These notes were from a lecture given at Southampton University.Although thereis probably more than you need for AS, and some of the terms you may not understand yet (e.g. z-scores) there is still a wealth of information on the subject.

 

 

 

ATTITUDE CHARACTERIZATION AND DEFINITION

 

What is an attitude?

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

Gordon Allport: (1935) 'The concept of attitude is probably the most

distinctive and indispensable concept in contemporary American social

psychology.'

 

Still arguably true, even now, on this side of the Atlantic. At any rate,

it's a good intuitive starting point. Everybody sort of knows what an

attitude is.

 

Three colloquial notions of an attitude:

 

1. Opinion, viewpoint, position, belief, reaction, evaluation, judgment,

disposition, tendency, inclination

2. Striking a pose: an angle or slant on things - partiality and bias

3. Taking a firm and forthrightly articulated position

 

Can't devise a definition that captures all of it. It always leaves

something out.

 

However, in science, theoretical definitions are handy, so you can agree

on what you are studying, although theoretical definitions can undergo

revision in the light of research too.

 

Broad definition of attitude:

 

"A psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating a particular

entity with some degree of favor or disfavor." (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993).

 

=> Basically, an *evaluative* response: positive or negative.

 

An attitudinal response can be cognitive (thinking), affective (feeling), or

behavioral (stuff you do), or any combination thereof. Called the tripartite

view, because it says attitudes have three components (doh!).

 

Attitudes are also said to vary in terms of their *properties*. Osgood,

Tannenbaum, & Suci (1967) found that attitudes are made up of 3 basic

independent dimensions: positivity-negativity (by far the most important)

, strength-weakness, and activity-passivity.

 

Many important properties of attitudes are related to their *strength*,

e.g.,extremity, resistance to persuasion, persistence over time,

predictiveness of behavior.

 

Other examples of attitude properties include: certainty, importance,

knowledge, accessibility, ambivalence, involvement. There are little

cottage industries of research revolving around each of them.

 

An alternative narrow definition of attitude, now commonly accepted, is:

"A summary psychological evaluation of an object". No more reference to

thinking, feeling, and behavior, just *evaluation*: the positivity-

negativity dimension is given pre-eminence.

 

The above suggests a *minimalist* interpretation of what attitudes are:

 

"An attitude is an association between and object and an evaluation".

 

The strength of this association indicates attitude strength, also called

*attitude accessibility*. It is indexed by how quickly people make an

evaluation of an attitude object, e.g., the speed of their responses

classifying a named object as good or bad, or giving it a rating

(Fazio , 1986).

 

(So, attitudes = Object -> Evaluation associations,

e.g. Osama Bin Laden -> Bad.

By a similar logic, Beliefs = Object-Attribute associations,

e.g., Osama Bin Laden -> psycho)

 

******************

 

ATTITUDE MEASUREMENT

 

How do you measure an attitude? On possibility is to assess open-ended

responses, like "What do you think about the war in Afganistan?". You get

*unstructured protocols* from this method. Analysis of the content of these

unstructured protocols is then done by coders, who rate them along emerging

dimensions of interest. This technique provides lots of information, and

imposes few preconceptions, but such protocols are quirky, unique, and

difficult to analyse. A more efficient way to measure attitudes is to

put them on a *metric* or *scale*.

 

How do you put a psychological quantity, like attitudes, on a metric

or scale?

 

No obvious physical referents, unlike measures of volume, velocity,

or viscosity, which can be measured by instruments like a ruler, a ruler + clock, drip-timing apparatus (!?). But what do you use for attitudes?

 

********************

 

 

 

SELF-REPORT MEASURES

 

Thurstone (1928) - Famous paper entitled: "Attitudes can be measured".

 

Devised ways of capitalizing on the subjective judgments of respondents

so as to draw reliable inferences about their attitudes and express those

attitudes on a scale, with intervals corresponding to *equal graduations* of attitudinal extremity.

 

The equality of graduations is important: imagine measuring a distance with

a ruler consisting of unequal graduations!

 

That is, Thurstone devised sophisticated ways of mentally *scaling* attitudes.

 

(Here is his method, in case you're interested, but you will not be examined

on the details.

Thurstone's method of 'Equally Appearing Intervals': Large pool of statements, expressing both positivity and negativity towards target

object. Group of judges then *classifies* each statement into 11 positive

and negative categories. [Or, make all possible pair-wise comparisons between attitudinal statements made by a sample of respondents, convert resulting proportions to z-scores, and sum these for each item derived. Whew!]

 

Establish scale value of item by taking mean or median of group ratings.

Select statements that best reflect each of the 11 intervals. Then

administer to new individuals: mean or median value of the statements

with which they agree qualifies

Drawback: It's a pain in the ass. Extensive preparation is necessary.

You need to use separate samples for developing and testing the measure.

 

Three other methods, though not as rigorous, are a whole lot easier:

 

(1) Likert (1932) scales, using the method of *summated ratings*:

 

Again, get a large pool of statements (half positive in character,

half negative in character, to discourage the acquiescence ("saying yes to

everything") bias.

 

Respondents indicate the extent of their agreement or disagreement with

statements using a 5-point scale.

 

Sum responses to get total scores.Correlate total scores with item scores

Throw out the items that don't correlate with the total (they don't give you any useful information)

 

Advantages: you don't have to pretest, if you get lucky

 

Disadvantages: the scale intervals are not necessarily equal (e.g., a score

of 20 does not necessarily mean twice as extreme as a score of 10)

 

(2) Osgood (1957): the semantic differential

 

Rate an object on bipolar scales anchored by pairs of adjectives reflecting

an evaluative differential.

 

Advantages: No pretesting needed. The same anchors can be used for a variety

of objects, permitting maximum flexibility. Also, scale intervals tend to be

equal.

 

Disadvantages: Abstraction may limited to behavioral predictiveness of attitudes

 

 

 

(3) Just use a single item!

 

e.g. What do you think of Tony Blair?

 

Advantage: Avoids all scaling complications

 

Disadvantage: A single item is less reliable (doesn't give the same response

over time), and is more prone to a variety of structural biases (see below)

 

In general, a psychologist should ensure that any self-report they use is

valid (is measures what it is supposed to measure, and not something else)

and reliable (it give the same score over time).

 

There are three types of biases that tend to creep into all self-report

measures:

 

1.†††††††††††† Structural: depends on the format of, and items in, a questionnaire

2.†††††††††††† Epistemological: People don't know how they really feel.

3.†††††††††††† Motivation:

 

People:

(a) don't want to admit their true attitude to others (social desirability);

or

(b) don't want to admit it to themselves (self-deception)

 

To get round these problems, *indirect measures of attitude* may be used:

********************

 

INDIRECT MEASURES OF ATTITUDE:

 

(A) Honesty-promoting:

 

1.Flip-a-coin method:

 

If heads, say 'like' to an item, regardless of your attitude.

If tails, then give your real attitude, 'like' or 'dislike'.

For any item, it cannot be known for sure if the response is real or not

However, across many subjects, you can still estimate what the group attitude

is.

 

2. Bogus Pipeline:

 

With appropriate stage-management, you can fool participants into believing

that a machine can really tell their 'hidden' attitudes, reducing the

perceived utility of telling lies in participants' eyes (Jones & Sigall, 1971).

 

(B) PROJECTIVE TESTS††††

 

1.Thematic Apperception Test:

 

Participants tell open-ended stories told about a set of pictures. Emerging

themes can reflect attitudes.

 

2. Information Error Test:

 

Relies on bias. Attitudes, especially strong ones, produce a distortion about

unknown estimated facts. So pro-lifer partisans may overestimate number of

abortion complications, pro-choice partisans the number of women who regret

having kept their babies.

 

(C) Behavioral:

 

1. The "lost-letter" technique: (Milgram, Mann, & Harter, 1965).

 

Postage-paid letters clearly addressed to the (apparent) post-office boxes

of various politically contentious organizations left lying around. The

post-office boxes are in fact rented by social psychologists, who tally the

numbers of letters they receive, then infer social attitudes towards the

organizations. A variant is the "lost wallet" technique. The rate of return

of the wallet is assessed as a function of the race, gender, etc. of the

person losing it, who leaves his or her address inside.

 

2. Various unobtrusive measures of actual behaviour from which attitudes can

be plausibly inferred (Crosby, Bromley, & Saxe, 1980)

 

These include amount of eye contact, seating proximity, warmth of handshake.

 

(D) Bodily:††† NOT NEEDED FOR AS but interesting anyway!

 

1. Event-related potential measures: (ERPs)

 

Some of our brainwaves (P300s) go 'blip' when unexpected information is

encountered.

 

So if an item towards which a person has a positive attitude is embedded

in a series of items towards which a person holds a negative attitude

(or vice versa)

 

2. Micro-contractions in facial muscles:

 

Smiling activates those in the cheek, mainly *zygomatic* muscles

Frowning activates those in the brow, mainly corrugator muscles

 

Liking can be inferred from subtle twitches, invisible to the naked eye.

 

(E) Cognitive:†† NOT NEEDED FOR AS

 

1. Attitude accessibility (Fazio, 1986):

 

The speed with which you classify an attitude object as good or bad

indicates the strength of the object-evaluation association in memory.

 

 

2. Implicit measures (Greenwald & Banaji, 1986): (You donít need to worry about this!!)

 

One prime example -- Sequential Evaluative Priming:

 

If two stimuli, a prime and target, are presented in quick succession, if

they match (are both positive or both negative), as opposed to mismatch (one

is positive, the other negative), responses (where a respondent has to classify the targets as being positive or negative) are speeded up as opposed to slowed down. For example, if unknown X and Y primes, preceded P(ositive) and N(egative) targets, and responses were faster for X-P and Y-N pairings than for X-N and Y-P pairings, then a more positive attitude towards X than Y could be inferred.

 

One problem with most indirect measures of attitude is that they tend to be

more "noisy", that is more prone to random error, than self-reported measures

of attitudes.

 

********************

FUNCTIONAL MODEL OF ATTITUDES†††† (IMPORTANT for AS)

 

 

Why are we interested in attitudes anyhow? Three reasons:

 

1: We want to *know* what's on people's minds per se

2: We want to be able to *predict* how they think and behave

3: We want to *change* how they think and behave.

 

Consider voting: ask a representative sample in a poll how they will vote.

 

1: It lets us know what people are thinking -- interesting in itself.

2: It predicts how people think about related issues.

 

(e.g., if you like New Labour, you'll be biased in their favour --

"spin-doctoring is harmless" -- and if you dislike the Tories, you'll be

biased against them-- "baldy men make bad prime ministers")

 

3: It predicts how people will actually vote.

 

(for either New Labour or the Tories)

 

In the case of 2 and 3, attitudes are supposed to have *causal power*. That

is, they dispose people to do or think, or not to do or think, something.

 

But which comes first, attitude or behaviour? Consider the analogy of a car:

is attitude the fuel and steering wheel, or just the compass and speedometer?

Either way, attitudes predict behaviour (correlate with the speed and

direction of the car) but only in the former case do they have causal power.

This is a chicken-and-egg problem we explore in greater detail in Lecture 3.

Let's suspend judgment for the moment however.

******************

 

Attitudes seem to promote *biases* in attention, perception, and memory.

These are:

 

1. Selective attention:

Our pre-existing attitudes affect what information we choose to expose

ourselves to.

We pay attention to supportive information, and turn attention away from

unsupportive information (a "congeniality effect")

 

True?

Not always, but overall, yes (Frey, 1986). Especially when:

 

(a) we have previously freely committed ourselves to a opinion, or to a

course of action implying an opinion

(b) when the information presented looks credible and plausible

 

However, people often seek our unsupportive information when:

 

(a) They have *very strong* pre-existing attitudes

-- "Go on, just try to prove me wrong!"

-- "bullish" approach

(a) They have *very weak* pre-existing attitudes

-- "Better watch out, I might be wrong, so best to look at both sides"

-- "scaredy-cat" approach

 

So the congeniality effect is strongest with moderately strong attitudes.

 

But let's not forget that people are also interested in information that is

useful, which depends on the situation. Sometimes that is information that

refutes our attitudes.

 

2. Selective perception and judgement:

Our pre-existing attitudes affect how we perceive and evaluate information.

We tend to perceive and welcome supportive information, and not perceive or

decry unsupportive information (a "congeniality effect")

 

True?

Yes.

 

People assimilate (minimize the dissimilarity) of information that is

relatively in keeping with their own attitudes, whereas they contrast

(exaggerate the dissimilarity) of information that is relatively at odds

with their own attitudes (Hovland & Sherif, 1952; Judd, Kenny, & Krosnick,

1993).

 

Also, perceptions of debates between politicians by rival supporters: each

thinks the other performed better, depending on the direction and strength

of their pre-existing attitudes (Bothwell & Brigham, 1983;

Fazio & Williams, 1986).

 

Also, partisans on both sides of the issue tend to see the media as hostile

to their point of view (e.g., both pro-war and anti-war sympathizers think

that the media coverage does not give their side a fair hearing)

(Vallone, Ross, & Lepper, 1985).

Not just passive selective perception and judgment: participants may also

spend longer actively thinking about how to refute uncongenial information

(Edwards & Smith, 1996).

 

3. Selective memory:

 

Our pre-existing attitudes affect how we remember information. We tend to

remember supportive information, and forget unsupportive information

(a "congeniality effect").

 

True?

No. It very much depends.

 

For one thing, people may have adopted an active or a passive approach to

dealing with non-supportive information.

 

Adopting the passive approach means taking attention away from, and not

processing, negative information, in an attempt to *avoid* it, which tends

to make it less well remembered.

 

Adopting the active approach means focusing on it, and processing it, in an

attempt to *refute* it, which tends to make it better remembered.

 

Also, memory may depend on the nature and polarity (positive or negative) of

one's attitude-relevant knowledge (Pratkanis, 1989). A lot of positive

knowledge will facilitate memory for positive information, a lot of negative

knowledge will facilitate memory for negative information ("schema-consistent

recall") -- matching knowledge is better remembered because it fits.

 

However, mismatching knowledge may also be better recalled because it jars

with expectations, especially when people are interested in getting at the

truth (Stangor & McMillan, 1992).

 

******************

 

 

 

 

ATTITUDE STRUCTURE††† (IMPORTANT FOR AS)

 

 

(1) Tripartite or 3-component model:

 

Thinking, feeling, doing

 

         Cognitive (belief),

         affective (moods, feelings, emotions, physiological changes),

         behavioral (behavior, or intentions to behave)

 

Should be some overlap, but not too much (just like different items on a

questionnaire).

 

The Tripartite model is useful conceptually, because the categories make

intuitive sense. But in practice the distinction may not be useful or feasible to make

 

Example:

Your lecturer. Your think he's really smart, you have warm feelings when you

hear him speak, and you really want to attend all his lectures. (Any

resemblance to lecturers living or dead is purely accidental.)

 

Imagine how the components stick together. No imagine how they could be at

odds with one another (ambivalence). How do you resolve the matter?

 

Some testing (Structural Equation Modelling, which allows you to test how

different correlational models suit a particular pattern of data) shows that

3-factors suit the data better than a single factor.

 

Breckler (1984). The 3 factor model worked with a live snake, not a merely

imagined snake, in a key experiment. It might depend a lot of what the

attitudeobject is.

 

One interesting finding to emerge from this research is that past behavior

predicts future behavior independently of everything else. This suggests

that conscious self-report leaves something out.

 

One compromise solution: conclude that attitudes, as *summary evaluations*,

can be based on, or inferred from, all three sources of information.

 

******************

 

(2) Expectancy-value (EV) approach (Fishbein, 1967):

 

Attitudes are the additive result of evaluative beliefs held about the

attitude object.

 

Beliefs are object-value associations. Att = Sum(B(i) x E(i))

 

Sum of the expected values:

sum of b(i) (= subjective beliefs about the likelihood that an object has

attribute, i) weighted by e(i) (= subjective evaluation of the mertis of

attribute, i)

---> equal final attitude.

 

Example:

 

Attitudes towards Southampton University:

 

I am 50% sure that S.U. is good academically (8 out of 10 on a 10-point scale)

I am 66% sure that S.U. is good socially (9 out of 10 on a 10-point scale)

I am 75% sure that S.U. is bad food-wise (4 out of 10 on a 10-point scale)

 

Attitude: = (0.5 x 8) + (0.66 x 9) - (0.75 x 4) = (4 + 6 - 3) = + 7

And so on...

 

Here, feelings, intentions, and behavior are the *result* of summed expectancy values about an object, not a separate component.

 

Advantages of EV: links beliefs to attitudes, suggests concrete ways you can

intervene to change attitude.

 

Disadvantages of EV: Feelings left out a separate contributor to attitude.

Can't these serve as a basis for attitude (a summary evaluation)?

 

You can derive more general algebraic models for linking beliefs to attitudes

(I spare you the details). These fall under the heading 'information

integration' models (Anderson, 1981). The subjective probability beliefs can

be replaced by other factors.Averaging rules can be used in preference to

additive ones {which we used above), and indeed these have proven more useful in social psychological research.

 

********************

 

 

FUNCTIONS OF ATTITUDES:†† IMPORTANT FOR AS

 

We don't just hold attitudes on empirical grounds. Sometime they are useful

to hold. That is, they have a function for us. What could those functions be?

 

Two obvious attitudes:

 

To hold socially approved attitudes: => social-adjustive

To hold valid attitudes : => reality orientation

 

Katz (1960)

 

List of four functions of attitudes:

Knowledge (object-appraisal):

It is useful to make the discrimination between good and bad things. We also

summarize complex phenomena into simpler schemas: we mentally structure our

social worlds so that they are manageable.

"I like you because it makes you easier to understand"

 

Utilitarian (instrumental):

Attitudes serve self-interest -- they secure rewards and avoid punishments

"I like my boss because he will help me get to the top"

 

Value-Expressive:

Shaping one's own identity, involving the motivation to clarify, define, and

express oneself. Core values are reflected.

"I hate non-organic food because I am committed to healthful living"

 

Ego-defensive:

One holds an attitudes that enhances or protects one's ego.

"Southampton is a great university. After all, I chose to go there"

 

Synder and DeBono (1987):

 

For high self-monitors, attitudes serve a social-adjustive function

For low self-monitors, attitudes serve a value-expressive function

 

FUNCTIONS OF ATTITUDES:

 

We don't just hold attitudes on empirical grounds. Sometime they are useful

to hold. That is, they have a function for us. What could those functions be?

 

Two obvious attitudes:

 

To hold socially approved attitudes: => social-adjustive

To hold valid attitudes : => reality orientation

 

Katz (1960)

 

List of four functions of attitudes:

Knowledge (object-appraisal):

It is useful to make the discrimination between good and bad things. We also

summarize complex phenomena into simpler schemas: we mentally structure our

social worlds so that they are manageable.

"I like you because it makes you easier to understand"

 

Utilitarian (instrumental):

Attitudes serve self-interest -- they secure rewards and avoid punishments

"I like my boss because he will help me get to the top"

 

Value-Expressive:

Shaping one's own identity, involving the motivation to clarify, define, and

express oneself. Core values are reflected.

"I hate non-organic food because I am committed to healthful living"

 

Ego-defensive:

One holds an attitudes that enhances or protects one's ego.

"Southampton is a great university. After all, I chose to go there"

 

Synder and DeBono (1987):

 

For high self-monitors, attitudes serve a social-adjustive function

For low self-monitors, attitudes serve a value-expressive function