The Structure and Function of Attitudes

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An attitude is a learned predisposition to think, feel and behave towards a person or object in a particular way. ( ALLPORT 1964)

Attitudes are 'hypothetical constructs'= they are mental phenomena that cannot be observed or measured directly. We can only INFER what someone's attitude is by what they say and the way they behave. 

THE STRUCTURAL APPROACH TO ATTITUDES 

Allport's definition includes the three different aspects of attitudes that make up the structural approach. Also known as the ABC model or the three component model.

The cognitive component:

This is to do with what somoene knows/thinksabout an attitude object=the belief component. It includes what the person believes or percieves about the attitude object without any feelings attached. 

EG: I believe that smoking auses lung cncer based on what i have seen on TV and read in magazines. 

THE AFFECTIVE COMPONENT:

This is to do with HOW the person FEELS=the emotional/evaluative component. It includes LIKES and DISLIKES, POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE feelings etc.

EG: I dislike smoking and find it disgusting.

THE BEHAVIOURAL (CONATIVE) COMPONENT:

This is to do with how a person ACTS or INTENDS to act towards an attitude object. It could also include how the person has behaved towards the attitude object in the past. 

EG: I tend not to hand around with people who smoke.

The structural approach is based on the assumption that there is a high degree of consistency between the three components i.e. people ALWAYS act in line with how they THINK and FEEL.

It also implies that attutudes are relatively enduring i.e. they stay the same over time if they do change they only change very gradually. 

EVIDENCE THAT SUGGESTS THAT ATTITUDES AND BEHAVIOUR ARE WEAKLY CORRELATED (PEOPLES ACTIONS DO NOT ALWAYS REFLECT HOW THEY FEEL)

LA PIERE (1935)

AIM- to investigate whethere there is a difference between what people say they will do and what they actually do in a given situation.

METHOD- La Piere travelled around America with a Chinese couple and recorded how thy were treated at various hotels and restaurants. This was when anti-Asian prejudice was widespread. Despite this, on only ONE occation were the couple treated inhospitably. Six months later, La Piere sent a letter to all the places he had visited…

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