Attitude is a very complex cognitive process just like the personality of an individual. The difference between these two is that personality is usually thought of as the whole person, where as attitude may make up the personality. It is a very important variable in human behaviour, because it constitutes an important psychological attribute of individuals which shapes their behaviour. The importance of attitudes in understanding psychological phenomenon was given formal introduction early in the history of social psychology. From the time of its entry into the subject of psychology till now, interest in attitudes has been strongly growing. However, over the years attitudes have been studied with differing methods and the emphasis has also been different.
Attitudes are evaluative statements. These are frequently used in describing people, objects and events and explaining the people’s behaviour. These reflect how one feels about something or some body. When I say, “I like Ram”. I am expressing my attitude about Ram. Thus, we can say that attitude is a bent of mind, predisposition of certain actions.
MEANING AND DEFINITION
It is very necessary as well as difficult to define attitude because the variety of published definitions and descriptions is endless.
In a very precise way, “an attitude can be defined as a persistent tendency to feel and behave in a particular way toward some object.”
An attitude may also be defined as the way a person feels about something a person, a place, a commodity, a situation or an idea. It expresses an individual’s positive or negative feelings about some object. It describes an individual’s feelings, thoughts and predisposition to act toward some object in the environment.
Some important definitions of attitudes are as given below : According to G.W. Ailport, “Attitude is a mental and neutral state readiness, organised through experience, exerting a directive or dynamic influence upon the individual’s response to all objects and situations with which it is related.”
According to Bernard, “Social attitudes are individual attitudes directed towards social objects and individual attitudes strongly inter-conditioned by collective or groups contacts.”
“By attitude, we mean the beliefs, feelings and action tendencies of an individual or group of individuals towards objects, ideas and people. Quite often persons, objects or ideas become associated in the minds of individuals and as a result attitudes become complex and multidimensional.”
An attitude may also involve a prejudice, in which we prejudge an issue without giving unbiased consideration to all the evidences.
Many researchers have defined attitude in terms of effect and evaluation.
According to Krech and Crutchfield, “Attitude is an enduring organisation of motivational, emotional, perceptual and cognitive processes with respect to some aspect of the individual’s world”.
According to Katz and Scotland, “Attitude is a tendency or predisposition to evaluate an object or symbol of that object in a certain way.”
Thus, in practice the term attitude is often used in a generic sense to any reports of what people think or feel or the ways in which they intend to act.
ATTITUDE AND OPINION
Attitude and opinion are used closely with each other. But there is a basic difference in these terms. According to Thurston “opinions are expressions of attitudes.” Attitudes tend to be generalised predisposition to react in some way towards objects or concepts. Opinions, on the other hand, tend to be focused on more specific aspects of the object or the concept.
McCormick and Tiffin observe that the measurement of attitudes is generally based on the expressions of opinions. But we should distinguish between attitude scale which, like a thermometer or barometer, reflects the generalised level of individual’s attitudes towards some object or concept and opinion surveys, which typically are used to elicit the opinions of people toward specific aspects of, for example, their work situation.”
ATTITUDE AND BELIEF
Though closely related with each other, a difference can be made between attitude and belief.
Belief is a hypothesis concerning the nature of the objects, more particularly, concerning one’s judgement of the probability regarding their nature. Belief reveals what one supposes to be true. Belief may also be explained as the cognitive component of attitude which reflects the manner in which an object is perceived.
For example, a boss may believe his subordinate to be very hard working. But in fact, he may or may not be hard working. The attitude of the boss towards the subordinate reveals whether he likes him or not. The positive attitude and the consequent liking may rather make the boss condone all the bad qualities in the subordinate and consider him hardworking.
ATTITUDE AND VALUES
The values of an individual generally reveal the moral side of his nature. These include his ideas about what is good or bad, what should be done and what should not be done. These are some of the things which are inculcated in the individuals since childhood. “Honesty is the best policy”. “A worker must be honest to his work” are statements of value. It is an evaluative statement that “Honest workers are good” and reveals the attitude of a person towards honest workers. It can be said that values are one of the determinants of one’s attitudes. An individual considers an honest worker to be good because of his values that “A worker must be honest to his work.”
NATURE OF ATTITUDES
From the above definitions of attitudes we can bring about the following salient features which contribute to the meaning of attitudes 1.Attitudes refer to feelings and beliefs of individuals or groups of individuals. For example “He has a poor attitude”, “I like her attitude.” 2. The feeling’s and beliefs are directed towards other people, objects or ideas. When a person says, “I like my Job”. It shows that he has a positive attitude towards his job. 3. Attitudes often result in and affect the behaviour or action of the people. Attitudes can lead to intended behaviour if there are no external interventions. 4. Attitudes constitute a psychological phenomenon which cannot be directly observed. However, an attitude can be observed indirectly by observing its consequences. For example, if a person is very regular in his job, we may infer that he likes his job very much. 5. Attitudes are gradually acquired over a period of time. The process of learning attitude starts right from childhood and continues throughout the life of a person. In the beginning the family members may have a greater impact on the attitude of a child. 6. Attitudes are evaluative statements, either favourable or unfavourable. When a person says he likes or dislikes something or somebody, an attitude is being expressed. 7. All people, irrespective of their status and intelligence hold attitudes. 8.An attitude may be unconsciously held. Most of our attitudes may about those which we are not clearly aware. Prejudice furnishes good example.
COMPONENTS OF ATTITUDES
Attitudes comprise of three basic components : emotional, informational and behavioral. These three components are described below :
1. Informational or Cognitive Component.
The informational component consists of beliefs, values, ideas and other information a person has about the object. It makes no difference whether or not this information is empirically correct or real. For example, a person seeking a job may learn from his own, sources and other employees working in the company that in a particular company the promotion chances are very favourable. In reality, it may or may not be correct. Yet the information that person is using is the key to his attitude about that job and about that company.
2. Emotional or Affective Component.
The informational component sets the stage for the more critical part of an attitude, its affective component. The emotional component involves the person’s feeling or affect-positive, neutral or negative-about an object. This component can be explained by this statement”. I like this job because the future prospects in this company are very good”.
3. Behavioral Component.
The behavioral component consists of the tendency of a person to behave in a particular manner towards an object. For example, the concerned individual in the above case may decide to take up the job because of good future prospects.
Out of the three components of attitudes, only the behavioral component can be directly observed. One cannot see another person’s beliefs (the informational component) and his feelings (the emotional component). These two components can only be inferred. But still understanding these two components is essential in the study of organisational behaviour or the behavioral component of attitudes. The components are illustrated in the following table:
AFFECTIVE OR EMOTIONAL COMPONENT
ATTITUDE OBJECT : Attitudes always apply to some identifiable object. People have attitude about something or someone, for example government, new policy, boss, etc.
ABC MODEL OF ATTITUDE
All the three components of attitude explained above constitute, what is called the ABC model. Here, in the ABC model, the alphabet A stands for Affective component, B Tor Behavioral and C for the cognitive component. “The importance of this model is that to have a proper and thorough understanding of the concept of attitude, all the three components mentioned above must be properly assessed. As already explained, it is only the behavioral component which can be directly observed, the other two components : affective and cognitive can however only be inferred.
Cognition Beliefs and values
My supervisor is unfair
Having fair supervisor is important to me
Affect feelings and emotion
I don’t like my supervisor
I am going to request for a transfer
Behaviour intended behavior
(Source :John M. Ivancevich and Michael T Matteson, Organizational Behaviour and management p.120)
FORMATION / SOURCES OF ATTITUDES
Attitudes refer to the feelings and beliefs of individuals or groups of individuals. But the question is how these feelings and beliefs developed are? The point which has been stressed by many people are that attitudes are acquired, but not inherited. A person acquires these attitudes from several sources. The important sources of acquiring attitudes are as discussed below:
1. Direct Personal Experience. A person’s direct experience with the attitude object determines his attitude towards it. The personal experience of an individual, whether it is favourable or unfavourable, will affect his attitude deeply. These attitudes which are based on personal experience are difficult to change. For example, an individual joins a new job, which is recommended to him by his friend. But when he joins the job, he find his work repetitive, supervisors too tough and co-workers not so co-operative, he would develop a negative attitude towards his job, because the quality of his direct experience with the job is negative.
2. Association. Some times an individual comes across a new attitude object which may be associated with an old attitude object. In such a case, the attitude towards the old attitude object may be transferred towards the new attitude object. For example, if a new worker remains most of the time in the company of a worker, who is in the good books of the supervisor, and towards whom the supervisor has a positive attitude, the supervisor is likely to develop a favourable attitude towards the new worker also. Hence the positive attitude for the old worker has been transferred towards the new worker because of the association between the old and the new worker.
3. Family and Peer Groups. Attitudes like values, are acquired from parents, teachers and peer group members. In our early years, we begin modeling our attitudes after those we admire, respect or may be even fear. We observe the way our family and friends behave and we shape our attitudes and behaviour, to align with theirs. We do so even without being told to do so and even without, having direct experience. Similarly, attitudes are acquired from peer groups in colleges and organizations. For example, if the right thing is to visit “Hot Millions”, or the “Domino’s”, you are likely to hold that attitude.
If your parents support one political party, without being told to do so you automatically start favouring that party. 4. Neighbourhood. The neighborhood in which we live has certain cultural. facilities, religious groupings and ethnic differences. Further, it has people, who are neighbours. These people may be Northerners, Southerners etc. The people belonging to different cultures have different attitudes and behaviours Some of these we accept and some of these we deny and possibly rebel. The conformity or rebellion in some respects is the evidence of the attitudes we hold
5. Economic Status and Occupations. The economic status and occupational position of the individual also affect his attitude formation. Our socio-economic background influences our present and future attitudes. Research findings have shown that unemployment disturbs former religious and economic values. Children of professional class tend to be conservatives. Respect for the laws of the country is associated with increased, years of higher education.
6. Mass Communications. Attitudes are generally less stable as compared to values. Advertising messages for example, attempt to alter the attitude of the people toward a certain product or service. For example, if the people at Hyundai Santro can get you to hold a favourable feeling toward their cars, that attitude may lead to a desirable behaviour (for them) your purchase of a Santro car.
7. Vicarious Learning: this refers to the formation of the attitude by observing behavior of others, and consequences of the behavior. It is through vicarious learning that children pickup the prejudices of their parent’s .we also learn vicariously through television, films, and other media.
8. Classical conditioning: the classical conditioning process that made Pavlov’s dog salivate at the sound of the bell can explain how the attitudes are required. People develop association between the various objects and emotional reaction between them
Eg . The soldiers who were posted in Persian Gulf during the war with Iraq reported that they never wanted to go to sandy beach again, in other words they have developed negative attitude towards sand.
Advertisers make use of this principle of classical conditioning of attitudes by attempting to link the product they want to consumers to buy with a positive feelings or event. We can see in many advertisement there is celebrity endorsement like film stars, cricket players endorsing the product so that they can associate positive attitude with the product. We can also observe young, attractive, healthy men and women using a product- uninteresting like toothpaste, razors etc. the idea behind creating such ad is evoke positive feelings – by having a glimpse of toothpaste
9. Operant conditioning:
Another learning process, operant conditioning also underlines attitude acquisition. Attitudes that are reinforced, either verbally or non verbally tend to be maintained. Conversely if the attitude of the person regarding the respective subjects are mocked by others or ridicule by others than he may modify or abandon that attitude.