embedded in a cognitive structure. Every attitude is about something, the
“object” of an attitude. Attitude has 3 components: 1) COGNITIVE (beliefs or cognitions) 2)
EVALUATIVE (an evaluation) 3) BEHAVIORAL (a behavioral disposition) = CEB
Cognition (Beliefs): An attitude includes an object label, rules for applying the label, and a set of
cognitions or knowledge structures associated with that label. We cannot prove whether
particular beliefs are true or false. For ex: economists and gvnt officials disagree on whether
gvnt spending causes inflation, with both sides equally convinced they are right.
Evaluation (Feelings): Evaluative component has both a direction (positive or negative) and an
intensity (ranging from very weak or very strong). The evaluation component distinguishes an
attitude from other types of cognitive elements.
Behavioral Predisposition (Actions): “It’s boring” involves a tendency to avoid class. “I like my
job” suggests an intention to go to work. People having a specific attitude are inclined to
behave in certain ways that are consistent with that attitude.
*Greater consistency between the cognitive and affective components is associated with
greater attitude stability and resistance to persuasion.
*Attitudes are formed through reinforcement (instrumental conditioning), through associations
of stimuli and responses (classical conditioning), or by observing others (observational learning)
= RIC/CC/OL We can acquire an attitude towards our classes and jobs through instrumental
conditioning. If you experience rewards related to some object, your attitude will be favorable
*Only a small portion of our attitudes are based on direct contact with the object, however.
Attitudes of this type are learned through interactions with third parties (ex: political figures
and ethnic groups we’ve never been face to face with). *Children’s attitudes toward male-female relations (gender roles), divorce and politics are
similar to those held by their parents because they reward them for having the same views
(instrumental conditioning). This is the same with peers.
*We acquire attitudes and prejudices through classical conditioning in which a stimulus
gradually elicits a response through repeated association with other stimuli. For ex, children will
hear others refer to members of a group as stupid or lazy and then they associate that group
name with the negative reactions initially elicited by these terms.
*Observational learning of attitudes is learned by the media. Usually promotes negative
*Reacting to every member of the same group in the same way is more efficient, even if less
accurate and satisfying, than trying to learn about each person as an individual (ex:
*Prejudice (dislike for member of a specific group) can lead to intergroup conflict.
*Attitudes define the self and maintain self-worth. Some attitudes express the individuals basic
values and reinforce his or her self-image.
*Some attitudes protect the person from recognizing certain thoughts or feelings that threaten
his or her self-image or adjustment (ex: hating your father but expressing these feelings of
hatred to authority figures such as police and teachers). Experiences that threaten a person’s
self-esteem, such as failing a test, lead to more negative evaluation of other groups, particularly
among people whose self- esteem was initially high.
*Attitudes are embedded in a cognitive structure, linked with a variety of other attitudes.
Vertical Structure: Vertical linkages signify a minor belief is derived from a dependant or
primitive belief (ex: belief in God). Attitudes are organized hierarchically. Some attitudes
(primitive beliefs) are more fundamental than others. The linkages between fundamental
beliefs and minor beliefs in a cognitive structure are termed vertical. Ex of vertical structure:
Bottom: Fundamental beliefs: Belief in God -> Bible says premarital sex is wrong -> Top: Minor
beliefs: premarital sex is wrong.
Horizontal Structure: Exist when an attitude is linked to more than one set of underlying
beliefs- that is, when there are 2 or more different justifications for it – the linkages are termed
horizontal. They are more difficult to change than one based on a single primitive belief. (Ex:
even if there is evidence that AIDS is not associated with premarital sex, religious beliefs and
concerns with teenage pregnancy make it unlikely that the attitude will change). *The shorter the latency, the closer the 2 attitudes are in a person’s attitude structure.
Cognitive: The elements of a cognitive structure are called cognitions. A cognition is an individuals
perception of personal attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. Cognitive consictency: behavior follows the
same attitude (ex: think premarital sex is bad, so you don’t engage in sex until married). Cognitive
dissoance = Psychological tension between dissonant cognitions. This arises if one element is not
consistant with another. We are motivated to restore harmony through cognitive consistency by
resolving dissonant cognitions.
Cognitive Dissonance: A psychological social psychology theory: Leon Festinger. Occurs: 1) after a
decision 2) when one acts in a w