Ethics Chapter 1 Attitude Part 5

This article covers topics given in the chapter related to attitude. It briefly covers the concepts on consistency between beliefs, attitudes and behavior. It also lucidly covers the concepts related to thoughts, attitude, physical health and cognitive dissonance theory.

Aspirants would find this article very helpful while preparing for the IAS Exam.

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Consistency Between Beliefs and Attitudes

One way to look at the consistency between beliefs and attitudes is to examine how people rationalize things. If you believe that a particular television produces the best picture, color, and sound, you start to persuade yourself that they are the most desirable qualities. On the opposite scale, wishful thinking is when you believe that the television is acceptable; therefore, you persuade yourself that it has the qualities you’re looking for and is indeed acceptable. Both rationalization and wishful thinking show how one can affect the other, and in turn, account for how you perceive things on a somewhat unrealistic basis.

Consistency Between Attitudes and Behaviour

Attitudes are a combination of beliefs and feelings and can be affected when confronted with social pressures. An example of inconsistency between attitudes and behavior can be seen in a study conducted by R. LaPiere during the 1930s and published in the journal Social Forces. A white professor traveled the United States with a young Chinese couple. At the time, prejudice against Asians was strong and there was no law against denying guests accommodations based on race. The three commuters stopped at over 200 hotels, motels, and restaurants and were served at all the restaurants and all but one hotel without any hassles. Later, a letter was sent to all the businesses that they visited asking them if they would be willing to provide services to a Chinese couple. Of the 128 replies received, 92 percent said they wouldn’t. In conclusion, the business owners displayed behavior that was far different from their actual beliefs.

When confronted with a situation, people often do things they don’t like. Their behavior is affected then, not only by our beliefs and attitudes but by social pressures as well. Similarly, peer pressure can induce actions that aren’t consistent with what you believe but are consistent with your attitudes toward social situations and what others think of you. Teenagers often drink alcohol to “fit in” and may put their beliefs aside in order to conform to the social pressure. Although attitudes don’t always predict your behavior, attitudes based on direct experience can influence it. For instance, a person whose mother died in a drunk-driving accident may advocate harsher penalties for drunk drivers and take part in the annual drunk-driving awareness campaign.

Cognitive Dissonance Theory

As attitudes can affect behavior, behavior can affect attitudes. Leon Festinger’s (1919–1989) theory of cognitive dissonance holds that when your beliefs and attitudes oppose each other or your behavior, you are motivated to reduce the dissonance through changes in behavior or cognition. The theory itself has been influential in predicting behavior that reflects an inconsistency in attitudes. Behaving in ways that conflict with one’s attitudes causes’ pressure to change the attitudes in order to be consistent with the behavior

Thoughts and Physical Health

The growing mind/body connection in the health field is now affirming what the French philosopher Rene Descartes observed back in 1667 at a time when the body and mind were seen as separate possessions of the physician and the church. Descartes deduced that “the mind is so intimately dependent upon the condition and relation of the organs of the body, that if any means can ever be found to render men wiser and more ingenious than hitherto, I believe that it is in medicine they must be sought for.”
Current day health psychologists who focus on the mind-body interaction act on the premise that what people think and believe can either increase the risk of disease on the one hand or restore health and composure on the other.
Several studies have demonstrated how obsessive ruminations serve as a self-defeating cycle and retard the body’s healing process.  Ruminations or recurring negative thoughts and images over past events have been found to be associated with various types of physical pain among research participants of all ages. In the recent objective findings of a European study, it was demonstrated that ruminations were linked to dysfunctions of the immune system, particularly among the elderly participants in the sample. The results were independent of the mood state of the participants, confirming that “negative thoughts may be detrimental to health, independently of negative affect.”

Attitude and Thoughts

Researchers have proven over and over that thoughts, attitudes, perceptions and beliefs have a direct impact on physical and mental health. They have shown that these complex mental states drive people to feel and act in one way or another towards the detriment or the advancement of their health. Genuinely positive thoughts and attitudes have been found to contribute to physical health and emotional well-being, while negative thinking styles and patterns have been shown to lead to adverse physical and mental health effects.

Furthermore, clinical trials have shown that brains of people who take what they think is a potent drug (but what is really a sugar pill or placebo) produce almost the identical neuro-chemical changes as the brains of actual drug takers. In one study, during which Parkinson’s disease patients improved on a sham drug, imaging showed that their brains were producing more of the muscle-controlling chemical acetylcholine as were the patients receiving the real medication. And like real drugs, placebos produced negative side effects when subjects thought those side effects were possible.

You too may have discovered that if you adopt a healthy frame of mind you will tend to eat well, keep physically active and attempt to remain disease free. But considering yourself unhealthy could incline you to pick up risky behaviors like smoking, not eating well and slacking off on working out.  There’s evidence that your behaviors are more likely to stick if the motivation behind them is intrinsic.  For instance, if you want to be more physically active, beliefs such as “exercise is enjoyable,” will fare much better than, “my doctor thinks I need to get in shape.”


The above details would help candidates prepare for UPSC 2021.

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