Attitude is a very complex cognitive process just like the personality of an individual. The difference between these two is that personality is usually thought of as the whole person, where as attitude may make up the personality. It is a very important variable in human behaviour, because it constitutes an important psychological attribute of individuals which shapes their behaviour. The importance of attitudes in understanding psychological phenomenon was given formal introduction early in the history of social psychology. From the time of its entry into the subject of psychology till now, interest in attitudes has been strongly growing. However, over the years attitudes have been studied with differing methods and the emphasis has also been different.
Attitudes are evaluative statements. These are frequently used in describing people, objects and events and explaining the people's behaviour. These reflect how one feels about something or some body. When I say, "I like Ram". I am expressing my attitude about Ram. Thus, we can say that attitude is a bent of mind, predisposition of certain actions.
MEANING AND DEFINITION
It is very necessary as well as difficult to define attitude because the variety of published definitions and descriptions is endless.
In a very precise way, "an attitude can be defined as a persistent tendency to feel and behave in a particular way toward some object."
An attitude may also be defined as the way a person feels about something a person, a place, a commodity, a situation or an idea. It expresses an individual's positive or negative feelings about some object. It describes an individual's feelings, thoughts and predisposition to act toward some object in the environment.
Some important definitions of attitudes are as given below : According to G.W. Ailport, "Attitude is a mental and neutral state readiness, organised through experience, exerting a directive or dynamic influence upon the individual's response to all objects and situations with which it is related.”
According to Bernard, "Social attitudes are individual attitudes directed towards social objects and individual attitudes strongly inter-conditioned by collective or groups contacts."
"By attitude, we mean the beliefs, feelings and action tendencies of an individual or group of individuals towards objects, ideas and people. Quite often persons, objects or ideas become associated in the minds of individuals and as a result attitudes become complex and multidimensional."
An attitude may also involve a prejudice, in which we prejudge an issue without giving unbiased consideration to all the evidences.
Many researchers have defined attitude in terms of effect and evaluation.
According to Krech and Crutchfield, "Attitude is an enduring organisation of motivational, emotional, perceptual and cognitive processes with respect to some aspect of the individual's world".
According to Katz and Scotland, "Attitude is a tendency or predisposition to evaluate an object or symbol of that object in a certain way."
Thus, in practice the term attitude is often used in a generic sense to any reports of what people think or feel or the ways in which they intend to act.
ATTITUDE AND OPINION
Attitude and opinion are used closely with each other. But there is a basic difference in these terms. According to Thurston "opinions are expressions of attitudes." Attitudes tend to be generalised predisposition to react in some way towards objects or concepts. Opinions, on the other hand, tend to be focused on more specific aspects of the object or the concept.
McCormick and Tiffin observe that the measurement of attitudes is generally based on the expressions of opinions. But we should distinguish between attitude scale which, like a thermometer or barometer, reflects the generalised level of individual's attitudes towards some object or concept and opinion surveys, which typically...