In Social Psychology attitudes are defined as positive or negative evaluations of objects of thought. Attitudes typically have three components. • The cognitive component is made up of the thoughts and beliefs people hold about the object of the attitude. • The affective component consists of the emotional feelings stimulated by the object of the attitude. • The behavioral component consists of predispositions to act in certain ways toward an attitude object. The object of an attitude can be anything people have opinions about. Therefore, individual people, groups of people, institutions, products, social trends, consumer products, etc. all can be attitudinal objects. • Attitudes involve social judgments. They are either for, or against, pro, or con, positive, or negative; however, it is possible to be ambivalent about the attitudinal object and have a mix of positive and negative feelings and thoughts about it. • Attitudes involve a readiness (or predisposition) to respond; however, for a variety of reasons we don’t always act on our attitudes. • Attitudes vary along dimensions of strength and accessibility. Strong attitudes are very important to the individual and tend to be durable and have a powerful impact on behavior, whereas weak attitudes are not very important and have little impact. Accessible attitudes come to mind quickly, whereas other attitudes may rarely be noticed. • Attitudes tend to be stable over time, but a number of factors can cause attitudes to change. • Stereotypes are widely held beliefs that people have certain characteristics because of their membership in a particular group. • A prejudice is an arbitrary belief, or feeling, directed toward a group of people or its individual members. Prejudices can be either positive or negative; however, the term is usually used to refer to a negative attitude held toward members of a group. Prejudice may lead to...
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