Psychology: Attitudes, Beliefs and Social Cognition: Nature of Attitudes

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Nature of Attitudes

Attitudes are defined as our favorable or unfavorable evaluations of people, objects, and situations. Attitude consists of three aspects i.e. cognitive, affective and behavioral:

Nature of Attitudes

Nature of Attitudes

  • Cognitive part – It refers to the thinking that brings about the development of a belief about the attitude object.

  • Affective part – It refers to the direction (positive or negative feeling), intensity of a person’s evaluation or the emotion experienced towards the attitude object.

  • Behavioral part – It is the likelihood of acting in a certain manner towards the attitude object.

These three components, thinking, feeling and behaving, come together and we form an attitude towards a person or an object. At times, these components may be inconsistent.

Functions of Attitude

Attitudes allow us to understand the world, describe the social group, help us to understand our identity and get praise, support and acceptance from others.

Formation and Change of Attitude

  • Direct contact

  • Direct instruction

  • Interaction with others

  • Observational learning

Attitude Change

Attitude change depends upon source of communicator, content of the message and characteristics of the person whose attitude has to be changed. Thus ‘who’ (communicator) says ‘what’ (message) to ‘whom’ (person for whom the communication is meant for) will determine whether attitude change will take place or not. What other people say and do has an effect on us.

Relationship between Attitude and Behavior

Conditions under which attitudes predict behavior – when attitudes are strong and consistent, awareness of the attitude held, direct experience of attitude formation and external influence is minimal.

Beliefs and Behavior

Beliefs refer to the acceptance of something as truth. In fact, when one has a strong belief it often becomes unshakable.

Social Cognition

Social cognition refers to information received from the social world which is interpreted, analysed and remembered, such that we come to think, feel and understand about the people who live around us. Schemas are a set of interconnected beliefs, information and examples about social objects, events and people.

Sources of Errors or Biases in Social Cognition

  • Fundamental attribution error: When we perceive others, we perceive others to be caused by internal causes but we explain our own behavior in terms of situational or external causes.

  • Optimistic bias: It is the tendency to believe that we are more likely than others to experience positive events.

  • Negativity bias: It is the tendency to be sensitive to negative information.

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