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Chapter 4

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University of Toronto Mississauga
Dax Urbszat

PSY230 Chapter 4: Behavior and Attitudes Attitude: a favorable or unfavorable evaluative reaction toward something or someone, exhibited in one’s beliefs, feelings or intended behavior  Our Assumption: our private beliefs and feelings determine our public behavior, so if we wish to change behavior we must first change hearts and minds  In beginning social psychologists agreed: to know peoples attitudes is to predict their actions  Leon Festinger concluded that the evidence showed that changing people’s attitudes hardly affects their behavior  For much of the last century researchers have wondered how much of our attitudes affect our actions, remember these three dimensions as the ABCs of attitudes The ABCs of attitudes: 1. affect: (feelings) 2. behavior: (tendency) 3. cognition: (thoughts) HOW WELL DO OUR ATTITUDES PREDICT OUR BEHAVIOUR? To what extent, and under what conditions do attitudes drive our outward actions? Why were social psychologists at first surprised by a seemingly small connection between attitudes and action? ARE WE ALL HYPOCRYTES? Allan Wicker offered a shocking conclusion: People’s expressed attitudes hardly predict their varying behaviors  The disjuncture btw attitudes and actions is what Daniel Batson called “moral hypocrisy” (appearing moral without being so)  Warnings about dangers of smoking only minimally affect those who already smoke  All in all, the developing picture of what controls behavior emphasized external social influences, such as others’ behavior and expectations, and played down internal factors, such as attitudes and personality  Our attitudes do predict our behavior when these other influences are minimal, when the attitude is specific to the behavior and when the attitude is strong (potent) PSY230 WHEN SOCIAL INFLUENCES ON WHAT WE SAY ARE MINIMAL Implicit Association Test (IAT): a computer-driven assessment of implicit attitudes. The test uses reaction times to measure people’s automatic associations btw attitude objects and evaluative words. Easier pairings (and faster responses) are taken to indicate stronger unconscious associations  Explicit and implicit attitudes may together predict better behavior and judgment then either alone  For attitudes formed early in life, such as racial or gender attitudes, implicit and explicit attitudes frequently diverge, with implicit attitudes often being better predictors of behavior  Consumer behavior attitudes and political support explicit self reports are better predictors  Automatic implicit reaction  (the amygdala, a center for threat perception) is active as we automatically evaluate social stimuli  IAT is not reliable enough for use in assessing and comparing individuals  Through IAT we have discovered our “dual processing” capacity for both controlled (deliberate, conscious, explicit) and automatic (effortless, habitual, implicit thinking WHEN OTHER INFLUENCES ON BEHAVIOR ARE MINIMAL Principle of aggregation: the affects of an attitude on behavior become more apparent when we look at a person’s aggregate or average behavior rather then at isolated acts. Ex. General attitude toward religion poorly predicts whether they will go to worship next weekend.  Weather, preacher, how they are feeling and so forth also influence attendance  But religious attitudes predict quite well the total quantity of religious behaviors over time  Self-conscious ppl are normally in touch with their attitudes ex. Mirror SUMMING UP: HOW WELL DO OUR ATTITUDES PREDICT OUR BEHAVIOUR  How do our inner attitudes (evaluative reactions toward some object or person, often rooted in beliefs) relate to our external behavior? Although popular wisdom stresses the impact of attitudes on behavior, in fact, attitudes are often poor predictors of behavior. Moreover, changing ppl’s attitudes typically fails to produce much change in their behavior.  The answer: Our expressions of attitudes and our behaviors are each subject to many influences. Our attitudes will predict our behavior: (1)If these “other influences are minimized (2)If the attitude corresponds very closely to the predicted behavior (as in voting studies) PSY230 (3)If the attitude is potent (because something reminds us of it, or because we acquired it from direct experience)  Under these conditions, what we think and feel predicts what we do WHEN DO OUR BEHAVIOURS AFFECT OUR ATTITUDES? EVIL AND MORAL ACTS  Character is reflected in what we do when no one is looking  Moral action, especially when chosen rather than coerced, affects moral thinking ex. Children and toy  There are times when u can’t legislate morality however; attitude change has changed followed by changes in laws. Ex. Seat belt SOCIAL MOVEMENT  Society’s laws have a strong influence on people’s behavior  The “start small and build” tactic was an affective application of the foot-in- the-door technique SUMMING UP: WHEN DOES OUR BEHAVIOUR AFFECT OUR ATTITUDE?  The attitude-action relation also works in the reverse direction: We are likely not only to think ourselves into action but also to act ourselves into thinking. When we act, we amplify the idea underlying what we have done, especially when we feel responsible for it. Many streams of evidence converge on this principle. The actions prescribed by social roles mold the attitudes of the role players  Similarly, what we say or write can strongly influence attitudes that we subsequently hold  Research on the foot-in-the-door phenomenon reveals that committing a small act makes people more willing to do a larger one later  Actions also affect our moral attitudes: That which we have done, even if it is evil, we tend to justify as right  Our racial and political behaviors help shape our social consciousness: We not only stand up for what we believe, we also believe in what we stood up for.  Political and social movements may legislate behavior designed to lead to attitude change on a mass scale WHY DOES OUR BEHAVIOUR AFFECT OUR ATTITUDES? What theories help explain the attitudes-follow-behavior phenomenon? How do the tests btw these competing ideas illustrate the process of scientific explanation? PSY230 Self-presentation theory: assumes that for strategic reasons, we express attitudes that make us appear consistent. Cognitive dissonance theory: assumes that to reduce discomfort, we justify our actions; we justify our actions to ourselves Self-perception theory: assumes that our actions are self-revealing (when uncertain about our feelings or be
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