psych15 chapter 7.docx

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Harvard University
Psychology 15
Christopher Greene

Ellen Katherine Rothschild Social Psych Attitudes, Behavior and Rationalization The three components of attitude Attitude: an evaluation of an object in a positive or negative fashion that includes the three elements of affect, cognition, and behavior • Affect: how much people like or dislike an object • Cognition: thoughts that typically reinforce a person’s feelings • Behaviors: the affective evaluation of good versus bad is connected to a behavior tendency to approach versus avoid. Measuring Attitudes Attitudes are most commonly measured through simple survey questions • Likert scale: a numerical scale used to assess people’s attitudes; it includes a set of possible answers with labeled anchors on each extreme. (how they rate attitude objects) o Ex: 1 = never, 7 = always • Measure the accessibility of the attitude – that is how easily the attitude can be activated in the individuals mind, thereby guiding thought and behavior. (Fiazo) o Measure by assessing the time it takes individuals to respond to the attitude question o Response latency: the time it takes an individual to respond to a stimulus such as an attitude question – faster response = stronger attitudes • Determine the centrality of the attitude to the individual’s belief system o Measure a variety of attitudes within a domain and calculate how strongly each attitude is linked to the others – if an attitude is very important to you it should be highly correlated with others • Implicit attitude measure: indirect measures of attitudes that do not involve self-report o When people may be unwilling or unable to report their true attitudes o Automatic attitudes: people’s immediate reactions that may not be conscious of or that may conflict with their consciously endorsed attitudes. Predicting Behavior from attitudes LaPiere (1930’s): traveled around with a group of Chinese tourists to see if they would serve them. • only 1 our of 250 refused to serve them, but 90% previously said they would not – a response that that is stunningly inconsistent with what was observed • suggested that attitudes do not predict behavior well • surprising because we see plenty of evidence every day that attitudes and behavior go together o people might have many reasons for failing to act on their attitudes Attitudes sometimes conflict with other powerful determinants of behavior • attitudes compete with other determinants of behavior o the situational message of social psychology suggests that attitudes do not always win out over these other determinants, hence behavior are not always tightly connected to behavior • potent determinant of a persons actions that can weaken the relationship between attitude and behavior is an individuals understanding of the prevailing norms of appropriate behavior Attitudes are sometimes inconsistent: • attitudes may conflict with one another • the different components of an attitude may not always align o there can be a difference between what affective component (what we feel) and the cognitive component (what we think about it) Introspecting about the reasons for our attitudes • It can be difficult to identify why we like someone – it may not be because of specific, readily identifiable traits – it might just be chemistry • When we introspect on the reason, we may focus what is easy to identify, easy to justify, and easy to capture in words – and thus miss the real reason of our attraction • Thinking about why we like someone can sometimes lead to confusion about what our true feelings really are. • Wilson: introspecting about the reasons for our attitudes about all sorts of things can undermine how well those attitudes guide our behavior o Introspection may lead us to focus on the easiest to identify reasons for liking or disliking something at the expense of the real reason for our likes and dislikes. o When people are induced to think carefully about the reasons they prefer one product over another they are more likely to regret their choice later and their choices are less likely to correspond to the “true” value of the product as determined by experts • In many cases the real reasons for our attitudes are perfectly easy to identify and articulate, and in those cases introspection produces no rift between the variables we think are guiding our attitude and those that actually are Attitudes are sometimes based on secondhand information • Numerous studies have shown that attitudes based on direct (firsthand) experience predict subsequent behavior much better than those derived indirectly (secondhand) The mismatch between general attitudes and specific targets • The attitudes people express are about general classes of things o But the attitude relevant behavior that is typically assessed deals with a particular instance of that class – great mismatch between general attitudes and specific instances of real behavior • Studies have shown that consistency between attitudes and behavior is higher when the attitude and behavior are at the same level of specificity o Highly specific attitudes typically do a better job of predicting specific behaviors and general attitudes typically do a better job of predicting how a person behaves in general across a number of different instances • What most people usually think of as attitudes toward different classes are often expressions of attitude toward a prototype of a given category o If we encounter a specific situation or person who doesn’t fit the prototype, our behavior is not likely to reflect our stated attitude “Automatic” behavior that bypasses conscious attitudes • Often our behavior is more reflexive than reflective, and the surrounding context elicits the behavior automatically • Sometimes our automatic behavior is consistent with – indeed caused by – our attitudes o The purpose of attitudes is to allow us to respond quickly • Some types of automatic behavior bypass our attitudes altogether o Connection between our conscious attitudes and our behavior is necessarily weak o Can conflict with our attitudes without our knowing it Predicting attitudes from behavior Overtime, mere outword behavior can give way to genuine inner conviction – behavior can influence attitude • Reflects the powerful tendency to justify or rationalize our behavior and to minimize any inconsistencies between our attitudes and actions Balance Theory: a theory holding that people try to maintain balance among their beliefs, cognitions, and sentiments (Fritz Heider) • In a threesome, things are balanced if the product of the thee sentiments is positive 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 effort to restore consistency • Festinger – troubled by differences between thought and behavior, motivated to restore consistency o People do so by changing cognition to be more consistent with behavior • All hard decisions arouse some dissonance • People will rationalize their decisions to decrease dissonance • Dissonance reduction takes place only after an irrevocable decision has been made o More recent research suggests that some sorts of rationalization and distortion also subconsciously take place before they make the decision • 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 disappointing o Frat hazing: those who go through it will have to believe it was worthwhile and the frat is great o Sweet lemons rationalization: “It’s
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