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Definition: Positive or negative reactions to people, objects, events and ideas. Example: A telephone survey is being conducted in the city. People are being asked whether or not they believe that capital punishment should be legalised. They are being asked to give their attitudes about capital punishment. Background: Attitudes have been studied extensively by social psychologists to determine people's reactions to a variety of things. There is no consistent agreement on how attitudes should be measured. Attitudes have been measured by asking people directly how they feel about something to using indirect methods, or by covert methods such as observable behaviour. However, in using self report measures, the assumption is that people are telling the truth and this is not always the case. For example, people may be concerned about making a good impression and may therefore not reveal their true opinions about something. Behaviour is also not a perfect measure of attitudes as people may monitor their overt behaviour as much as they monitor their self-reports. Behaviour by itself does not always reflect attitudes. Attitudes are thought to be made up of three components: cognitive, affective/emotional and behavioral factors, and they are evaluative. Social factors, in addition to attitudes, produce behaviour. Various types of persuasion have been used to try and change attitudes. Factors affecting success in changing attitudes include who is trying to change the attitude (their credibility), what the attitude is, how the change is being implemented and the person holding the attitude is. Further Reading:
Brehm, S. S., & Kassin, S. M. (1990). Social Psychology. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986). Communication and persuasion: Central and peripheral routes to attitude change. New York: Springer-Verlag.
Related Terms: Message
Self-Instructional Resources: Take a 2-item self-test over this concept.
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