MODULE 3

Attitudes

Attitudes are fundamental determinants of our perception and action toward all aspects of our social environment. They shape our perceptions and judgments of others, influence what we learn and remember, and help to govern political, economic, religious, and other social actions.

This module presents a discussion of the nature of attitudes as well as the group and personality factors that influence attitude formation. As you read the text, keep the following questions in mind.

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The determinants of attitudes held by any particular person seem to come from two major sources: 1) the group affiliations of the person, and 2) his or her personality.

An attitude its a predisposition to respond to a stimulus in a certain way

Primary groups are small groups of people who associate closely with each other and feel strong group loyalty. Families, gangs, and some clubs are often primary groups. The similarity of attitudes among members of primary groups suggests that primary groups have a strong influence in the formation of attitudes. Lazarsfeld, Berelson and Gaudet (1944) conducted interviews three months before the 1940 presidential election. They found that if one voter in a two-voter household stated a preference for a presidential candidate, the second voter stated the same preference in 78 percent of the cases. In only 2 percent of the cases did the second voter give an opposite preference. On the day of the election 96 percent of the second voters voted the same way as the first voter in the household. In addition, the more closely a family agreed on political preference, the less likely was a member of that family to change his vote during the campaign. If a voter's family disagreed with him, he showed an increased tendency to change his vote.

Another study revealed a high degree of uniformity in voting behavior in presidential elections, and presumably in attitudes, among members of primary groups other than the family (Campbell, Gurin, and Miller, 1954).

The individual's attitudes are not entirely molded by the group. For one thing, an individual usually belongs to many different and perhaps overlapping groups. The extent of the influence of any one of these groups rests upon the utility or the importance of the group to the individual. One of the major factors for the diversity of attitudes within a given group, however, is the personality differences among the members of the group. Attitudes may serve several different personality needs.

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The individual tends to develop favorable attitudes toward objects that satisfy his needs. This may be called an instrumental function of attitudes. In a study by Lott and Lott (1960), children played a game with nonfriends. Each group was assigned conditions by which none, one, two, or all were rewarded by winning the game and a prize. At the end of the day each child was asked to identify his "best friends." The children who were rewarded chose as friends a significantly higher percentage of their fellow play-group members than did the unrewarded subjects. Thus, there was an immediate development of friendship attitudes toward the children with whom they were associated in the satisfaction of winning the game.

Individuals tend to develop attitudes that are consistent with their self-interest

Attitudes may serve a self-defensive function. They may reduce emotional conflict and anxiety. Adorno et a/. (1950) concluded from their work on the "authoritarian personality" that persons who hold prejudiced attitudes toward ethnic groups are characterized by a syndrome of personality traits. These personality traits arise chiefly from interaction with a cold, domineering parent. Severe taboos are invoked against which the child does not dare rebel. He therefore searches for other outlets for his anger. As an adult he tends to feel hostile toward minority groups and persons who do not resemble his parents and himself. Authoritarian traits may include excessive rigidity, compulsiveness, and an overly strict conscience which does not function in a well-integrated way with other traits. More recent work in measuring authoritarian attitudes have led to some basic questions concerning the presence and function of such attitudes. Some measure of authoritarianism may simply result from the tendency to agree with unqualified statements, a tendency associated with relatively poor educational backgrounds. On the other hand, it is likely that many attitudes develop in such a way that the individual protects himself from perceiving unacceptable attributes in himself. Instead, he assigns these attributes to other observable targets.

Attitudes may serve a self-expressive function. An individual may adopt attititudes that express and define the sort of person he considers himself to be. For example, an activist may develop a syndrome of attitudes toward the school administration, the faculty, modes.of dress, and so forth, which confirm his self-identity as an activist.

Finally, attidues may serve a social-adjustment function. By adopting certain attitudes, the individual can become acceptable to some groups and dissociate himself from other groups. For example, a hippie originally from the middle class adopts attitutdes which make him acceptable to other hippies. At the same time, he emphasizes his rejection of many middle- class attitudes

A later module will consider the effects of persuasion on attitude change. However, there are some attitude changes that do not result from a persuasion attempt.

One of the theories accounting for attitude change is called the balance theory (Heider, 1946). With this theory Heider attempts to explain the changes in attitude that take place when two or more people operate as a unit. A balance in attittudes exists when all parts of the unit have the same negative or positive character. Thus, if A likes television and B likes television, there is a balance. If A likes television and B dislikes television, there is a state of imbalance, and one or the other is likely to do something about the situation to make it balance.

As an extension of the balance theory. Newcomb (1961) examined the strength of the social and psychological bonds between people. He predicts that the extent and the range of attitude change depends upon the bonds between the people involved. The symmetry theory states that the stronger the bonds between two communicators, the greater the effort toward interpersonal harmony or "strain for symmetry" with regard to the object. As the relationship between A and B weakens, the strain for symmetry also lessens. Attitudes change as the strength of the relationship changes.

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Individuals try to reconcile conflicting attitudes

The congruity theory was presented by Osgood and Tannenbaum (1955). Their theory is concerned with the individual's response when his attitudes toward two objects are different and the objects appear in juxtaposition. Suppose that on an attitude scale "price control" is rated with a negative attitude of -.50 and Churchill is rated with a positive attitude of +2.20. (The way in which these numbers are obtained is covered in the next module.) According to the congruity principle, if Churchill had decided to support price controls, the attitudes toward each of these objects would shift in the direction of the other. The magnitude of the shifts would not be equal, since the stronger attitude (the one with the largest number) is more resistant to change. The weaker attitude shows the greater shift. (See the length of the arrows in Figure 3, A and B.) If there are two objects rated at approximately the same point on the scale, there is no need for a change. Thus, Stalin and communism may be rated at about the same level, as shown in Figure 3, C and D. Stalin may praise communism, but the individual feels no necessity to change his attitude toward either Stalin or communism.

In dividuals also try to reconcile confl icts between their attitudes and their actions

Festinger (1957) was concerned with a change in the individual's attitudes that resulted from a requirement to act. In his cognitive dissonance model the subject is aware of an inconsistency between his thinking and his actions, and he tries to reduce the inconsistency. In one phase of a study, female college students rated a series of eight products on an eight-point scale from undesirable to desirable (Brehm, 1956). After the ratings the members of one group were allowed to choose between two objects both of which they had rated as desirable. The control group members were simply given one of the products as a gift. In the second phase of the study. each subject was required to read reports describing some of the products. Then all subjects were asked to rate the eight objects again. The test subjects reevaluated the selected object more positively than the rejected object. The ratings by the control group showed no change. Thus, the subjects who had chosen between two equally desirable products tried to reduce the difference between belief and behavior by changing their attitudes toward the two products. The product they had chosen was now associated with a more favorable attitude than the product they had rejected.

Figure 3. Scale of attitudes

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MODULE 3 PROGRESS CHECK 1

Now test yourself without looking back.

1. Diversity of attitudes exists within a group because:
a. each individual belongs to more than one group.
b. of personality differences among the members of the group.
c. (neither)

2. Attitudes may serve an instrumental function. That is, the individual:
a. externalizes impulses that are unacceptable to the self.
b. adopts an anitude which makes him acceptable to one group and which disassociates him from another.
c. tends to adopt favorable attitudes toward objects that satisfy his needs.
d. adopts an authoritarian personality.

3. Attitudes may be used to define the kind of person the individual considers himself to be. This is a:
a. self-expressive function.
b. self-defensive function.
c. social adjustment function.
d. (none of these)

4. According to the symmetry theory, attitudes may change when:
a. the strength of the bonds between individuals changes.
b. there is a balance, either positive or negative, between all elements within a unit.
c. a person associated with a positive anitude makes a statement associated with a negative anitude.
d. (none of these)

5. A condition in which the individual perceives a difference between his thinking and his behavior:
a. is called cognitive dissonance.
b. tends to result in a change in attitude.
c. is a congruity condition.

6. Object A has a positive attitude rating of +.20 and person B has a negative rating . If person B makes a statement in favor of object A you would expect:
a. a more positive attitude toward person B.
b. a more negative attitude toward object A.
c. a greater change in the attitude toward A than toward B.
d. a greater change in the attitude toward B than toward A.

ANSWER KEY PAGE 118

5 OR MORE CORRECT PAGE 93
FEWER THAN 5 CORRECT PAGE 88

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MODULE 3
EXERCISES

The similarity in voting patterns among members of primary groups suggests that:
a. the group has very little effect on the attitudes of a member.
b. group affiliations influence attitudes.
c. the individual's attitudes are completely molded by a specific group attachment.

________________________________________1

Though each group presses toward uniformity of attitudes among its members, people belong to many different groups. They also tend to hold attitudes that serve personality needs. You would therefore expect that:
a. personality differences would account for some of the diversity in attitudes within a given group.
b. the attitudes of individual members of a given group may differ, since each individual may also belong to other groups which have different attitudes.
c. (neither)
______________________________________________4

Attitudes may serve personality functions. Fill in the block in the chart below with one of the following functions:

social adjustment
self-defensive self-
expressive
instrumental

Description Function
The individual tends to favor things that serve his needs. Attitudes are tools to serve the individuals require ments. . a.
The individual reduces anxiety and emotional conflict. Attitudes serve to protect the self from unacceptable Impulses. b.
Attitudes may serve to define the kind of person the individual considers himself to be. Attitudes express his self-image. c.
Attitudes may be adopted so that he becomes acceptable to some groups and disassociated from other groups. Attitudes facilitate the movement from one social group to another. d.

__________________________________3

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ANSWERS

1. b

3 a. instrumental b. self-defensive c. self-expressive d. social adjustment

4 a,b


Match the function of an attitude with the description.

1 ) Instrumental _________

2) Self-defensive_________

3) Self-expressive ____________
4) Social adjustment_________

a. The tendency of the individual to try to understand his environment

b. The individual reduces anxiety and emotional conflict.

c. Facilitates association with some groups and disassociation with others

d. Defines the kind of person the individual thinks himself to be

e. The individual tends to favor those things that serve his needs.
_______________________________________________ 4

The following are theories explaining attitude change under certain conditions.

Congruity theory

Balance theory

symmetry theory

Write the correct theory in the appropriate box below.
Example Principle Theory
A likes pop music. B dislikes pop music. There is a state of imbalance. A or B will do something to bring attitudes into balance. a.
Communicators A and B have a strong emotional and social bond. They therefore press for more similarity in atti tudes. If the bond between communicators changes. the need for similarity in attitudes changes. b.

ANSWERS

2 a. balance theory b. symmetry theory

4
1)e
2) b
3) d
4) c

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To illustrate the congruity theory, consider this example. An individual ties a positive attitude toward "astronaut" of +4.2 and a negative attitude tow ard''eggs" of -.2. Suppose the individual now hears an astronaut making a statement in favor of eggs. There will be a tendency for the individual to change his attitude toward both "astronaut" and "eggs." The magnitude of change is not equal, however. The weaker attitude (eggs) will tend to show a greater change th an the stronger attitude.

Fill in the chart for each of the examples below.

Example Attitude Changes (Positive or Negative) Relative Magnitude of Change
Attitude toward roast beef: +2.0 Attitude toward Lenin: -3.0 Lenin makes a statement in favor of roast beef. a. Attitude toward roast beef becomes more________ Attitude toward Lenin becomes more___________ b. There will be a greater change in the attitude toward ________than in the attitude toward____________
Attitude toward Supreme Court: +3.1 Attitude toward desegregation: - 1.0 The Supreme Court decides segregation is unconsitutional. c. Attitude toward Su Court becomes more ____________
Attitude toward deseg regation becomes______________
d. There will be a greater change in the attitude toward __________
than in the attitude toward_________
.

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Match. 1) Congruity theory ___

2) Balance theory __

3) Symmetry theory __ .

a. Attitudes will change when there is an imbalance between the attitudes of two or more people.

b. . Two communicators will press strongly toward similarity of attitudes when the emotional and social bond between them is strong.

c. When a person associated with a positive attitude makes a statement in favor of an object associated with a negative attitude, the individual's attitudes toward both will change.

d. The individual externalizes impulses unacceptable to the self.

_____________________________________________3

Cognitive dissonance occurs when the individual perceives a difference between his thinking and his behavior. Suppose that an individual has equal attitudes toward objects A and B. Then he is required to take some action toward either A or B. After taking this action, the person perceives a difference between his thinking and his action. Therefore, he has a tendency to bring them together by changing his attitudes toward A and B. Which of these is an example of cognitive dissonance?

a. After buying a product, the individual reads more about the product he has bought. His attitude changes to a more favorable attitude toward the product he has purchased.

b. After giving an object away, the individual develops a less favorable attitude toward the object.

c. (neither)

_____________________________________________1

Cognitive dissonance occurs when:

a. the individual perceives a difference between his thinking and his behavior.

b. the strength of the bond between two communicators changes.

c. a favored person makes a favorable comment about an unfavored object.

__________________________________2

NOW TAKE PROGRESS CHECK 2

ANSWERS

1 a, b

2 a

3 1) c
2) a
3) b

a. Attitude toward roast beef becomes more negative. Attitude toward Lenin becomes more positive.
b. There will be a greater change in the attitude toward roast beef than in the attitude toward Lenin.
c. Attitude toward Supreme Court becomes more negative. Attitude toward desegregation becomes more positive.
d. There will be a greater change in the attitude toward desegregation than in the attitude toward the Supreme Court.


MODULE 3
PROGRESS CHECK 2

1. An individual may adopt an attitude which makes him acceptable to one group and disassociates him from another. The attitude is serving__________________________________

2. An individual tends to adopt a favorable attitude toward objects that serve his needs. This attitude is serving_________________________

3. A person who is authoritarian may have adopted attitudes that serve:
a. an instrumental function.
b. a social adjustment function.
c. a self-defensive function.
d. (none of these)

4. A given individual gives the Pope an attitude rating of +4.6 and birth control an attitude rating of -.4. Suppose the Pope makes a statement in favor of birth control. For this individual you would expect:
a. change to a more negative attitude toward birth control.
b. change to a more negative attitude toward the Pope.
c. change to a more positive attitude toward birth control.
d. greater change in the attitude toward the Pope than toward birth control.

5. Differences in attitudes among members of one group are a result of: a. the group's pressures to conform.
b. personality differences among members.
c. membership in other social groups.
d. (none of these)

6. Cognitive dissonance occurs when:
a. the individual externalizes impulses unacceptable to the self.
b. there is a balance, either positive or negative, between all elements within a unit.
c. the individual perceives a difference between his thinking and his behavior.
d. (none of these)

ANSWER KEY PAGE 118

5 OR MORE CORRECT PAGE 93
FEWER THAN CORRECT _ instructor CONFERENCE

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