In detail

What are attitudes?

What are attitudes?

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An attitude has been defined as the association between an object and its evaluation.

Whenever we talk about attitude, we need an object (material, idea, collective, social object ...) towards which to direct our attitude: attitudinal object.

When colloquially we say "I don't like the attitude of this person" we mean to a set of behaviors of that person.

Attitudes can be of several types: favorable / unfavorable, positive / negative (much / little ...) and this dichotomy is the evaluation we make of a particular object. We always perform an evaluation between the subject and the object, and then we give a subjective link. Evaluation is what we look for with our work.


  • 1 Attitude structure
  • 2 Attitudes functions
  • 3 Relationship between attitude and behavior

Attitude structure

  1. Cognitive
  2. Affective, emotional
  3. Behavioral, behavioral

1. Cognitive

It refers to how and what we know of that object, based on beliefs, values, experience schemes, ideas / ideologies, opinions, as we define the object. Ex. What is alcohol for me, which I think is to consume a lot or a little alcohol.

2. Affective

It refers to what we feel before that object: good, bad, indifferent ...

3. Behavioral

It does not refer to how I behave towards the object, but what tendency I have to behave towards the object.

For example, an unfavorable attitude towards alcohol will cause the person to tend not to drink alcohol, this does not mean that he never drinks. Nor does it imply that if you drink you have changed your negative attitude to a favorable one.

The study of Lapierre (1934) “Attitude towards people of the Chinese race”, showed that the attitude did not correspond to the behavior. Although the Chinese couple was accepted in practically all hotels and restaurants, in the questionnaire approximately 90% responded that they would not accept them in their establishment (an anonymous questionnaire with a high sample well posed and with valid items, it does not have to imply that people lie because they are not threatening).

A key factor that can change attitude and behavior is the social pressure.

The attitude towards a known object is more consolidated and is more resistant to change That if it is an unknown object.

When you ask "What do you do" You are asking attitude, not behavior. To assess the attitude you must ask "what would you do".

There doesn't have to be a match between attitude and behavior, although it normally exists, since if there is no imbalance and the cognitive dissonance: lack of agreement between attitude and behavior.

A clear example of behavior management is advertising, since it works with attitudes, not with behavior.

Attitudes functions

  1. Of knowledge. Attitudes can act as cognitive schemes or filters. A prejudice towards a certain culture, can block the knowledge of positive aspects that have its components, so we do not have to keep the "first impression". Sometimes, to measure attitudes, hypothetical situations can be presented to the subject to see how the attitudes they have filter the acquisition of new knowledge.
  2. Of adaptation. Attitudes allow us to adapt and integrate into social groups. In order to belong to a group, we must think and do everything as close as possible to the characteristics of the group.
  3. Egodefensive We can develop attitudes to defend ourselves against certain objects. Before objects that we perceive threatening, we develop negative attitudes to preserve the Self. Example: "the teacher has me mania" is a phrase as a defense against my inability or irresponsibility.
  4. Expressive Attitudes allow us to show others our identity (what we are and how we are). "Value" is defined as the set of attitudes towards an object.

Relationship between attitude and behavior

There does not have to be a relationship between attitude and behavior, but there is coherence between the components of the attitude.

Example: it is impossible to feel rejection towards something and think that it is the best thing that has happened to me.

Within the relationship between attitude and behavior, we must take into account:

  1. Compatibility
  2. Accessibility

1. Attitudinal compatibility

When we are going to measure attitudes, we cannot formulate very concrete or very abstract statements when what we want to measure is very general or very concrete, in this order. If what is studied is emancipation (abstract concept), it cannot be asked: "at what age do you think people should be emancipated", because it is a concrete concept.

Example: Attitudes of some people, for example: women between 18 and 35 years old, I will be able to anticipate the attitude towards oral contraceptives, that is, it is consistent with the behavior of taking them.

If the attitude is not measured in front of the object, the attitude-behavior relationship falls. But if it is raised in front of the object the relationship increases.

2. Accessibility

A very accessible attitude is one that is very consolidated or very clear. This means that the attitude has been shaped because the person knows the object very well, it is not ambivalent for her. There is a lot of coherence between accessible attitudes and behavior.

Keep in mind that accessible attitudes are very difficult to modify because they are very consolidated. We will know that attitudes are very accessible because the person will take very little time to answer the questionnaire, that is, the response latency It is minimal. You can have a very accessible attitude and not assume radical positions.