Social Psychology Lecture 1: Attitudes (Chapter 5; Hogg & Vaughan)
At the end of the lecture … • ‘‘How is attitude formation considered/conceptualised within Social Psychology’ • Structure and function of attitudes • Forming attitudes • Concepts related to attitudes • Attitudes in terms of behaviour?
Structure and function of attitudes • There are a number of different views about what an attitude is: • an affective orientation toward, or evaluation of, an attitude object (one-component model, socio-cognitive model); (Feeling) • a mental readiness to act and a guide for how to respond and guides our evaluations (two-component model); (Thought and feeling) • or a combination of information about, and feelings and behavioural intentions toward, an object (three-component model). (Though, Feeling and Action/Behaviour) ONE, TWO OR THREE
Structure and function of attitudes • The three-component model is probably most popular. Generally, attitudes are useful because they are enduring and they provide a cognitive and affective orientation toward objects and thus help us pursue goal-directed thought and action.
Function of Attitudes • Katz (1960) • Knowledge • Instrumentality (means to an end or a goal) • Ego-defense (protects ones own self-esteem) • Value-expressiveness (allow people to display those values that uniquely identify and define them).
Structure and function of attitudes • According to cognitive consistency theories, our attitudes should be relatively congruent with one another because we seek consistency among our cognitions. • Specifically, we seek balance between how we feel about an object, how someone else feels about an object, and how we feel about that other person (balance theory). Heider’s theory of attitude change • If you and I like apples, it would be unbalanced if I did not like you.
Examples of balanced and unbalanced triads from Heider’s theory of attitude change
Attitudes: Cognition and Evaluation • Pratkanis and Greenwald’s sociocognitive model. • Attitude is represented by • An object label and the rules for applying that label • An evaluative summary of that object, and • A knowledge structure supporting that evaluation • E.g. Shark • Big Fish with large teeth (label) • Is frightening and best avoided when swimming (evaluative) • Well-documented threat to our physical well-being (knowledge structure)
Figure 5.2 The sociocognitive model of attitude structure and function Source: Based on Pratkanis & Greenwald (1989)
Forming attitudes • Attitude formation can rest on direct experience with the attitude object; mere exposure to an object can influence how much we like or dislike it and thus our attitude toward it (Zajonc,1968). • We can also acquire positive or negative attitudes toward an object by direct reinforcement or punishment associated with the object, or by observing someone else being rewarded or punished(modelling) • Classical Conditioning: Attitudes paired with positive or negative effects • Spreading Attitude effect: Ripple effect of meeting different people • Instrumental Conditioning: Positive consequences more likely to be repeated, while negative effect are not. • Observational Learning: Rewards and Punishment and modelling.
Forming attitudes • Another way to acquire an attitude is by observing our own behaviour and making an internal attribution of the behaviour to one’s self (one’s attitude) if there are no obvious external causes for the behaviour (self-perception theory). • Acquire knowledge about the person you are and therefore your attitude • “Why did I do that?” • If you go shopping a lot, it must be because you like shopping
Forming attitudes • Through whatever process we form an attitude, one of the most important sources of enduring attitudes is our parents, and later our peer groups. • Parents • Teachers • Friends • Mass Media
Concepts related to attitudes • Values are higher-level constructs that often subsume and organize specific attitudes. Values can be differentiated into those that concern end states (e.g., freedom, equality) and those that are more instrumental (e.g., honesty, tradition). • Allport • Theoretical: Interest in problem solving/how things work? • Economic: An interest in economic matters such as finance and money • Aesthetic: An interest in the arts, theatre, music etc • Social: A concern for others, interest in social welfare • Political: An interest in politics • Religious: Interest in theology. • Rokeach • Terminal Values: Broad values that have control over specific value: (e.g. Equality, Freedom) • Instrumental Values: Motivations that may influence specific attitudes (honesty and ambition).
Concepts related to attitudes • Ideologies are similar to values but go further insofar as they are usually associated with, and sometimes define, membership in particular groups. Ideologies also serve to justify relations between groups (they are system-justifying or hierarchy-enhancing), or to challenge the status quo and energize social change (radical ideologies). • Explanatory function (Thompson, 1990). Ideologies can be used to explain events that influence attitudes. • Every thinking and attitudes influenced by ideological dilemmas (Billig, 1991)
Concepts related to attitudes • The third construct that is related to attitudes is social representations. Social representations are explanatory belief systems that simplify complex or distressing phenomena and make them easily understood by ordinary people. • They are developed through informal, interindividual communication and become consensual within communities or groups. • From an attitudinal perspective, this is an important point, that is, attitudes are framed by, and embedded within, wider representational structures, which are in turn grounded in social groups. In this area, attitudes are socially constructed, reflecting society or groups in which people live their lives.
Can attitudes predict behaviour? • The utility of attitudes, both theoretically and practically, rests largely on how much people’s attitudes influence their behaviour. • It is only possible to predict behaviour from attitudes if the attitude is very specific and is oriented toward an intention to behave in a certain way. • Examples of studies, i.e. drink or ethnic tolerance, small correlation between what people report and what they do (Gregson & Stacey, 1981; La Piere). • General attitudes are very poor predictors of specific behaviours but can predict an average of a wider range of behaviours (multiple-act criterion).
Can attitudes predict behaviour? • The two main theories of attitude-behaviour relations are: • (a) the theory of reasoned action (people behave in line with their attitudes if they have a favourable attitude and there is general social support for the behaviour), and • (b) the theory of planned behaviour, which added that people also need to feel that performance of the behaviour is under their control. When these conditions are met, people’s behavioural intentions (and to a lesser extent their actual behaviour) can be quite well predicted.
The theory of planned behavior holds that human action is guided by three kinds of considerations: • Beliefs about the likely outcomes of the behavior and the evaluations of these outcomes (behavioral beliefs or Attitudes) • Beliefs about the normative expectations of others and motivation to comply with these expectations (normative beliefs/Subjective Norm) • Beliefs about the presence of factors that may facilitate or impede performance of the behavior and the perceived power of these factors (control beliefs/Perceived Behavioural Control).
Figure 5.3 A comparison of the theory of reasoned action (TRA) and the theory of planned behaviour (TPB) Source: Based on Ajzen & Fishbein (1980); Madden, Ellen & Ajzen (1992)
Example • Working hard for a Social Psychology Exam • Beliefs/Attitudes about the likely outcomes of the behavior and the evaluations of these outcomes • Do you think that working hard for a Social Psychology Exam is important • Beliefs about the normative expectations of others and motivation to comply with these expectations (normative beliefs) • What do your friends/parents think? • Beliefs about the presence of factors that may facilitate or impede performance of the behavior and the perceived power of these factors (control beliefs). • Are you actually able to spend time working hard?
Applied Context: Reasoned action, planned behaviour • Pick one of the following behaviours, what could be an attitude, subjective norm and perceived behavioural control? • Drivers’ compliance with speed limits • Sexual Practices: Condom Use • Smoking Cessation • Healthy Eating • Physical Activity • Weight Loss • Recycling Behaviour
Advice on Revision • Example Question ‘How is attitude formation considered within Social Psychology’ • In your reading of the chapter, take a critical approach. Show an understanding of the evidence, but also those areas of the reading that notes of caution can be applied. • When studying attitude formation try to make the distinction between behavioural (learning of attitudes) and which are cognitive (information processing and thoughts). • Also consider how attitude formation is part of a wider models of attitude and behaviour
End of the lecture … • Structure and function of attitudes • That is how they are formed or how they fit in (i.e. Theory of Planned Behaviour) • Forming attitudes • Concepts/Theories surrounding attitudes