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Chapter 6

Social Psychology (Cdn Ed) Sanderson & Safdar Chapter 6

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Ashley Waggoner Denton

Chapter 6: Attitude Formation and Change -describe how attitudes are formed and changed and whether it predicts behavior Attitudes: positive and negative evaluations of people, objects, events, ideas • Attitudes include three distinct components: affect, cognition and behavior tendency o Not the behavior itself but the tendency toward it that is part of attitude How Do We Form Attitudes? -Gordon Allport offered one of earliest definitions of attitude: mental and neural state of readiness, organized through experience, exerting a directive and dynamic influence upon the individual’s response to all objects and situations with which it is related (1954) -today, researches think of attitude as abstract construct that cannot be viewed but can be inferred from ppl’s behavior and their self-report -attitudes are formed quickly, sometimes without conscious awareness, malleable and salience can have influence on attitudes • Study: researchers told Ss to write description of either elderly woman or young woman; ppl who described old women reported attitudes about spending more money on health care, and whether sex should be shown on tv etc. more consistent with those of elderly ppl -negativity bias: both positive and negative information influences ppl’s evaluations of object, situation or person but negative information seems to have stronger influence Classical Conditioning -Classical Conditioning: type of learning in which a neutral stimulus leads to a specific reaction after the stimulus is repeatedly paired with another stimulus that natural leads to that reaction • E.g. form positive attitude about neighbor who has poodle because you grew up with poodle and now associated pleasant memory of your dog with the new neighbor -Mere Exposure: the more we are exposed to something, the more we like it, regardless of whether or not we interact w/ it; one way in which attitudes is conditioned; • Form of classical conditioning because the stimulus that one is being exposed to is considered to be the conditioned stimulus; the unconditioned stimulus is the absence of negative consequences; when CS and US are paired, then conditioned response (or liking) is attached to conditioned stimulus • Explains why we prefer mirror-image pictures of ourselves and why friends prefer reverse mirror image pictures; and why you begin to like a song over time after hearing on the radio repeatedly -subliminal persuasion: type of persuasion that occurs when stimuli are presented at unconscious level • Study: Ss shown photos subliminally; later showed another photo of a woman and asked about their attitudes towards her; those who saw positive photos rated her more positively than those seen –ve photos • Can also strengthen attitudes we already have: ppl who already thirsty more motivated to drink after subliminal exposure to thirst-related msg • Better performance seen of exercise task with subliminal exposure to doing things out of autonomy rather than compelled to; words evoking autonomy includes desire, will, freedom etc.; control words were constraint, obligation, etc; • Note: subliminal processing should not be viewed as reliable tool in influencing behavior though Operant Conditioning -Operant Conditioning: type of learning in which ppl are rewarded or punished for engaging in specific behavior -parents initially have power to form their children’s attitudes (why most children express attitudes that are similar to parents); by adolescence, peers reward/punish attitudes and explains high conformity -Study: couples who exchanged high number of rewards (e.g. doing favors, helping with projects) more likely to be still dating four months later than couples exchanging few rewards Observational Learning/Modelling -Observational Learning/Modelling: type of learning in which ppl form attitudes by watching how others act toward an object or person, and in turn adopt those views themselves -children raised by overweight mother have more +ve attitudes toward overweight ppl; those raised by thin mother vice versa -children’s intentions regarding future safety behavior (wearing seatbelt etc) heavily influenced by observations of parents’ behavior -modelling most effective when we are observing someone who is similar to us • Study: dog-phobic children watched little boy play w/ dog for 20 min a day; after 4 days, most were willing to remain alone with dog in a playpen -storylines on long running tv shows used to influence ppls attitudes: South Africa Sesame St. features HIV positive orphan who is a Muppet -media can also shape harmful attitudes: children who watch more tv request more toys than those who watch less tv (e.g. toy advertisements leads to more positive attitude towards these products) When Do Attitudes Predict Behavior? -LaPiere’s study: followed Chinese couple in 1930 around U.S. (during that time, widespread prejudice against Chinese ppl common) • But Chinese couple was received in all restaurants and only rejected once from one hotel • LaPiere wrote to all places 2 months afterward; but 91% said they would not accept Chinese guests • Shows that attitude-behavior link is not as strong as we think -factors that influence attitude-behavior link: strength, accessibility, specificity, social norms Strength -stronger attitudes more likely to predict behavior than weaker ones; are highly important to the person, often formed on basis of direct experience • Importance: attitudes on topics that are important to us are more predictive of our behavior o E.g. many believes high quality schools is important for society but ppl w/ young children probably more likely to vote to pay higher taxes for these schools etc • Direct Experience: attitudes formed on basis of direct experience more likely to be strong and better predict behavior o E.g. if asked about attitude toward reporting student whom you saw cheating, attitude will be more predictive of behavior if you have actually been in the situation and had to decide whether to report o Study: students asked about their attitudes for psychology experiments; attitude more likely to predict future participation if they actually participated in psych experiments before Accessibility -ease with which one’s attitude comes to mind influence attitude-behavior link -ppl well informed about a topic are likely to have greater attitude-behavior consistency than those poorly informed (having lots of info about topic increases accessibility of attitudes about this topic) -situational factors influence accessibility: e.g. increase in selfawareness lead ppl to act in line with attitudes because factors that increase self-awareness might also increase accessibility of one’s attitude • Ss who are given a chance to think about their past behavior prior to expressing their attitudes show higher correlation bw these attitudes and subsequent behavior • Simply asking someone to express his/her attitudes repeatedly should increase accessibility of the attitudes which should increase predictability of behavior -study: alcohol impairs decision making; both sober and intoxicated students saw having unprotected sex as foolish; but more intoxicated students reported that they would have sex in the situation of not having condom when girl is on birth control (shows situational factors that decrease self-awareness can weaken attitude- behavior link) • In cases in which ppl are not so focused on or aware of their actual attitudes, they are less likely to show strong correlation bw their attitude and behavior Specificity -attitudes toward specific behavior show stronger link to that behavior than attitudes that are more general • E.g. correlation between the attitude “How do you feel about using condoms?” and actual condom use is less correlated than between the attitude “how do you feel about using condoms every time you have sex in the next month when you are with a new partner?” and actual condom use Social Norms -Social Norms: implicit and explicit rules that specific group has for its members on values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors -these rules influence whether out attitude predicts behavior because our behavior is often heavily influenced by others in our group • E.g. might have negative attitude about smoking but might smoke when you’re with friends -social norms about a certain attitude also more likely to lead to behavior because attitudes that are held by social network are stronger and more resistant to change • Ppl’s willingness to serve Chinese couple in LaPiere’s study might have been more strongly predicted by their attitude if the social norms against Chinese more powerful -adolescents who reported watching tv shows that included high levels of sex believed that more of their friends were sexually active; those who believed this more likely to report engaging in sex one year later -two theories that emphasize the role of social norms in predicting behavior: 1. Theory of Planned Behavior o Describes behavior as influenced by intentions(whether person plans on engaging in given behavior) o Intentions are influenced by combo of attitudes (+ve or –ve feelings about doing the behavior), subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control (extent to which you believe yourself capable to enacting behavior)  Perceived behavioral control has also a direct impact on whether we engage in behavior o Strong predictor of behavior when behavior is easy for person to control (e.g. taking vitamins) but less effective at predicting spontaneous behavior (e.g. smoking cig at party, using condom) 2. Prototype/Willingness Model o Describes the role of prototypes in influencing behavior (prototypes = social images of what ppl who engage in behavior are like) o E.g. if you see students who drink and drive as stupid, less likely to engage in this behavior b/c ur prototype of ppl who do this is negative o Good predictor of health-risk behaviors (smoking, unprotected sex, exercising) o Helping teens form negative images about those who choose to drink can be one way to decrease underage drinking (teens were asked to think about the type of person your age who drinks frequently, then rate image of that person; those who didn’t drink alcohol rated drinker prototype negatively than those who did drink) Trans-Theoretical Model of Behavior Change (TTM) -extends the theory of planned behavior to an individual’s readiness to engage in healthy behaviors (e.g. stopping smoking) -views change in behavior as progression through stages: 1. Stage 1: Precontemplation (ppl are not intending to change their behavior in near future) 2. Stage 2: Contemplation (ppl are intending to change their behavior in near future, within next 6 months) 3. Stage 3: Preparation (ppl are ready to take action in the immediate future, usually within next month) 4. Stage 4: Action (ppl have changed their behavior within the last 6 months, working to move fwd) 5. Stage 5: Maintenance (ppl work hard to avoid relapse and are aware of situations that may tempt them to slip) -study shows that participants who received individualized manuals that matched their stage in self-help programs to stop smoking more successful in quitting smoking than ppl who received general self-help • Changing behavior most effective if interventions are matched w/ individual stages of behavior change When Does Engaging in a Behavior Lead to Attitude Change? -sometimes our behavior can form our attitudes -effort justification (justifying the effort we put into a task) can lead to attitude change: • Study: women who had to endure a lot to get into a discussion group on sex (severe initiation condition, including reading out loud highly sexual words etc.) liked the group discussion more than those in control group or who endured mild initiation condition Cognitive Dissonance Theory -says that when person holds two conflicting cognitions or engages in behavior that conflicts w/ cognition, he experiences unpleasant psychological state of arousal (dissonance); ppl are motivated to reduce dissonance by (1) Changing our behavior so that it fits attitudes (but relatively uncommon since hard to undo attitudes) (2) Decide that inconsistency isn’t really a problem because the attitude/behavior is not important (but this strategy of trivialization isn’t used very often because it isn’t as effective with highly important decisions) (3) Changing our attitudes to match our behavior (most common);e.g. smoker trying to quit but relapses, just change attitude by saying smoking is less risky -ppl have difficulty admitting that their attitudes were wrong so once they stated an a ttitude they often find ways to continue to justify that attitude as the correct one -four reasons why we might change our attitudes as result of cognitive dissonance: 1. Insufficient Justification • Study: Ss did boring task; then were paid to tell the next participant that the experiment was enjoyable; participants who were paid $1 enjoyed participating in the study more than those who were paid $20; those highly paid could attribute their lying to the reward but those receiving insufficient justification ($1) changed attitude • If external justification is high, attribute behavior to external factors and not change attitude; but is external justification is low, must explain behavior using interal factors • White students asked to write essay in favor of policy for funds for minor
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