The Field of Social Psychology

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Attitude Theories

05/6/12

Among many of the subjects of interest in the field of social psychology, is the study of attitudes. Earlier social psychologists believed that attitudes were composed of three components, which are: cognitive, affective, and behavioral. This concept is very good at categorizing attitude into three different categories, but as later was discovered not all three of these components need to be present in the formation of a specific attitude. Social psychologists changed their view of attitudes with a more basic explanation during the 1990s. Today’s definition of an attitude is to have a positive or negative evaluation of an object (Franzoi, 2010, p143). There are many factors known today that influence and shape our attitudes. Attitudes may be implicit that is an attitude that is activated automatically or unconsciously, and it may also be explicit which is a consciously held attitude. A person may possess both implicit and explicit attitude contradicting each other, that type of combination is called a dual attitude. “A functional approach to attitudes is an attitude theories emphasizing that people develop and change attitudes based on them satisfying their psychological needs (Franzoi, 2010, p152).” Mere exposure effect, reinforcement and punishment, persuasion, and even our own facial expression and body posture can all influence our attitudes. Reference groups and classical conditioning theories are the attitude forming theories that we will look into and discuss. Among all of the factors that may influence our attitude perhaps the reference group is something we all are subjects to, sometimes without realizing it. “Reference group is a group to which people orient themselves, using its standards to judge themselves and the world (Frazoi, 2010, p150).” Reference groups are groups with which we identify ourselves; it could be an entire nation and religion or it could be your family and friends. Reference groups are...
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