Attitude as the Sole Foundation of Human Individuality

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Human minds ponder multiple kinds of thoughts and values which determine our response towards any entity, environment or event. What we think and believe form our attitude, which shapes our behavior and reaction to the environment. Attitude may be defined as a learned psychological tendency to respond in a certain way towards an idea, object, person, situation or event. It is people’s evaluation of any aspect of their social world. Eminent psychologist, Jung defined attitude as a ‘readiness of the psyche to act or react in a certain way. “According to renowned social psychologist Milton Rokeach, “An attitude is a relatively enduring organization of beliefs around an object or situation predisposing one to respond in some preferential manner”.

Primarily attitude comprises three components, an affective, behavioral and cognitive component. Affective Component is the emotional or feeling segment of an attitude whereas Behavioral Component consists of a person’s tendencies to behave in a particular way toward an object while the cognitive component refers to the beliefs, thoughts, and attributes that is associated with an object. All three components are related and collectively forms attitude and a change in one component is likely to bring a change in others.

From the moment human comes into being, responses to the environment begin that evolve over the time, leading to attitude formation. Though the formation does not complete in a day,it is a slow and rather complex process and there are several factors which contribute to this process.Major factors responsible for attitude formation are through emotion, behavior and cognition. At a very basic level, sometimes we know or decide something by gut feeling or by inner voice, rather than through logic or reasoning, in such cases attitude is formed through our emotions. Sometimes attitude develops from direct experience with the world or through thinking about the world. This is through cognition while sometimes we form attitudes out of our action, through our behavior. Among the various factors that influence the formation of attitudes are:

a) Sensory Reactions: Any direct experience with an object though our senses i.e. by seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, or touching, we develop an immediate response. We evaluate, whether we find a certain sensory experience pleasant or unpleasant. For example, immediately after consuming an ice cream or wearing a new type of dress or listening to a new song you know whether you like it or not. We form attitudes about objects immediately upon experiencing them.

b) Values: Sometimes source of our attitudes may be traced to our values system. We hold certain attitudes because they are attested by our basic values. Many attitudes come from religious or moral beliefs. For example, many people have negative attitudes about abortion, same-sex marriage, and death penalty, just because their religion disapproves it.

c) Direct experience: Attitude may develop through observing and contemplating the surroundings. It includes any kind of information processing such as deliberation, imagination, reading, writing or talking. People develop a positive attitude after learning about nature endowment to humans. A person can have negative attitude for insects but once he studies about prawns and its benefit, he may develop a positive attitude towards it.

d) Social Learning: In social learning, attitude is shaped indirectly by the influence of family, peer groups, culture and society. It begins from imitation of attitude of parents by children. Peer pressure causes a kind of attitudes development through acceptance of that person into their group.

e) Operant Conditioning: It suggests that an attitude forms because it has been reinforced through reward or discouraged through punishment. For example when an employee of an organization is rewarded for the hard work, he develops a positive attitude for the work. During presentation in a class once a student is criticized, he develops a negative attitude for presentation.

f) Classical Conditioning: It states that behavior is learned by repetitive association between a stimulus and a response .It suggests that human beings are capable of being conditioned to certain stimuli. Some of our attitudes have become conditioned same way. For example some people who has visited some stinky place repeatedly which has caused them nausea, develops negative attitude towards the word ‘stink’, though it is just a word it can evoke response in the form of nausea.

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g) Mere Exposure: It states that people usually develop a liking for something if they are often exposed to it. When we see the same object or person over and over, we will generally form a positive attitude toward that object. For example, a popular actor may not be liked at first instance but after watching the actor again and again people start liking him.

h) Vicarious Learning: Sometimes attitude is derived from indirect sources like hearing, watching or observing rather than direct sources. For example a child may be instructed for dressing sense but he may learn it from a video after watching some celebrity dress. Through vicarious learning processes children pick up the prejudices of their parents.

i) Self-perception theory: It suggests that attitudes are formed consequent to one’s behavior. We evaluate our attitudes and does assessment, based on, what we believe might have caused them, and then we develop an attitude. For example, at times if one hears a lot of soft music and do not dislike it, probably starts to like it most.

j)Mass Communication: In the present era mass communication by print media, electronic media or internet plays a vital role in shaping our attitude. Marketers use persuasive advertisement to mould our attitude favorable to their product. Mass communication is very effective in forming and changing attitude. In view of point made above it may be substantiated that attitude formation is a complex process which is influenced by several factors. Attitude is a mental and emotional entity which is not stable or static but a dynamic one. It is subject to change by means of social influences or self-motivation or due to inconsistency in attitude and behaviour. There are several factors and theories which justify the change in attitude.

a) Cognitive dissonance: It says when there is a conflict between attitudes, beliefs or behaviors, a feeling of discomfort arises which results into the change in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort. When a person’s behavior is incompatible with his thoughts, a natural desire for consistency among our cognitions arises which strive to remove the dissonance by changing our attitudes or our behavior. For example, thinking , “smoking is injurious to health” will cause dissonance in smoker and he may try to change the habit ,but if it is difficult to give up smoking , he may try to convince himself that it is better to enjoy a short life with smoking than a long life without pleasure. Hence the smoker either gives up smoking or rationalizes it and in both the ways attitude is changed. If a person buys a diesel engine car and care for pollution, he may sell the car and buy an electric car.

b) Persuasion Theory: It says that people’s attitudes and opinions can be changed by means of persuasive communication through influencing person’s beliefs, attitudes, intentions, motivations, or behaviors. Persuasion is a process aimed at changing a person’s attitude or behavior toward some event, idea, object, or other person, by using written, spoken words or visual tools. During election campaign, opinion manufacturing in favor or against a contestant through mass communication is a perfect illustration for persuasion. It is a very handy tool for the marketers to persuade people to buy their products. For example, in most of the advertisements of the deodorants the common massage shared is, after using a particular brand of deodorant, person develops sex appeal, which is altogether illogical, but advertisement is designed in such a persuasive tone that people often trust it. Though generally people have negative attitude toward war, but during war leader persuade people for war and change their attitude. A book by eminent author Noam Chomsky “Manufacturing Consent: The political economy of the mass media” is a perfect example of role of mass communication to persuade masses in favor or against a notion

c) Compliance:It says that a change in attitude occurs in order to gain rewards or avoid punishment from another group or person. The person is aware that there is a need to respond in a certain way. For example if a person joins any establishment where certain rules are adhered to, which is contrary to his attitude, for compliance of those rules person changes his attitude. In warfare training institutions, an attitude is changed through coercion, a person develops fighting attitude which may be contrary to his natural instincts.

d) Identification: It refers to change in attitude in order to be alike to someone he admires or likes. In this case, the person adopts the new attitude, not because of the content of the attitude object, but because it is associated with the desired relationship. For example sometimes husband may not have a positive attitude for a drama or serial but he may develop a positive attitude for his wife and vice versa. Children’s attitudes for political party affiliations may be adopted from their parents’ attitudes.

e) Emotion based: Emotion acts as a catalyst in attitude change. It is one of the strongest components of attitude which acts hand to hand with cognitive process. Due to its efficacy, emotional appeals are active part of advertising campaign. In an emotional advertisement of ill effect of smoking , when a smoker observe that his children’s lungs is being effected due to passive smoking or when he thinks about troubles of his family if he falls ill, his emotion for his family jolts him to avoid smoking

Precisely attitude may be described as the totality of individual himself. His thinking, his views, his likes, and dislikes are all summed up in one word attitude. The formation of attitude commences from the very moment a person gains consciousness; different factors affect this dynamic process. Change in attitude occurs due to influence of numerous factors, sometimes change occurs naturally, by motivation or emotional dictation, sometimes by persuasion or by coercion.

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