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Attitude

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Attitude

Has anyone ever told you that you have a great, positive attitude? People often say this when they think someone is optimistic or happy. Is that all there is to attitude? Is it best to always have a positive attitude toward things? Would you believe that it is sometimes better to have a negative attitude about something?

  • What is an attitude?
  • What are different types of attitudes in psychology?
  • What are the different components of attitudes?
  • What are some examples of how our attitudes are formed?

Definition of Attitudes in Psychology

Think about someone you know who generally has a really good attitude about life. Holding positive attitudes can make you more popular and increase your chances of success in the workplace. Those who go through really hard things in life sometimes say that their positive attitude helped them get through all the hard things.

A negative attitude can cause problems in our relationships or job. We tend to avoid other people who have a bad or negative attitude. Attitudes have an enormous impact on our lives!

Attitudes are predisposed feelings learned over time that cause us to act, think, and feel a certain way about events or other people. Predisposed refers to a tendency to feel a certain way.

Attitudes generally inform how we treat other people and react to situations in our lives. If we have a positive attitude toward dogs, we will generally be happy when we see a dog. If we hold a negative attitude toward dogs, like the attitude that dogs are dangerous, we will try to avoid dogs whenever possible!

Attitudes are primarily feelings, but they impact our thoughts and actions as well. It can be hard to separate the feeling part of an attitude from the thinking and doing parts. Our behaviors and reactions, in turn, can also impact our attitudes. Our attitudes are often based on our beliefs, but how do we develop those beliefs?

Attitudes, Attitudes are primarily feelings person smiling under magnifying glass, StudySmarterAttitude, pixabay.com

Types of Attitudes in Psychology

We hold so many different attitudes about people, places, and things. We might hold a positive attitude toward going to the gym, but dread going to work because of a negative attitude. Having a positive attitude means we feel favorably toward something. We usually like to engage in that thing. Someone with a positive attitude toward chess is likely to play a few games with friends or compete in tournaments.

Having a negative attitude means we feel upset, scared, or disapproving toward something.

We usually dislike or disagree with that thing. Someone with a negative attitude toward sports will likely avoid playing or watching games and discourage others from doing so.

Would you believe that there are times when having a positive attitude is a bad thing? Having a negative attitude is sometimes a good thing! Let's take a look at some examples of good and bad positive and negative attitudes.

Michelle supports discriminatory hiring practices at work (a bad positive attitude). She thinks people should be able to turn down someone for a job based solely on their skin color.

Jamie supports equal pay for men and women at work (a good positive attitude). She thinks people with the same job and experience should make the same amount of money.

Graham is against gender equality in the workplace (a bad negative attitude). He thinks men have a right to higher-ranking jobs and higher salaries than women.

Michael disapproves of racism in both subtle and explicit forms (a good negative attitude). He disapproves of racist attitudes and behaviors in the workplace, and he confronts anyone he notices upholding these actions.

Attitudes, a collage of colored hexagons with a magnifying glass over a group of words celebrating diversity, StudySmarterGood and Bad Attitudes, pixabay.com

These examples involve different attitudes about members of a particular group and how they are treated. Negative or positive attitudes that unfairly discriminate against others are prejudiced attitudes. Prejudice is an unjustified negative attitude toward an individual or group based solely on ethnicity, race, culture, gender, or another characteristic.

Prejudicial attitudes can lead to acts of discrimination. If a prejudicial attitude towards someone else causes you to treat them poorly or unfairly, those actions are considered discrimination. Michelle's prejudicial attitude against people of different skin colors leads to her support of discriminatory hiring practices in the workplace.

Sometimes we are unaware of our feelings or thoughts about certain things. Other times we know exactly how we feel. We love chocolate. We hate mushrooms. We adore cats. These are our conscious attitudes. We are fully conscious and aware of our feelings toward a certain object. Unconscious attitudes are the thoughts and beliefs that exist at the unconscious level. More of our attitudes are actually unconscious and operate automatically!

Imagine you are out to lunch with a close friend. You meet at a restaurant that you both love and visit often. This time you find yourself feeling on edge and anxious the entire time. Your friend notices your anxiety and asks you about it. You are unsure how to explain it. You just feel uneasy for some unknown reason. Even though you are unaware of the association on a conscious level, someone at a table near you resembles your ex-partner. Your uneasy attitude is triggered by the unconscious association between your ex-partner and the person at the other table.

Components of Attitudes in Psychology

Attitudes are made up of three parts: affective, behavioral, and cognitive. These parts are sometimes referred to as the ABC model of attitudes. Any attitude can include these three parts, but not all attitudes include all three of them. These parts help us identify our attitudes and the ways they influence us.

Affective Component

The affective component of attitude encompasses our emotional response to the object of our attitude. If we believe dogs are dangerous, we will experience anxiety or fear when we see a dog. We might even feel afraid just thinking about dogs or seeing a picture of one! An attitude that is built largely on the affective component is called an affective-based attitude. Strong attitudes toward religion or sexual orientation are often affective-based.

Behavioral Component

The behavioral component of attitude encompasses the way we act toward the object of our attitude. Crossing the street to avoid a dog is the behavioral component of a negative or fearful attitude toward dogs. Our behavior is not always secondary to our attitudes. Sometimes we may not even have an immediate sense of how we feel about something until we examine our behavior. Maybe you are unsure about your feelings about tomatoes, but you eat them often. When someone asks you if you like tomatoes, you reply "yes" based on your behavior. An attitude that is built largely on the behavioral component is called a behavior-based attitude.

Cognitive Component

The cognitive component of attitude encompasses our beliefs and thoughts about the object of our attitude. It includes our knowledge about a particular thing or topic. Often, these cognitive components can be based on overgeneralized assumptions like "All drugs are bad." An attitude that is built largely on the cognitive component is called a cognitive-based attitude.

Attitudes are fairly stable, but they are NOT good predictors of how someone will behave. A lot of people think of themselves as good or fair, but they still cheat on their spouses or support selfish or prejudicial policies.

Examples of Attitude Formation in Psychology

There are so many things that contribute to the formation of our attitudes, like our family, friends, culture, media, personality, conditioning, and social learning. The things we are exposed to help shape our attitudes. In fact, this process has a name: the mere exposure effect.

The mere exposure effect is the growing preference for a person or thing solely based on repeated exposure to that person or thing.

Our families play a significant role in shaping our attitudes through exposure. Our first experiences with attitudes come through our families. Our parents reinforce or deter certain behaviors and ideas. If we grow up with parents who are strongly against drinking alcohol, we are more likely to adopt that same attitude.

Belonging to a particular culture also shapes our attitudes. Culture is made up of the shared ideas, traditions, attitudes, and behaviors of a group of people. Our attitudes are shaped through exposure to our culture's customs and beliefs. We generally adopt our culture's beliefs and preferences unconsciously! If you grew up in the United States you might not think twice about sporting a tank top in the summer heat. If you grew up in East Asia, you are more likely to think that tank tops are scandalous and disrespectful.

Mass media can influence our attitudes toward people or products. The elaboration likelihood model is a two-part model of persuasion. The first part, the central route of persuasion, is how mass media influences our attitudes through facts and figures. The peripheral route is how mass media seeks to gain our approval by using our favorite celebrities in advertising. Do you really like a particular clothing brand? Is it because an actress you admire is the face of their brand?

Attitude - Key takeaways

  • Attitudes are predisposed feelings learned over time that cause us to act, think, and feel a certain way about events or other people. Predisposed refers to a tendency to feel a certain way.
  • Attitudes are made up of 3 parts: affective, behavioral, and cognitive. These parts are sometimes referred to as the ABC model of attitude.
  • Positive attitudes are not always good, and negative attitudes are not always bad.
  • Prejudice is an unjustified negative attitude toward an individual or group based solely on ethnicity, race, culture, gender, or another characteristic, and prejudicial attitudes can lead to acts of discrimination.
  • Attitudes can be formed by the mere exposure effect, the elaboration likelihood model, or other aspects of life like culture, family, and friends.

Frequently Asked Questions about Attitude

An attitude is a predisposed feeling learned over time that causes us to act, think, and feel a certain way about events or other people. 

Some examples of attitudes are positive, negative, prejudicial, or impartial attitudes. 

Most attitudes are formed by our feelings, behavior, and beliefs.

The three components of attitudes are affective, behavioral, and cognitive.

You can achieve a positive attitude by changing negative thinking patterns.

Final Attitude Quiz

Question

What is prejudice?

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Dislike towards someone because they belong to a certain group.

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What is outgroup homogeneity?

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The belief that others who belong to a different group are all the same.

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What is an ingroup?

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A group of people with whom someone shares traits. 

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What is an outgroup?

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A group of people with whom someone does not share similar traits. This causes the person to view all people of this group as similar. 

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Which is the ingroup and which is the outgroup? 

  • Your teammates
  • People from your rival high school

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Your teammates are your ingroup.

People from your rival high school are your outgroup.

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What is a stereotype?

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A generalized belief about a group of people.

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Can there be positive stereotypes?

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Stereotypes don't always have to be about a negative trait (for example, the widely-held stereotype that Asian people are good at math), but the presence of stereotypes, in general, can still have a negative effect.

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What is discrimination?

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When people act in a negative way towards someone based on the group that they belong to.

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What is a self-fulfilling prophecy?

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When people act in a way that conforms to incorrect expectations about their group.

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What does the Implicit Association Test determine?

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Level of prejudice/existing stereotypes against a certain group of people.

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Which of these is not a self-fulfilling prophecy? 

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Thinking you're going to do well on your test and then doing well.

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Which is not an example of an ingroup?

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Your family

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What is cognitive dissonance?

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When you feel discomfort from your thoughts and behaviors not lining up

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What are ways to reduce dissonance?

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Denial, pretend you had less of a choice, trivialize behavior, change attitude

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Which is the correct order?

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Behavior changes attitude

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Who first theorized about cognitive dissonance?

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Leon Festinger

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Can cognitive dissonance be a bad thing?

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Yes. People who are in a state of cognitive dissonance could be untruthful about an experience because they are trying to justify it to themselves

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Can you think of an example of cognitive dissonance?

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One could be when someone is a smoker and knows it’s bad but does it anyway. They might tell themselves that they smoke to calm themselves down or they smoke because their partner does in order to not experience cognitive dissonance. 

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Which is not a sign of cognitive dissonance?

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Discomfort

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Which is not a sign of cognitive dissonance?

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Feeling conflicted

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You want to go to a friend's party and drive an hour but when you get there you realize it's different than what she told you and want to leave?


Is this cognitive dissonance?

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No, because you were told incorrect information. 

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You do extensive research on a car but once you buy it, it keeps breaking down. 


Would you have cognitive dissonance in this situation?

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Yes, because you invested your time and money into this car that now doesn't work. 

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If you cheated while on a diet would you experience cognitive dissonance?

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Yes because your thought (I'm on this diet) and behavior (I ate this cake) don't align and you would begin to rationalize your behavior. 

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If you exercised daily and then stopped for a week would you experience cognitive dissonance?

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Probably not. Since exercising is an integral part of your routine then only taking a week off would not lead to dissonance. A month off has a higher chance to. 

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______ are feelings or beliefs that inform our opinions about objects, people, events, etc. 

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Answer

Attitudes

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_____ is an action in response to a stimulus. This includes observable actions, unobservable mental processes, and non-conscious processes. 

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Behavior

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This is the role attitudes play in our ability to gain or interpret new information. 


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Knowledge function of attitude

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This is the role attitudes play in our ability to maintain our own self-image. 


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Ego-defensive function of attitude

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This is the role attitudes play in our ability to maintain or improve social relationships, interactions, or cohesion. 

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Social-adjustive function of attitude

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    This is the role attitudes play in the way we express our core beliefs or values. 


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Value-expressive function of attitude

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_____ ____ _____ is when someone encounters an argument and thoughtfully considers the logic and strength of the argument's key points. 


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Central route processing

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____ ____ ____ is when someone becomes persuaded by factors that are not a part of the argument's key points, such as an emotional appeal or the person presenting the argument. 


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Peripheral route processing

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True or False: Cognitive dissonance is the desire to create contradictions in attitudes and behavior.

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False: Cognitive dissonance is the desire to avoid contradictions in attitudes and behavior.

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True or false: Role expectations and the attitudes we hold about how we should behave in certain roles can bring about behavior changes.

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True

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True or False: Attitude are a great predictor of behavior.

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False: While it is easy to see why our attitudes can influence our behaviors, attitudes are not a great predictor of behavior.

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An example of Peripheral route processing is 


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When T.V. advertisements use well-known celebrities or beautiful people/places to make their products seem more attractive.

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An example of Central route processing is

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If a jury thoughtfully listens to the arguments and key points made by both sides before deciding to change their attitude about the case verdict. 

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Prejudice refers to an _____ while discrimination refers to an action or behavior.

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attitude

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A feeling that is influenced by one’s beliefs is called a(n) _________

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attitude

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What is discrimination?

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Discrimination refers to an individual's unjustifiable action or behavior toward a group and its members, type of person, or thing.

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What are the two main types of discrimination?


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Direct and indirect

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Which of the following can be considered a protected class?

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All of these

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True or False

Someone can experience direct discrimination even if they are connected to someone who is part of a protected class.

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True

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Jacky and Terri's rental applications were rejected after the landlord discovered they were a lesbian couple. What type of discrimination is this an example of?

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Direct

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The school's dress code prohibits braids, cornrows, or dreadlocks. This is indirect discrimination against black students who primarily wear these hairstyles. What type of discrimination is this an example of?

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Indirect

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True or False 

Discrimination usually does not affect a person's physical health.

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False

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_______________ occurs when a policy, rule, or arrangement that applies to everyone negatively affects or disadvantages a person or group of people who are part of a protected class.

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Indirect discrimination

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________________ is when a person or group of people are treated worse than another person or group of people for any of the following reasons: they are part of a protected class, they are perceived to be part of a protected class, or they are connected to someone who is part of a protected class. 

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Direct discrimination

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A ____________ is a generalized and oversimplified attitude, belief, or idea about a type of person, group, or thing.


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stereotype

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______ resulting from discrimination does not only negatively affect one's physical health but also one's mental health.

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Stress

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