What is Attitude?

  • Attitude is always about “Something”. It’s a state of mind- your positive/negative feeling towards a person, object, event, idea, environment. It determines how people will arrive at a correct judgment.
  • In sum, it is learned and relatively enduring tendency or predisposition to evaluate a person, event, or a situation and to act in accordance with that evaluation.

Attitude: Salient Features

  1. Attitudes are directed towards an object, event, person or organization and give specific reaction to them.
  2. Attitude affects group behavior e.g.  Jury service, racial prejudice, work environment, voting pattern and more.
  3. They help us understand ourselves and others.
  4. They can be  explicit – formed by recent events
  5. They can be implicit- derived from past memories and traumatic experiences.
  6. They protect us from acknowledging harsh realities of life and thereby help coping up with emotional conflict.
  7. They’re situational.
  8. Some thinkers say Attitude is permanent, forms habit and becomes predictable
  9. Some thinkers say Attitude is tentative- a person will form attitude from his past experience but if new situation comes he’ll evaluate and change attitude. Thus, Attitudes are spontaneous reaction to environment.
  10. Persuasion can change attitude of a person. If a trustworthy, expert, likable person says, “rich people’s love for fur-clothes has led to extinction of xyz. Species”.

Component of Attitude (Elements)

There are 3 component of a attitude.

  1. Cognitive Component – It employ thinking (How do you believe?)
  2. Affective Component – Consist of feelings and emotions (How do you feel?)
  3. Behavioural Component – w.r.t. certain events, objects and situations (How do you act?)


Functions of Attitude (Katz functional theory)

Our attitude functions as per our need. Daniel Katz argued that our attitudes are determined by the functions they serve for us. In other words, people hold given attitude beacause it help them to achieve their goals.

According to Katz, there are 4 types of psychological functions that attitudes meet:

  1. Adjustment – maximise reward and minimize punishment
  2. Ego-defense – Match attitudes with our belief system
  3. Value-expression – Boost our central values and feelings
  4. Knowledge – Find evidence, examples, knowledge as per our stand

When an attitude do not serve us well, we change the attitude!

Formation of Attitude

How do the attitude form? Attitude is formed by ‘stimuli’ – it can be internal or external. Following are the 3 prominent theories about Attitude formation:

Pavlovian condition (Classical)
  • Igor Pavlov would struck a bell when the dogs were fed.
  • Dogs learnt to associate the sound of the bell with food. After a while, at the mere sound of the bell, they responded by drooling.
Instrumental / operant conditioning
  • If your behavior leads to positive outcome, It’ll be strengthened
  • If your behavior leads to negative outcome, it’ll be suppressed.
  • e.g. if you find a wrongdoing in other branch of your office, report it to your supervisor, but he orders you to ‘mind your own business’, then next time you’ll ignore it.
Observational learning
  • By seeing how other people get punishment / reward, you change your behavior.
  • e.g. if your subordinate is getting reward by speaking fake praises of Boss, you’ll feel inclined to do the same.

Attitudinal Change

As per Katz, when an attitude do not fit with our set goal, we change the attitude.

How do we maintain attitudes? People like to have consistency in attitudes, they do it in many ways.

  • Motivational bias : When we find contradictory information, we consider information not very relevant or coming from a dubious source.
  • Rewards and Punishment for similar and contradictory changes.

People tend to organize their attitudes in a harmonious manner so that they do ot come in conflict with each other. There are several theory to explain organization of attitudes.

Balance Theory

There are 3 elements in attitude change: 

  1. Person with attitude
  2. Some other person
  3. An impersonal identity – object, idea or event.


Suppose, you (person with attitude) favor abortion (impersonal identity). But your close friend (some other person) do not favor abortion. Then you have two option to make consistency in attitudes.

  1. Change your attitude – stop to support abortion
  2. Change your friend – Now you will have nobody in your circle to disapprove your attitude.

It will lead to balance in your attitudes.

Cognitive Dissonance Theory

Leon Festinger gave imbalance in attitude a new name – Dissonance (For balance, it is called Consonance). Dissonance is condition of inconsistencies between actions and beliefs. When there is condition of dissonance, we try to bring it to consonance. How do we do it? Let's understand Festinger’s cognitive dissonance theory.

Festinger’s cognitive dissonance theory is based on three fundamental assumptions

  1. Humans are sensitive to inconsistencies between actions and beliefs.
  2. Recognition of this inconsistency will cause dissonance and will motivate an individual to resolve the dissonance.
  3. Dissonance will be resolved in one of three basic ways: Change beliefs, Change actions or Change perception of action

congnitive dissonance theory


Suppose you do not believe in God. But as an district collector you are asked to start a event with lighting candle for Goddess Saraswati. Lighting candle for Goddess is inconsistence with your belief that ther is no God or Goddess. Now, to bring consistency you have 3 option.

  1. Change your belief that God do not exist (Change Belief).
  2. Refuse to light candles for Goddess (Change Action).
  3. You change your perception that it is just ritual in India to light candle, it has nothing do with endorsing the fact that God exist.

Immunization against Attitude Change

  • Similar to biological resistance on which our vaccine works, people can develop resistance to change in attitude.
  • McGuire suggests that, people can be made immune to propaganda by being exposed to weakened forms of the oppositions arguments before they experience main attack.


Suppose, there are two groups of people.

  • The first group was said that brushing is good for teeth and health. We should brush daily.
  • The other group was said that some people say that brushing  injures the gum (weakened forms of the oppositions argument) but there is medical evidence that it stimulates and improve gum condition. 

When these two group face main attack i.e. disadvantages of brushing then first group likely to change its attitude. The second group remain immune to such attack as they have already prepared arguments to support their position. The first group was unaware of any second thought, made them more prone to counter arguments.

Persuasive Communication

  • Persuasion is a deliberate attempt on the part of one party to influence the attitudes or behavior of another party for a special goal.
  • For persuasion, 3 elements mus be fitted together – 
  1. The communicator, or source (who);
  2. The communication, or message (what);
  3. The audience, or target (to whom).

The Communicator

What characteristics of the speaker affect the persuasive impact?

  • Expertise – Experts are more persuasive than non-experts. The same arguments carry more weight when delivered by someone who presumably knows all the facts.
  • Trustworthiness of communicator.
  • Likability – Popular and attractive communicators are more effective than unpopular or unattractive ones
  • Style of Communication – People who speak rapidly are more persuasive than people who speak slowly

The Message

What aspects of the message will have the most impact?

  • Order of arguments
  • One- vs two-sided arguments – When persuasion is tough – that is, when the audience is hostile – it is more effective to present both sides of the issue than just one side.
  • Type of appeal – We are more easily persuaded if we think the message is not deliberately intended to persuade or manipulate us. Persuasion can be enhanced by messages that arouse fear in the audience.
  • Explicit vs implicit conclusion
  • Language of message.

The Target

How persuadable are the individuals in the target?

  • Persuability
  • Initial position
  • Intelligence
  • Self-esteem – People with low self-esteem are persuaded more easily than people with high self-esteem
  • Personality

Application of persuasive communication

  1. Politics: to promote certain candidates, persuade voters to switch their preference, convince masses about needed changes or about the validity of certain political commitment for society.
  2. Business: in advertising, to position products or services in consumers’ mind, to persuade prospects to switch supplier, to create a need for new products, to sustain sales of cash cows businesses, to change organizational culture, to support or implement a change project.
  3. Conflicts and negotiations.

Prejudice, Discrimination and Stereotypes in India


  • Prejudice is prejudgment, or forming an opinion before becoming aware of the relevant facts of a case.
  • It’s your Attitude.
  • Prejudice is formed by negative-stereotyping.
  • E.g. all the Nigerians in Goa are drug dealers.


  • Discrimination is treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing is perceived to belong to rather than on individual merit.
  • It's your prejudice guiding your behavior.
  • E.g. refusing to give NOC to a Nigerian person rent a house in your cooperative society.


  • Stereotype is a thought that can be adopted about specific types of individuals or certain ways of doing things. These thoughts or beliefs may or may not accurately reflect reality.
  • Let's understand these concepts with examples.
  1. Jains are traders
  2. Gujaratis are business minded
  3. Tamils are proficient in maths.
  4. Punjabis are alcoholic party lovers.