Attitudes Predicting Bahiour

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Attitudes can often predict a person's behaviour but how can we explain the fact that sometimes they do not? Discuss with reference to relevant psychological evidence

When one behaves in a particular fashion towards an object, it is generally assumed that this is due to the attitude held towards it, whereas in fact this is not always the case. Psychologists such as Petty and Cacioppo (1996) suggest that attitudes are based upon our feelings about a certain object and whether we like or dislike it, thus reinforcing the traditional view. Eiser (1986) on the other hand explains how an attitude is what comes of external observational events. Thus the fact that overall an attitude is the predisposition of an individual to evaluate some symbol, or an object or aspect of the world, in a favourable or unfavourable manner means that their must be an explanation and evidence as to why an attitude cannot be simply regarded as a device used to account for our response to certain stimuli.

Attitude, as an element is split into three components (Eiser, 1986). This view is sometimes called the triadic model or the ABC model, so called as there are three types of responses used in evaluation which are summarised by the acronym ABC; which stands for affective, behavioural, and cognitive respectively. The affective deals with the emotions and feelings people hold regarding an attitude object. The behavioural element is the intentions, rather then actions people have to behave towards an attitude object; and finally, the cognitive component deals with the thoughts of people regarding an attitude object. The important thing to note is that between the three element responses to an attitude object there is no consistency. They are all inter-related and the expression of an attitude takes place after the responses have taken place. Therefore, these three facets of attitude portray that, were the process always implemented, then attitudes overall would predict behaviour.

The most cited study of the attitudinal-behavioural relationship is probably that of Lapiere, 1934 (cited in Albery, 2004) in which he tested the relationship of local Americans with Chinese people in light of widespread anti-Chinese atmosphere. However, the attitudinal-behavioural relationship would not be considered an issue worthy of discussion if it was based only on one study. Another noteworthy example would be of Corey, 1937 (cited in Petty & Cacioppo, 1996). Corey measured the attitudes his students held towards cheating and then tried to predict cheating on tests given to them during that semester. His aim was to be able to determine whether students cheated by grading their true/false tests before giving them back but by making the students think they were going to grade themselves. His index of cheating was the difference between the score the students assigned themselves and their actual score. The study cannot be criticised for reliability and accuracy as there was no problem ensuring that the same people completed the attitude measures also completed the behavioural ones. However, Corey actually found that the correlation between students' attitude towards cheating and the extent to which they actually cheated was close to zero. Therefore, students who had positive attitudes towards cheating weren't any more or less likely to cheat then those with negative attitudes. This led Wicker, 1969 (cited in Petty & Cacioppo, 1996) to state how the studies undertaken to show how attitudes predict behaviour in actual fact showed that it was more likely that attitudes will in fact be unrelated or only very slightly so to behaviour.

In light of this, many psychologists such as Fleishmann, Harris, & Burtt, 1955; Levitt, 1965; Maccoby, Romney, Adams, & Maccoby, 1962 (cited in Bandura, 1969) had put forward different theories and explanations in order to overcome why attitudes sometimes do not predict behaviour. Although the study carried out by Greenwald, 1965 (cited in...
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