CHAPTER 7: ATTITUDES, BEHAVIOUR, AND
Two types of effects:
1. Effect of attitude on behaviour
- is weaker than most people think
- ex: Environmentalist more likely to vote Green Party or Democrat than Rep.
2. Effect of behaviour on attitude
- is stronger than most think
- ex: Environmentalists who drive gas-guzzling cars rationalize their behaviour
by convincing themselves that car emissions have little inﬂuence on the climate
or that they “don’t drive that much anyway.”
- i.e., President Johnson converted war-skeptical politicians (from his own
campaign) into true believers by sending them on “fact-ﬁnding” mission to
Vietnam. Skeptics would rather try to inﬂuence admin. from the inside than in the
public eye. As they supported the policy in the public-eye more and more, the
skeptics start to believe their own lies and thus become true supporters of war.
The Three Components of Attitudes
Affect: degree of +/- emotion
Attitude: an evaluation of an object
in either a positive or negative light Cognition: thoughts, beliefs
that involves the three elements of Affect Behaviour about object & associated
memories, images; reinforces
affect, cognition and behaviour. affect.
Cognition Behaviour: tendency to
approach or avoid; studies
show attitudes activate motor
region of brain
• Attitudes most commonly measured with simple survey questions.
Likert scale: a numerical scale used to asses peopleʼs attitudes; it includes a set of
possible answers with labeled anchors on each extreme.
• Simple scales often miss important elements of complex attitudes, i.e., attitude
towards same-sex marriage.
• Although people may share a general positive/negative attitude towards a a certain
idea, people still differ in strength and depth of their attitudes. • How to overcome this challenge?
•Russell Fazioʼs approach: measuring accessibility of attitude (how readily the
attitude can be activated in the individual’s mind, thereby guiding thought and
•Response latency: the time it takes an individual to respond to a stimulus, such
as attitude question.
•Fazio and Williams (1986) measured how long it took participants to answer
attitude questions regarding presidential candidates. Time was strong predictor of
who participants thought won ﬁrst debate and for whom they eventually voted for.
• Implicit attitude measures: indirect measures of attitudes that do not involve
self-report, i.e., IAT (implicit associate test).
• Allows researcher to tap into automatic (unconscious) attitudes of participants
• Includes nonverbal measures (smiling), physiological indicators (heart rate,
• The bad is stronger than the good
•Joseph LeDoux ---> amygdala plays important role in the affective component of
•When animals had no amygdala, they ate feces, mated with other species, did not
fear predators, etc..
•More research ---> negative evaluations > positive evaluations
• Evolutionarily: food/mating opportunities not realized today will happen
tomorrow, but if predators not avoided today, there won’t be a tomorrow.
• Losing 20$ > winning 20$
• Brain imaging showed negative stimuli ---> greater brain activity
Predicting Behaviour from Attitudes
• 1930s study Richard LaPierre: traveled U.S. with Chinese couple and were allowed
into all but one establishment (hotels, cafes, etc..)---> would think that anti-Chinese
prejudice not so strong. But LaPierre wrote to all establishments they visited to ask
directly about their policy to serve Orientals, 90% said they would not.
•Study indicates that attitudes may not always be the best predictor of behaviour
•Findings were very shocking to psychologists
•Therefore, important to understand when attitudes likely to be high predictors and
A. Attitudes sometimes conﬂict with other powerful determinants of behaviour
• Behaviour is determined by too many things other than attitude (i.e., eating less is
determined by more than attitude towards dieting like existing eating habits,
physiology, environment, other attitudes towards pizza, ice cream, etc.). • Understanding of prevailing norms of appropriate behaviour can weaken relationship
between person’s attitudes and behaviour (i.e., restaurants owners may have been
afraid to cause a scene by denying Chinese couple service)
B. Attitudes are sometimes Inconsistent
• Attitudes may conﬂict with one another
• Different components of one attitude may conﬂict with each other (i.e., affect and
• i.e., Restaurant owners THINK it’s bad to serve Chinese but meeting real people
made them FEEL it was hard to deny service
C. Introspecting about reasons for our attitudes
• Can confuse us about the real reasons for our attitudes
• When introspecting, we focus on what is easy to identify- not necessarily what is true
• Wilson study: Asked one group of participants for overall evaluation of relationship;
asked another group to ﬁrst list reasons why they felt the way they did and then make
overall evaluation. 9 months later both groups asked about status of relationship: First
group better predictors of status than second group.
• Thinking about why we like someone can confuse us about true feelings.
• Wilson also tested theory in non-romantic context ---> rating products (dislike/
like): participants who gave reasons more likely to regret decision and less
accurate to products’ objective value
• This does not mean introspection is futile!
• Contamination effect of introspection usually only when true source of attitude
hard to pin-point.
• Introspection more useful in cognitive decisions (buying electronics) than in
affective decisions (preference of artist).
D. Attitudes are sometimes based on secondhand information
• Attitudes based off direct (ﬁrst-hand) experience predict subsequent beh. better than
those based off indirect experience!
• Regan & Fazio study: Cornell Uni housing shortage: some students had to sleep on
cots in dormitory lounges. Others who were fortunate enough to get housing, only
heard about housing crisis second-hand. Study on whether correlation between
student’s attitudes and beh. (writing to ofﬁcials/petitioning) high among directly affect
students. IT WAS.
• More studies:
• Attitudes about participating in psych. exp. higher for those who have
participated in past
• Attitudes about solving intellectual puzzles higher for those who have tried them
• Attitudes about ﬂu shots higher for those who have gotten them
E. The mismatch between general attitudes and speciﬁc targets
• Consistency between attitudes and behaviour is higher when attitude and behaviour
are at same level of speciﬁcity. • Lord, Lepper, & Mackie study: Male college students asked attitude towards gay
men, and to describe stereotypical gay man. Months later, other experiment asked
students willingness to show new student around campus. When student was
described according to participant’s speciﬁc gay man stereotype ---> those with +
attitude more willing; when description not match stereotypical image of participant
---> less willing.
F. “Automatic” behaviour that bypasses conscious attitudes
• Automatic behaviour that bypasses our conscious attitudes can conﬂict with those
attitudes without our knowing it.
• Beh. is often more reﬂexive than reﬂective.
• Context elicits auto. beh., connection btw attitudes and beh. is necessarily weak
• Evolutionarily we need automatic beh. to help us react quickly without thinking too
much, i.e., jumping back when something looks like a snake
Predicting Attitudes from Behaviour
Urge to bring attitudes in line with beh. reﬂects powerful tendency to justify/rationalize
beh. to minimize inconsistencies between att. and beh.
a. Balance Theory
• (Heider) people try to maintain balance among their beliefs, cognitions, and
• In triad, things are balanced when product of 3 sentiments = +
• Advertisers take advantage... Beyonce, whom I like (+) says positive things (+)
about perfume (+/-) ---> pressure on you to like (+) perfume so that product
balances positively (+) =(+) x (+) x (+)
• 2 types of supporting studies:
• Present two (+)’s and elicit people’s inferences about third, which is usually (+)
• Present balance and imbalanced relationships: people like & remember balanced
better; and when info is missing, they ﬁll in by assuming balance
b. Cognitive Dissonance Theory
• (Festinger) inconsistencies among personʼs thoughts, sentiments, and actions.
• Dissonance---> aversive emotional state aroused by inconsistency between 2
• When cog.s related to own beh. ---> troubling inconsistency between cog. and beh.
Decisions and Dissonance
• Hard decisions innately cause dissonance: option you didn’t pick had attractive
features, option you did pick has unattractive features
• Festinger argued cog. diss. only happens once irr. dec. are made, which we then
try to reduce
•post-decision phenomenon of reevaluating options in favour of chosen •i.e., betters of horse race: before buying ticket all think “fair” chance if winning vs.
think “good” or even “excellent” chance once ticket already bought
•Further research---> rationalization also occurs before making decision, simple
act of developing slight preference is enough!
•reducing cog. diss. by justifying time, effort, or money devoted to something that
turned out unpleasant/disappointing
i.e., frat initiation hazing, religious groups
requiring a lot of time/money, etc..
•“sweet lemons rationalization” (“it’s really no
•Group sex discussion study: female students
signed up for sex discussion groups, told they
have to go through screening: control group
read neutral words to male experimenter,
“mild” condition group read mildly
embarrassing words, “severe” condition group
read obscene words and passage describing
sexual intercourse. Then all sit through boring
discussion where they can’t talk, only listen.
Finally, all asked to rate discussion group.
Induced Compliance and Attitude Change
subtly compelling individuals to act in a
way inconsistent with their att./beliefs/
values, thus causing diss. and also then
causing them to change original att.
•Remember Pres. Johnson case (from
•Festinger & Carlsmith study: boring
spoon task, lie to next person that it’s fun