Ethics Chapter 1 Attitude Part 1

Attitude Part 1

This unit has been classified under the following sub-heads-
 
PART A – WHAT IS AN ATTITUDE?
1. What is An Attitude? 2. Structures of Attitude
3. The Functions of Attitudes 4. Attitude Measurement
PART B – ATTITUDE AND BEHAVIOUR
1. How Attitudes form, Change And Shape Our Behaviour 2. Attitude Change
3. Beliefs And Attitudes 4. Attitude And Thoughts
5. Thought And Physical Health 6. Thought And Mental Health
7. Thought Restructuring
PART C MORAL AND POLITICAL ATTITUDES
1. Faithfulness 2. Awareness of Responsibility
3. Veracity 4. Goodness
5. Political Attitude
PART – D SOCIAL INFLUENCE AND PERSUASION
1. Introduction 2. Motives for Agreeing with others
Description of the above has been laid down below.

PART A

What Is An Attitude?

Attitude is the bent of mind that predisposes one to react positively or negatively towards an object, person, situation etc.

An attitude is “a relatively enduring organization of beliefs, feelings, and behavioural tendencies towards socially significant objects, groups, events or symbols” “a psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating a ­­particular entity with some degree of favour or disfavour”

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Structure Of Attitudes

Attitudes structure can be described in terms of three components.

  • Affective component: this involves a person’s feelings/emotions about the attitude object. For example: “I am scared of spiders”.
  • Behavioral (or conative) component: the way the attitude we have influenced how we act or behave. For example: “I will avoid spiders and scream if I see one”.
  • Cognitive component: this involves a person’s belief/knowledge about an attitude object. For example: “I believe spiders are dangerous”.

This model is known as the ABC model of attitudes.  The three components are usually linked. However, there is evidence that the cognitive and affective components of behaviour do not always match with behaviour.

Implicit and Explicit attitude

Implicit Explicit
Occurs subconsciously Conscious decisions
The result of old experiences The result of recent experiences
No cognitive component has a cognitive component
Affective, i.e. guided by emotions generated Self-reported conscious approach

The Functions Of Attitudes

Attitudes can serve functions for the individual.

Four functional areas can be outlined here-

(i) Knowledge: Attitudes provide meaning (knowledge) for life.  The knowledge function refers to our need for a world which is consistent and relatively stable.  This allows us to predict what is likely to happen, and so gives us a sense of control. Attitudes can help us organize and structure our experience.  Knowing a person’s attitude helps us predict their behaviour. For example, knowing that a person is religious we can predict they will go to Church.

(ii) Self / Ego-expressive: The attitudes we express (1) help communicate who we are and (2) may make us feel good because we have asserted our identity.  Self-expression of attitudes can be non-verbal too: think bumper sticker, cap, or T-shirt slogan.  Therefore, our attitudes are part of our identity and help us to be aware of the expression of our feelings, beliefs, and values.

(iii) Adaptive:  If a person holds and/or expresses socially acceptable attitudes, other people will reward them with approval and social acceptance.  For example, when people flatter their bosses or instructors (and believe it) or keep silent if they think an attitude is unpopular.  Again, the expression can be nonverbal [think politician kissing baby].  Attitudes then, are to do with being a part of a social group and the adaptive functions help us fit in with a social group. People seek out others who share their attitudes and develop similar attitudes to those they like.

Attitude Measurement

Perhaps the most straightforward way of finding out about someone’s attitudes would be to ask them. However, attitudes are related to self-image and social acceptance (i.e. attitude functions). In order to preserve a positive self-image, people’s responses may be affected by social desirability. They may not well tell about their true attitudes, but answer in a way that they feel socially acceptable. Given this problem, various methods of measuring attitudes have been developed.  However, all of them have limitations.  In particular, the different measures focus on different components of attitudes – cognitive, affective and behavioural – and as we know, these components do not necessarily coincide.

(IV) Ego-defensive: The ego-defensive function refers to holding attitudes that protect our self-esteem or that justify actions that make us feel guilty.  For example, one way children might defend themselves against the feelings of humiliation they have experienced in P.E. lessons is to adopt a strongly negative attitude to all sport.  People whose pride has suffered following a defeat in sport might similarly adopt a defensive attitude: “I’m not bothered, I’m sick of rugby anyway…” This function has psychiatric overtones.  Positive attitudes towards ourselves, for example, have a protective function (i.e. an ego-defensive role) in helping us preserve our self-image.

The basic idea behind the functional approach is that attitudes help a person to mediate between their own inner needs (expression, defence) and the outside world (adaptive and knowledge).

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