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READ – Learning Guide : Attitudes and Attitude ChangeAttitudes & Attitude Change
What is an attitude?
(Refer to our earlier definitions and distinctions between attitudes, beliefs, values, and judgments. Do you remember which learning guide contains these definitions?)
How do attitudes form?
Why do we hold attitudes, and why (and when) do we change them?
Are our attitudes consistent with our behavior?
The questions above represent some of the most fundamental queries that social psychologists have asked about attitudes. After reading your textbook, you should be able to answer all of these questions. If you’ve read chapters 7 & 8 and are not sure about any of the answers, make sure to use the discussion board to get input from your classmates.
In Chapters 7 & 8, your book covers in depth our motivations for holding and changing attitudes. These motivations are an important piece for understanding attitudes. Pay close attention to the motivation sections. Notice that no attitude is held in isolation. I love the fact that Baumeister and Bushman include the topics of beliefs and consistency along with attitudes in Chapter 7 because it highlights the point that all of our attitudes and beliefs are linked psychologically. Keep in mind what we’ve covered in class so far about the Self, the social thinker, and emotion when thinking about how attitudes are formed and when (and why) they change or remain the same in the face of pressure to change.
At this point in the semester you should be starting to form a cohesive view of how people view the social world and integrate new information and experiences through their social and cultural lenses. Most students find it helpful to think explicitly about this complete view before moving past these chapters.
Also, be sure that you can explain the dual process models of persuasion after reading Chapter 8. The idea of two routes of persuasion is an important idea in social psychology, and this framework sets the foundation for the research on attitude change. We’ll spend some time discussing this topic on the discussion board, but be sure you understand this section of the text before the exam.
One question that your book does not cover in great depth revolves around the basic dimensions of attitude variability. I would like to briefly list and discuss these dimensions here. Before doing so, I’d like you to think about your attitude toward surfing. Really, please stop for just a minute to really think about your attitude toward surfing. What I’d like to detail below are the dimensions along which your attitude (in this example, your attitude toward surfing) can vary.
OK, got your attitude toward surfing in your head? If so, please continue:
Basic Dimensions of Attitudes
Valence: By attitude valence, I mean whether the attitude is positive or negative. When I ask you, what is your attitude toward surfing, is it generally positive or negative, or maybe neutral? Typically we have either positive or negative attitudes, only rarely are they truly neutral. This is the first dimension along which attitudes vary: whether they are generally positive or negative.
Extremity: Now that you’ve identified whether your attitude toward surfing is positive or negative, now think about whether it is REALLY positive or negative, or closer to neutral. For me, my attitude is positive, but it’s not nearly as strong (or extreme) as my friend Matt’s attitude. He LOVES surfing. His attitude is very extreme, and he goes surfing every chance he gets. Typically, extreme attitudes are those that are most important to us. Personally, I like surfing a lot, but not extremely so.
Accessibility: When I asked you to think about your attitude toward surfing, how long did you have to think before getting it in your mind? The speed with which the attitude comes to mind is referred to as accessibility. Chances are, if you went surfing this morning your attitude was highly accessible just now. If surfing is something that you’ve never really thought about, and probably don’t care about, it probably took you much longer to consider your attitude toward surfing. What if I asked about your attitude toward the general economic policy of France? For most of us, this attitude is not very accessible. Even if you know a little about the economic policy of France, you probably don’t think about it very often. Thus, it’s not likely to be very accessible.
Okay, so those are the basic dimensions of attitudes. Social psychologists sometimes get more fine grained about attitude dimensions (such as attitude complexity, confidence, etc.) but let’s stick with the basics for this course. To really hammer our point, think about your attitude toward the list of items below, and note how your attitude varies on each of the dimensions above:
The Great Barrier Reef
GE light bulbs
Hopefully I listed enough items that your attitudes varied a lot on all the dimensions. Going beyond just your attitudes, can you predict how most people’s attitudes would vary on that list?
Why are social psychologists interested in attitudes?
There’s nothing intrinsically social about attitudes, is there? If not, why are social psychologists so interested in them?
Well, social psychologists are very interested in behavior. The idea is that attitudes predict behavior. Make sure to read the section in your text about the relationship between attitudes and behavior. If you were a social psychologist (which you are as long as you’re in this course) would attitudes be an important topic of study for you? Why or why not?
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