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PSYC 2310 (255)
Saba Safdar (145)
Chapter 6

Chapter 6

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University of Guelph
PSYC 2310
Saba Safdar

S OCIAL  PSYCHOLOGY    HAPTER  6: TTITUDE FORMATION  & CHANGE                                                                                                                           Attitudes are defined as positive and negative evaluations about the following: people, objects, events and ideas. Also, they include three distinct components: affect, behaviour and cognition. These are known as the ABCs of Attitude. Attitudes help predict what people will do in the future, although attitudes are not always consistent with behaviours. Gender Differences: Women have more socially compassionate attitudes towards topics such as the death penalty, reducing income differentials between the rich and poor and favouring gun control. They also tended to have more traditionally moral attitudes towards things such as disapproval of divorce, abortion and opposing the legalization of marijuana. Women turned out to be more liberal than men when it came to issues of compassion and rights, but more conservative than men on issues of traditional morality. How Do We Form Attitudes? • Often formed quickly and without conscious awareness, but to some extent can be shifted or changed (malleable). • Attitudes are often influenced by information that is more prominent (salient). • Often acquired through information (most commonly from social environment), classical conditioning, operant conditioning and observational learning or modeling. Information o Young children often form attitudes similar to those of their parents due to it being the available information/influence at the time o Can be positive things such as loving to cook or watch a sport – but can also be negative if for example, their parents often express prejudice views. Negative information has a stronger impact on our attitudes than positive information does. This is called negativity bias – and another explanation why bad memories/pictures stick in your head longer than good ones. Classical Conditioning o Neutral stimulus constantly being paired with a stimulus that creates a specific response. Eventually, the neutral stimulus will create the specific response without being paired with the other stimulus – BUT if the neutral stimulus happens enough without the other stimulus, the conditioned response will no longer happen. o Example:  (Stage 1) Spending time with your partner {unconditioned stimulus}  makes you happy {unconditioned response}  (Stage 2) Smelling the perfume or cologne on your partner {neutral stimulus} + spending time with your partner {unconditioned stimulus}  makes you happy {unconditioned response}  (Stage 3) Smelling perfume/cologne on stranger {conditioned stimulus}  Makes you happy (conditioned response) o Therefore, you have a positive attitude towards the scent. o Another way attitudes can be conditioned is through mere exposure, the phenomenon by which the greater the exposure we have to a given stimulus, the more we like it.  Example: Hating a song on the radio, but hearing it over and over and over again, thus leading you to liking it. o Another way is through subliminal persuasion, a type of persuasion that occurs when stimuli are presented at a very rapid and unconscious level.  Example: In a study, people were looking at various photographs of a woman doing normal household chores such as sweeping, making the bed etc. and in the middle of those photos, an unrelated photo was shown. One group had a positive photo and the other group had a negative photo. When the participants were asked to evaluate the woman doing the chores, the group who had the positive random picture had a better attitude towards the cleaning pictures than the negative random- picture group, despite the random picture being unrelated to the pictures they were evaluating. Operant Conditioning o When positive behaviour is rewarded, therefore happens more and negative behaviour is punished, therefore happens less. Parents have the power to form their children’s attitudes towards things from a young age.  Example: A little boy wants a doll for Christmas and is ridiculed by his parents, meanwhile his sister wants a doll for Christmas is praised for wanting one. The boy forms a negative attitude towards dolls from this point; meanwhile his sister has an increasingly positive attitude towards the doll. o At adolescence, it is often peers who ridicule or reward certain attitudes; one of the reasons conformity exists in this age group.  Example: Homosexuality, ideas towards politics. Observational Learning/Modelling o A subtle type of learning in which people’s attitudes and behaviours are influenced by watching other people’s attitudes and behaviours. Important when it comes to things like bicycle safety, sun safety etc.  Example: Children who grow up with an overweight parent may have a more positive attitude towards overweight people than those raised by an average-weight person. o Modelling shapes attitudes through observation. Most effective when someone close to us (friends, family) engages in the actions in front of us. Also works with influential celebrities. That is why celebrities are often used when it comes to the importance of staying in school or not smoking.  Example: Nursery-school aged children who are afraid of dogs watched a boy their age play with a dog for 20 minutes a day. After only 4 days, 67% of the scared children were willing to play with the dog as well. o Celebrities can also have a negative impact when it comes to modelling. Non-tv watching children who see the ads for toys and food will often spend more time in front of the TV. Non-smoking teenagers who watch movies with celebrities smoking allow children to gain a more positive attitude towards smoking. When Do Attitudes Predict Behaviour? Strong attitudes are more likely to predict than weak ones. To be a strong attitude, two elements are examined: Importance: Having a belief that will affect you, therefore leading to having a high importance level. Direct Experience: Having been in a situation will give you a better idea of the situation itself, therefore allowing you to have a stronger, more predictive response to the attitude. Accessibility helps predict behaviour because if someone has an ease of access to information, their attitude is most likely very strong, therefore it is less likely to change. There are factors that can alter attitude-behaviour ethics though. Alcohol, for example can change self-awareness and although you are aware of things like STI’s, you may still engage in unprotected sex with a stranger when intoxicated, but would not while you were sober. Specificity will predict behaviour. For example, asking a general question like “how do you feel about birth control” versus “how do you feel about using the birth control pill as a type contraception” will change answers. Social Norms generally imply the implicit and explicit rules, values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours of certain groups and therefore is a good predictor for behaviour. For example: someone who has a negative attitude towards smoking may actually smoke when all their friends are smoking around him or her. Two theories that emphasize the role of social norms in predicting behaviour are the theory of planned behaviour and the prototype/willingness model. Theory of Planned Behaviour: Developed by Icek Ajzen and Martin Fishbein (1977), It is a theory that describes peoples behaviours based on their attitudes, subjective norms and perceived behavioural control. Attitudes, subjective norms and perceived behavioural control are indirect influence on behaviour and lead to intentions. Perceived behavioural control can also be a direct lead to behaviour and surpass intentions. This theory is less effective at predicting spontaneous behaviour. The Prototype/Willingness Model: A model that describes the roll of prototypes in influencing a person’s willingness to engage in the behaviour in a given situation. The Trans-Theoretical Model of Behaviour Change (TTM) A model that views a change in behaviour as a progression through a series of stages, including pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance. A model views a change in behaviour as a progression through a series of stages. It extends the theory of planned behaviour to an individual’s readiness to engage in healthy behaviours such as stopping smoking or losing weight. o Stage 1: Pre-contemplation. At this stage, people are not intending to change their behaviour in the near future (next six months) and are therefore not ready to make the change yet. o Stage 2: Contemplation. People are intending and thus are getting ready to change their behaviour in the near future (next six months). o Stage 3: Preparation. People are ready to take immediate action (next month). o Stage 4: Action. People have changed their behaviour within the last six months and are pushing hard to move forward. o Stage 5: Maintenance. People are working hard to avoid relapse and are aware of situations that may tempt them to slip back into old habits. Why (and when) Attitudes Do Matter By understanding all the above factors, it will help medical professionals predict behaviour. They can also design better strategies when determining how to change behaviour. When Does Engaging In A Behaviour Lead to Attitude Change? Although we often describe attitudes as leading to behaviours, it can actually go both ways. Cognitive Dissonance Theory Developed by Leon Festinger in 1957; A theory that describes attitude change as occurring in order to reduce the unpleasant arousal people experience when they engage in a behaviour that conflicts with their attitude OR when they hold two conflicting attitudes. Example: Being envir
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