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 Home » Tutorials » Psychology » Social Behaviour & Cognition

Social Behaviour & Cognition



A D V E R T I S E M E N T
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NATURE AND COMPONENTS OF ATTITUDES



For a few minutes quietly do the following mental exercise. Today, how many times did you tell yourself : “In my opinion…” or “Others may say so and so, but I feel…”? What you fill in the blanks are called opinions. Now continue the exercise : how important are these opinions to you? The topics of some of these opinions may be only moderately important to you; they are simply ways of thinking, and it does not matter much to you that others agree or disagree with your views.

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A D V E R T I S E M E N T


On the other hand, you may find that some other topics are extremely important to you. If someone opposes or challenges your views about these topics, you get emotional. You may have made some of these views part of your behaviour. In other words, if your views are not merely thoughts, but also have emotional and action components, then these views are more than ‘opinions’; they are examples of attitudes.

All definitions of attitudes agree that an attitude is a state of the mind, a set of views, or thoughts, regarding some topic (called the ‘attitude object’), which have an evaluative feature (positive, negative or neutral quality). It is accompanied by an emotional component, and a tendency to act in a particular way with regard to the attitude object. The thought component is referred to as the cognitive aspect, the emotional component is known as the affective aspect, and the tendency to act is called the behavioural (or conative) aspect.

Taken together, these three aspects have been referred to as the A-B-C components (Affective-Behavioural- Cognitive components) of attitude. Note that attitudes are themselves not behaviour, but they represent a tendency to behave or act in certain ways. They are part of cognition, along with an emotional component, and cannot be observed from outside.

Attitudes have to be distinguished from two other closely related concepts, namely, beliefs and values. Beliefs refer to the cognitive component of attitudes, and form the ground on which attitudes stand, such as belief in God, or belief in democracy as a political ideology. Values are attitudes or beliefs that contain a ‘should’ or ‘ought’ aspect, such as moral or ethical values. One example of a value is the idea that one should work hard, or that one should always be honest, because honesty is the best policy. Values are formed when a particular belief or attitude becomes an inseparable part of the person’s outlook on life. Consequently, values are difficult to change.





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