PSY 220 CH.7
Attitudes, Behaviour, and Rationalization
• Lyndon Johnson, U.S. president during the Vietnam War found an interesting way of
dealing with those in his administration who had begun to privately express doubts. He
sent them with reporters to Vietnam on a fact finding mission. The people would then
have to answer and defend the war to the reporters. They would not risk publicly
acknowledging their doubts, and would prefer to try to influence the administration
policy from within. This would make it so that they would have to defend the war, and
since people often cannot have contradicting views held by themselves, this tactic served
to decrease the doubts of those people.
• Attitudes can influence behaviour and behaviour can influence attitudes. Evidence now
showing that influence of attitudes on behaviour is weaker.
The Three Components of Attitudes
• Attitude: An evaluation of an object in a positive or negative fashion that includes the 3
elements of affect, cognition, and behaviour.
• Affect – how much people like or dislike an object. Cognitions – thoughts that typically
reinforce a person’s feelings (knowledge or beliefs about the object). Behaviours –
approach versus avoid.
• Likert scale: A numeric scale used to assess people’s attitudes; it includes a set of
possible answers with labeled anchors on each extreme.
• Surveys most widely used method for measuring attitudes.
• Traditional Likert scales sometimes fail to differentiate people with stringer and weaker
• One other approach is to measure accessibility of an attitude.
• Response latency: The time it takes an individual to respond to a stimulus, such as an
• Asecond way to assess the strength and importance of a person’s attitude is to determine
the centrality of the attitude to the individual’s belief system. If a belief is important to
you, it should be highly co-ordinated with attitudes to other similar issues.
• Implicit attitude measures: Indirect measures of attitudes that do not involve self-report.
• Implicit measures look at automatic attitudes.
Predicting Behaviour From Attitudes
• LaPiere travelled in the States with a Chinese couple in the 1930’s when people were not
accepting. The group were only denied service at 1/250 establishments that they visited.
LaPiere wrote to all the establishments asking if they accepted Orientals, 90% said they
did not. Suggested that attitudes do not influence behaviour as much.
Attitudes Sometimes Conflict with Other Powerful Determinants of Behaviour
• Attitudes compete with other determinants to determine behaviour, and attitudes do not
always win out. Attitudes Are Sometimes Inconsistent
• Attitudes may conflict with one another.
• The different components of attitudes may not always align (how we feel about a person
and what we think of him).
Introspecting about the Reasons for OurAttitudes.
• It is often hard to pin down the true reason for an attitude. Thinking about it can lead to
confusion as to what our true feelings are.
Attitudes Are Sometimes Based on Second-hand Information
• Attitudes based on direct experience better predict subsequent behaviour than those
• Attitudes about participation in psychological research predict actual participation much
more strongly among those who have previously taken part in psychological research
than among those who have not.
The Mismatch between GeneralAttitudes and Specific Targets
• Consistency between attitudes and behaviour is higher when the attitudes and behaviour
are at the same level of specificity.
• What most people usually think of as attitudes toward different classes of people, places,
things, and events are often expressions of attitudes towards a prototype of a given
“Automatic” Behaviour That Bypasses Conscious Attitudes
• Often behaviour is more reflexive than reflective, and the surrounding context elicits
Predicting Attitudes From Behaviour
• Over time, mere outward behaviour can give way to genuine inner conviction.
• Balance theory: A theory holding that people try to maintain balance among their beliefs,
cognitions, and sentiments.
Cognitive Dissonance Theory
• Cognitive dissonance theory: A theory that maintains that inconsistencies among a
person’s thoughts, sentiments, and actions create an aversive emotional state
(dissonance) that leads to efforts to restore consistency.
Decisions and Dissonance
• All hard decisions arouse some dissonance.
• Move to LAfor good weather, you will likely enjoy the sun, but may detest the bad air
and traffic. Once you have already moved, you will try to negate these negatives to
ensure there is no dissonance. Example: The air is simply hazy and I have learned so
much from those audio-books I listen to on my long commutes.
• Interview betters in line before and after placing bets on horses. Those who had yet to
place bets rated their horse as having fair odds. Those who rated after they had placed
their bets rated them at good. One person even approached researchers after placing the
bet to have them change his answer from fair to good, wait no, excellent. (Knox and
Inkster) • Making hard decisions triggers dissonance reductions to be made. They undervalue the
bad aspects of their choice and the good aspects of the thing that they didn’t choose.
• Aspects can be distorted before making a decision as well. We can distort information to
support our initial preference.
• Effort justification: People’s tendency to reduce dissonance by justifying the time, effort,
or money they have devoted to something that has turned out to be unpleasant or
• ‘Sweet lemons rationalization’is arguing that something isn’t really that bad.
• Participants went to a group to discuss sex. Split in 2. One read out mildly embarrassing
sex related words, the other read out highly embarrassing sex related words. They were
told that they all passed and could continue to the next aspect of the study. They sat in on
a boring discussion. People who had to suffer through the highly embarrassing scenario
rated the boring discussion as higher because they had to get through more to get there.
(Aaronson & Mills)
Induced Compliance and Attitude Change
• Induced (forced) compliance: Subtly compelling individuals to behave in a manner that is
inconsistent with their beliefs, attitudes, or values, in order to elicit dissonance – and
therefore a change in their original attitudes or values.
• This was the reason behind the president’s actions described earlier.
• Leon Festinger and Merrill Carlsmith study. Participants doing boring tasks (turning
pegs, flipping stuff) for an hour.Asked to rate how much they enjoyed the experiment.
Control rated low. Told participants that they normally got a confederate to pose as a
participant to tell the people beforehand that the study was interesting, but they were
nowhere to be found. Offered 1 group 1$ and the other 20$ to tell the next participants
that it was interesting. Led to dis