Social Psychology

Student Learning Program

Chapter 7: Attitudes and their origins (pp. 230238)

Ask Yourself?

In this topic

  1. Measuring Attitudes (pp. 230232)
  2. Attitude Formation: Why and How? (pp. 232238)
    1. Why attitudes form
    2. Cultural differences in attitude functions
    3. The building blocks of attitudes
    4. Putting it all together
    5. Linking attitudes to their objects
Measuring Attitudes

Explicit attitudes can be measured using the following methods:

Implicit attitudes may be measured using:

Implicit and explicit attitudes have different qualities; there is not one best attitude.

Attitude Formation: Why and How?
Why attitudes form

People evaluate almost everything they encounter, because attitudes are very useful.

Attitudes help people to master the environment. This is done through the knowledge function and utilitarian function of attitudes.

Attitudes also help us to gain and maintain connectedness with others. This is through the value-expressive function and impression management function of attitudes.

Case study: The functions of attitudes: The value-expressive function

Cultural differences in attitude functions

In independent cultures, attitudes emphasize the individual and show that people are distinct from others; in interdependent cultures, attitudes emphasize group harmony and belongingness.

The building blocks of attitudes

Attitudes are built from mental representations that can include:

Affective information can be much stronger than cognitive information because of the intense emotions it can provoke. Habitual behavior can also dominate attitudes.

Putting it all together

All the informational components accumulate to form an attitude, following three principles:

Ambivalent attitudes reflect both positive and negative reactions to an attitude object.

Linking attitudes to their objects

Encountering an attitude object activates the attitude. The more often this joint activation of object and evaluation occurs, the closer and stronger the link becomes.

This has three consequences:

So what does this mean?

Attitude researchers infer attitudes from the way people react to attitude objects. Such reactions can range from subtle evaluative reactions that people are unaware of, to more direct expressions of support or opposition in words or deeds. Attempts to assess these different reactions have demonstrated that implicit attitudes can sometimes differ from explicit attitudes.

People form attitudes because attitudes are useful. Attitudes help people to master their social environment and to express important connections with others. Attitudes are assembled from three types of information: beliefs about the object's characteristics, feelings and emotions about the object, and information about past and current actions toward the object. Negative information and accessible information are weighted more heavily. Once an attitude forms, it becomes closely linked to the representation of the object.

Next topic

Superficial and systematic routes to persuasion: From snap judgments to considered opinions

In this chapter

  1. Chapter 7 introduction
  2. Attitudes and their origins
  3. Superficial and systematic routes to persuasion: From snap judgments to considered opinions
  4. Defending attitudes: Resisting persuasion
  5. Chapter overview (PDF)
  6. Fill-in-the-blanks
  7. Multiple-choice questions