How attitude is formed?

The term attitude formation refers to the movement we make from having no attitude toward an object to having some positive or negative attitude toward that object. A range of mechanisms for attitude formation are involved. They are – mere exposure; direct personal experience; operant and classical conditioning; and observational learning. They have been discussed below:

Mere Exposure

Some attitudes may be formed and shaped by what is known as mere exposure, which means that simply being exposed to an object increases our feelings, usually positive, toward that object. The limit to this the effect is most powerful when it occurs randomly over time and that too many exposures actually will decrease the effect.

Direct Personal Experience

Second way of formation of attitude is through direct personal experience. It has the power to create and change attitudes. They are likely to affect behavior strongly. Information to support such attitudes is also more likely to occur. Direct experience continues to form and shape our attitudes throughout life.

Conditioning Process

  • During the course of socialization, a person’s attitudes may be formed through operant and classical conditioning, in the former the individual’s behavior is strengthened or weakened by means of reward or punishment.
  • In classical conditioning, when an attitude object (a person) was paired with positive or negative stimuli, they came to associate the person with the positive or negative
  • Observational learning occurs when we watch what people do and then model, or imitate, that behavior. Observational learning does not depend on rewards, but rewards can strengthen the learning, further people are more likely to imitate behavior that is rewarded. When there are discrepancies between what people say and what they do, children tend to imitate the behavior.

The Heritability Factor

Attitudes and other complex social behaviors may have a genetic component. Genetics have an indirect effect on our attitudes. Characteristics that are biologically based might predispose us to certain behaviors and attitudes. Biologically based characteristic affects how one thinks, feels, and acts.

Degree of influence of attitude on behaviour

Our attitudes develop over time and not only reflect where we have come from but also how we will proceed with our life in the future. Attitudes are therefore a powerful element in our life, are long enduring and hard to change easily.

The degree of influence begins with the assumption that we behave in accordance with our conscious intentions. They are based, on our rational calculations about the potential effects of our attitude towards our behaviour and about how other people will feel about it.

The factors that determine attitude-behavior consistency is accessibility, strength, ambivalence. The central point is that a person’s behavior and behavioural intentions can be predicted from the influencing factors that governs a person’s attitude.

A person’s attitude toward his or her own behavior is predicted by the expectancy-value framework: The desirability of each possible outcome is weighted by the likelihood of that outcome.

Subjective social norms are influenced by the per­ceived expectations of significant others weighted by the motivation to conform to those expectations.

Both these reason appeals because it makes people think reasonable and it places attitudes in a central place in determining behavior.

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