Attitude (psychology)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Setting (in the mostly English literature attitude ) in the designated psychology the coming out of the experience willingness of an individual, in a certain way on a person, a social group to respond judgmental, an object, a situation or an idea of what is in the cognitive ( Assumptions and beliefs) , affective (feelings and emotions) and behavioral (behaviors) realm. Examples of attitudes are prejudice , sympathy and antipathy, or self-worth . Attitudes have the function of assessing objects and achieving social adaptation through identification and distancing from individuals.

Attitude research clarifies the connections between attitudes, behavior and actions. Above all, it asks under what conditions settings are created, how permanent they are and under what conditions they are changed.


According to Gordon Allport , an attitude is defined as a mental and neural state of readiness that is structured by experience and exerts a controlling influence on the reactions of the individual to all situations and objects with which this individual enters into a relationship.

In simpler terms, an attitude is an experience-based (reaction) tendency that is expressed by evaluating and treating an attitude object with affection or disapproval.

Explicit and implicit settings

A distinction is made between “explicit” attitudes as conscious, verbal evaluations and quick, automatic and unconscious evaluations, the “implicit” attitudes. Implicit attitudes are based on the contents of the implicit memory and can be understood as a consistent way of reacting to certain attitude objects, i.e. as a tendency to unconsciously judge something as positive or negative. Explicit attitudes differ from implicit attitudes in particular through the possibility of consciously correcting them, for example in the event of a certain type of reaction that is socially undesirable .

Prejudice is a good example of the difference between implicit and explicit evaluation. While most people meanwhile state that they have no prejudices against minorities, for example (explicit evaluation), "objective" tests - which according to Cattell provide measurement results that are free of self-assessment - still reveal unconscious prejudices (implicit evaluation). As a rule, people automatically rate their own group as more positive than a group to which they do not belong ( outgroup ). On the other hand, one may have learned, for example, that it is wrong to do this, which can trigger a correction of the explicit evaluation. The same difference between explicit and implicit attitudes can be found in relation to mathematics.

Origin of attitudes

Settings have three possible sources; they can a ffective, b ehaviorale (behavioral) or c ognitive causes (the "ABC of settings"). Mostly experiences, i.e. contents of the long-term memory , are responsible for the evaluations; however, there may also be other, for example physiological or other physical reasons. Identical twins raised separately have more similar attitudes than dizygoti twins, suggesting a genetic component.

Attitude towards a vacuum cleaner will depend mainly on rational considerations; H. of its technical properties and its price-performance ratio. The attitude towards a perfume, on the other hand, will be determined more by the feeling that its scent creates in us. It is also possible that the attitude towards an object is determined by how we behave towards it. So I can deduce from the fact that I do something often that I enjoy doing it and accordingly develop a positive attitude towards the behavior.

Affectively based attitudes

Attitudes can be based on individual taste, for example aesthetic preferences in art. Traditional moral or religious values ​​can also influence feelings about attitude objects. Children like sweets because their taste buds are not fully developed. Likes and dislikes can also be acquired through instrumental, operant, and classical conditioning . In classical conditioning, a neutral stimulus is presented at the same time as another stimulus that already triggers a certain reaction until the neutral stimulus also triggers the reaction of the other stimulus. If a child always spends the summer holidays with the grandmother, is looked after there and it smells slightly of mothballs there, the smell of mothballs (unconditioned stimulus) will later and. U. be linked with the pleasant feeling of security and trigger pleasant feelings by themselves. In the case of operant conditioning , voluntary behavior is reinforced by reward or decreased by punishment. The recognition of my friends for S-Bahn surfing can lead to the fact that I do this more often and develop a positive attitude towards S-Bahn surfing or that this is strengthened.

Another source of affect-based attitudes is model learning , in which attitudes are adopted from people to whom one orientates. If my favorite pop singer wears a lot of piercings , then it is possible that I too develop a positive attitude towards this fashion. The identification with an idol leads here to the desire to be as similar as possible to him and thus to adopt his attitudes. The persuasive communication is another way to acquire emotionally based settings. Advertising often tries to create associations between the goods being advertised and positive feelings, for example between cigarettes and freedom, or between insurance policies and security (see section “Changing attitudes”).

Behavioral attitudes

According to Daryl Bem's theory of self-awareness , we refer to memories of our own behavior when our attitudes towards an object are weak or ambiguous. This method is often used when one should take a position on questions of taste about which one has not yet formed an explicit opinion ("Do you like ...?").

Cognitively based attitudes

These ratings are based on objective information about the setting object. Before making important decisions, you will try to evaluate as much information as possible before the final evaluation is made.

Effect of attitudes

Attitudes can express themselves in three ways, the "ABC of attitudes" also applies here:

  • A ( affective ) - The affective component relates to the emotional attitude towards the object of the attitude or the emotional evaluation of it. With sympathy, one feels drawn to the person; in the case of antipathy, often triggered by prejudice, the feeling is mistrust, aversion, etc.
  • B (behavioral) - The behavioral component is the behavior towards the attitude object. In the case of sympathy, for example, the behavioral component could be friendliness, in the case of prejudice it could be discrimination .
  • C ( cognitive ) - The cognitive component comprises opinions, information, arguments about an attitude object. It is about the usually conscious, verbalizable, rational property evaluation. If you are sympathetic, you can perhaps give reasons, for example the person has been helpful several times in the past. Prejudices are often cognitively "underpinned" with anecdotal evidence , for example "Why are there so few women in management positions?"

Attitude Strength

The strength of a setting can be operationalized in terms of how quickly it is available and how difficult it is to change. Some objective tests exist to measure the direction and strength of attitudes, the results of which sometimes surprise subjects .

Implicit attitudes can be determined via reaction time differences in simultaneous or timely presentation (as in the implicit association test and affective priming ) of attitude object and another attitude object with clear emotional valence (the word "death", for example, has a clear negative valence for all people). The speed of reaction is used as an indicator of the strength of the attitude, the strength being determined statistically on the basis of comparison groups (so-called normal populations).

Affective attitudes are usually stronger (and more difficult to change) than cognitively or behaviorally based, as they are often linked to a person's value system and thus a person's self-concept . This explains the resistance of moral and religious beliefs to arguments.

The consistency of the attitude expressed and the actual behavior can also provide information about the strength of the attitude (“preach water and drink wine”).

Strong attitudes are generally more stable over time, harder to change, and more consistent with behavior than weak attitudes.

Functions of settings


  • Knowledge function : attitudes help the individual to orientate himself. It does not have to constantly absorb and reevaluate new information, but can simplify information processing processes with its settings. Anyone who has a negative attitude towards a politician does not have to follow his speech in detail, but can deduce from his attitude that he will also not agree with the content of this speech (see confirmation errors ). In this way, environmental impressions are reduced, organized and structured, making it easier to deal with future information. This function of attitudes is called the knowledge function or the economic function.
  • Instrumental function : Attitudes are referred to as instrumental functions when attitudes serve to achieve desirable goals ( rewards ) and to avoid unpleasant events ( punishments ). I can have positive attitudes towards the environmental protection movement because a friend is involved here and I am rewarded with affection for this attitude. One can also speak of an adjustment function here, since the setting is adapted to the situation in such a way that a maximum reward occurs. The focus here is not on the attitude itself, but on the effect that an attitude has on one's own well-being / for achieving goals.
  • Value expression function or function of social identity : attitudes can help define social identity. Beliefs and values shape the self and influence social relationships. By expressing a positive attitude towards pacifism, I assign myself to the group of pacifists ( ingroup ) and distance myself from the groups of the indifferent and bellicists ( outgroup ), thereby confirming my self-concept and thereby gaining identity. Since attitudes serve to determine one's own social identity, this function is also referred to as a function for social identity.


  • Defense of the ego or function of maintaining self-esteem : According to Freud's theory, an attitude as a defense mechanism can protect the ego from conflict. By projecting negative attitudes onto the attitude object , we can relieve ourselves. For example, by assigning attributes to other groups that one does not consider desirable oneself, one can protect oneself from negative feelings towards oneself (“I'm not lazy, the foreigners are lazy”). Since this is intended to maintain or strengthen one's own self-esteem, this function is also referred to as the function of maintaining self-esteem.

Relationships between attitudes

Basic assumption: People find it pleasant when their attitudes are in a harmonious, tension-free state with one another and therefore strive for such a state. Theories that work with this basic assumption are called consistency theories .

Balance theory

The balance theory of Fritz Heider deals with triadic relations, d. H. with the relationships of attitudes between two people and an object. So three attitudes play a role: the attitude of person A to person B and the respective relationships of the persons to an object (object, idea, event, etc.). The respective relationship can be positive (+) or negative (-). This triad is in a state of balance when the result of the multiplication of the signs is positive. Suppose I love Tusnelda (+) and I love ice hockey (+). If Tusnelda also loves ice hockey, then there is a state of balance (+ * + * + = +). If she doesn't like ice hockey, we have a problem (+ * + * - = -). If I don't like Tusnelda, but we both like ice hockey, I also have a problem, as well as when we don't like each other and neither do ice hockey, so the situation is not a pleasant one here either. Relationships in which the two people like each other and agree on the assessment of the property are perceived as particularly pleasant. This theory is u. a. has been used to explain the relationship between interpersonal affection and attitude similarity.

Theory of cognitive dissonance

Another theory is the theory of cognitive dissonance by Leon Festinger . Above all, the relationships between attitudes are examined here. In Festinger's terminology, attitudes can be consonant, dissonant or irrelevant. Here, too, it is assumed that individuals strive to avoid dissonant, i.e. inconsistent, cognitions. A classic example is the so-called forced compliance paradigm. In the forced compliance paradigm, people are “forced” (or asked) to behave inconsistently with attitudes and are given the opportunity to justify this to themselves or not. The ability to justify seems to reduce the dissonance that comes from people's attitude-inconsistent behavior. If this is not possible, people reduce the dissonance by changing the attitude, as this is the only remaining way to reduce the dissonance.

The strength of the dissonance (or strength of the motivation to establish consonance) depends on the proportion of dissonant cognitions in the totality of cognitions, as well as on the relative importance of the relevant cognitions.

The resulting dissonance can be resolved in different ways. A distinction is made between direct and indirect reduction strategies. Direct strategies relate to resolving the discrepancy between behavior and attitudes responsible for the dissonance; That is, people change their behavior to bring it into line with their attitudes, or change their attitudes towards their behavior. Dissonance can also indirectly be resolved through self-affirmation in other areas (so-called self-affirmation), e.g. For example, if one has behaved incompetently and this creates dissonance, one would look for other areas of behavior in which one behaves (or has behaved) competently, or by means of trivializing dissonant cognitions.

Change of settings

Attitudes that are not very deeply rooted can change spontaneously, as can be seen from the example of the popularity of politicians. There are various methods of changing other people's attitudes in a targeted manner. Often it is social influence , such as the need to belong to a group, that causes changes in attitudes (see conformity ). Basically, when trying to change attitudes, the best chance exists here if one takes into account the origin of an attitude. Affectively-based attitudes are therefore most likely to be changed by addressing the affects, for example by trying to generate certain emotions about an attitude object. In contrast, cognitively based attitudes are more likely to be changed through strong arguments and behavioral attitudes through behavioral measures.

Persuasive communication

Persuasive communication is one of the most intensely researched topics in relation to attitudes. In particular the elaboration likelihood model (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986) and the heuristic-systematic model (Chaikin, Lieberman & Egal, 1989) were developed in this context. This is about what kind of information can lead us to change our attitudes and under what conditions.

According to the two models, there are two ways in which we process information: a central way, in which we deal reflexively and critically with the arguments, and a peripheral way, in which we use heuristic cues (i.e. simple rules of thumb with which we can do good Experiences such as: “what is beautiful is good”) can be used to assess an object. Which processing path is taken depends on whether we have sufficient motivation and the ability to pay attention to the arguments or information and to process them. If that is the case, we deal with the information, let ourselves be convinced by the arguments if necessary and change our attitude permanently. If this is not the case, for example because we are distracted or because we are not particularly interested in the topic, then we evaluate the speaker's statements according to other criteria, the peripheral cues: Is the speaker attractive? Do I think he's an expert? If we change our attitude in this way, this change is less stable than one achieved via the central path. Overall, changes in attitudes that were achieved via the central route are more stable over time, more difficult to change again and more consistent with behavior.

Emotions and persuasive communication

People in a good mood are more likely to be influenced by peripheral cues, especially on topics that could spoil their mood if they were critically examined. People in a bad or sad mood, on the other hand, are more skeptical and are difficult to convince and mainly through the central information processing route.

Emotions can also be used as heuristics in this way : I am comfortable, so the object cannot be bad. So is on promotional events for z. B. Linoleum presented an extensive supporting program with buffet and music to improve attitudes towards this otherwise rather sober product.

But you can also generate emotions in order to achieve a higher level of attention. This is the best way to show smokers photos of decomposed black lungs to maximize their attention. In order to achieve a permanent change in attitude and, above all, behavior, information material must now be made available to the frightened person on how he can avoid this fear - namely how he can stop smoking.

Personality traits

Less intelligent people are more susceptible to influence than more intelligent ones. People with particularly high or low self-esteem are more resistant to attempts at manipulation than people with average self-esteem. They may interpret influencing as a danger to their self-image (protection of low or high self-esteem values).

Theories of systematic information processing

There are some cognitive theories on persuasive communication that describe how attitudes can be acquired and changed and which can be used to explain the effect of persuasive communication on attitudes. There are theories that focus only on systematic processing, and others that also note that other factors (such as the emotions and personality traits mentioned above) can also be involved in the change of opinion in persuasive communication.

The McGuire information paradigm

This model assumes that at least five conditions must be met in order to process persuasive communication:

  • attention
  • Understand
  • Accepting the arguments and changing attitudes
  • Keep the changed setting
  • Behavior according to the new setting

The model shows how difficult it is to bring about a change in attitudes through persuasive communication. Because even if the listener does not go through one of these steps or cannot go through one of these steps, the communication is not successful and thus does not lead to a change in attitude. In most social psychology experiments, the impact of communication is measured immediately after the performance. This allows McGuire's model to be limited to the first three factors. Furthermore, the first two factors of attention and understanding are summarized under the term reception. This simplified version of McGuire's model is called the two-factor persuasion model. The central assumption of both versions is that the reception of a message determines the change in attitude. However, there is little empirical evidence to support this assumption.

The model of cognitive responses

Greenwald developed this model which, in contrast to McGuire, emphasizes the role of the cognitive reactions, i.e. the individual thoughts, which arise when receiving persuasive messages. According to this model, listening to a communication can be compared to a private discussion in which the listener weighs the pros and cons of the arguments. The model assumes that messages are persuasive to the extent that they generate positive thoughts, but not persuasive to the extent that they generate negative thoughts. With this model, it depends on how the messages are processed. There are therefore a number of experiments that investigate variables that influence the extent to which the message is processed, such as distraction, message repetition and involvement in the topic. The researchers found z. For example, these studies found that weak reasoning was rated much more positively the greater the distraction. In contrast to this, approval and thus also the persuasiveness decreased slightly with good argumentation with increasing distraction.

McGuire's models and Greenwald's models differ in the importance they attach to the reception of the arguments. However, these models are based on a common basic assumption that changes in attitudes are only possible through the systematic processing of the arguments of a communication.

Two-process models of persuasion

However, there are other models that assume that there are two ways of processing information, both of which can lead to a change in attitudes. These models are called two-process models. In addition to the systematic or central way of information processing, as described by the model of cognitive reactions, they assume that there is still the peripheral way in which a large number of mechanisms cause a change in attitudes, even without the systematic processing of the Arguments.

The elaboration probability model

This model describes the probability with which a person chooses the central way of information processing. According to the model, this depends on factors such as a person's motivation and ability to follow or understand the arguments of a communication. If not, then the logic of the arguments has little impact on the listener. Instead, the listener is more likely to be convinced by the superficial characteristics, such as the length of the speech, that the speaker is an expert or that he is particularly attractive, if these give the impression that the communication makes sense. Or on the basis of cues from the situation, which are conspicuous, which the recipient of the message perceives. When information is assessed on the basis of cues, Petty & Cacioppo (1986) mention that it is the peripheral route.

The model of heuristic-systematic information processing

This model was developed by Shelly Chaiken in the 1980s . In 1989 Chaiken, Liberman and Eagly expanded it to include psychological conditions that they viewed as triggers for following the heuristic or the systematic processing path.

The heuristic-systematic information processing model deals with the methods that an individual applies when he is unable or unmotivated to follow the arguments of a communication. If this is the case, a person decides whether or not to accept the message based on peripheral cues such as a person's appearance or credibility. The heuristic-systematic model assumes that people often apply simple decision rules, so-called judgment heuristics , to check the validity of a message before they accept it. Such heuristics are often simple rules of thumb such as: B. “Experts are always right”, “People who I like usually have correct opinions on factual issues” or “A long message is an indication of good arguments”. Only if there is a sufficiently high level of motivation and processing capacity does the person have the cognitive resources to deal with news systematically, i.e. H. critically reflect on the message.

However, according to the elaboration probability model, these cognitive heuristics are only a few of many different types of peripheral information processing.

Motivation and its effect on attitude change

According to the two-process models, motivation is an important factor that can decide whether information processing takes place on the central or peripheral path. The most important component is the personal relevance of a topic for a person. Researchers found that the less the topic appears personally relevant to a person, the more they can be persuaded by strong arguments. Exactly the opposite was true for weak arguments. The less the topic was relevant, the more the arguments were accepted. However, the general acceptance here is significantly lower than with good arguments. From this, the researchers concluded that the more relevant a topic is, the more willing the listeners are to pay full attention to the arguments, and therefore the more likely it is that the central information processing route will be chosen.

However, the two-process theories do not rule out the possibility that the central path and the peripheral path of information processing can also run simultaneously. This can be the case, for example, when a person does not come to a clear conclusion even after careful analysis of the arguments and then uses heuristics in order to ultimately be able to decide whether or not to accept the message.

All of these models assume that every person strives to have a correct attitude. This motivation for correctness determines the goal of the processing, namely to check the validity of persuasive messages.

Change of attitude in the event of biased attitudes

Now what if a person is not motivated to have a correct attitude but has a biased view on a subject? To this end, scientists, starting with Chaiken, Liberman and Eagly (1989), expanded the systematic-heuristic model of information processing to include multiple motifs in the 1990s. Other important contributions were Eagly and Chaiken (1993) and Chaiken, Giner-Sorolla and Chen (1996). To motivate correctness, two further motives for information processing were included in the model.

Defense motivation

The processing goal of this motivation is to maintain and confirm the existing attitude. Here, the person only pays more attention to the arguments that support their attitude or reject the opposite.

Impression motivation

This motive relates to a person's personal need to have attitudes that are socially acceptable. The goal is to take a position that will appeal to potential appraisers or make them favorable.

These two forms of motivation for information processing, like correctness-motivated processing, can take place on the central as well as on the peripheral path.

Reason-based attitude change

When people try to find reasons for a particular attitude, they naturally resort to information available to them and construct explanations that they can easily put into speech. Often, however, the true causes are unknown to them, and linguistic skills vary from person to person. Wishful thinking plays into the considerations, culture-dependent thought traditions as well as possible reasons that happen to be active in the memory. Example: A customer chooses product A instead of product B because he has been influenced by a commercial without his knowledge. When asked about the reasons for his purchase decision, he puts together pros and cons for both products, the evaluation of which convinces him next time Buy product B. Problems arise when a factually incorrect or linguistically awkward explanation sounds so plausible that the setting is changed. Example: A basketball expert can intuitively predict game results based on thousands of highly complex, but not verbalized experiences. If he, when asked about his method, works out reasons for his attitudes, his abilities will deteriorate. If there is a justification-based attitude change, if the real causes persist, it is not very stable. Attitudes that people express after “analyzing” their reasons are bad predictors of behavior. Decisions made as a result of such an attitude change are therefore often regretted later.

Persistence of attitudes

Changes in attitudes that were brought about through the central path or through systematic processing of the arguments are more lasting than attitudes that were acquired through peripheral processing. In addition, researchers have found that the stronger an attitude, the more resistant it is to change. The strength of the attitudes depends on the attitudes accessibility, i.e. how quickly one's attitude towards a particular attitude object comes to mind.

Predicting behavior based on attitudes

An early study on this topic comes from Richard LaPiere (1934), who traveled with a Chinese couple through the USA and visited hotels to check how well a prevailing stereotype towards Chinese predicts behavior (refusal to stay overnight) (for more on this, see : LaPiere's 1934 study ).

Spontaneous behavior can only be predicted by settings if these are easily accessible, i.e. the corresponding memory contents can be activated quickly. Vegans can also decide more quickly at a buffet because their selection criteria are more present to them. Ajzen's “Theory of planned behavior” deals with the prediction of deliberate behavior.

Theory of planned behavior

This theory of planned behavior, designed by Icek Ajzen , deals with the extent to which one can predict the behavior of a person towards an attitude object (person, situation, idea, etc.) if one can predict the attitude towards the person knows the setting object.

The planned behavior model, Fig. 1

According to the theory, intention (behavioral intention ) is the best predictor of behavior if there is sufficient motivation, time and mental capacity (i.e. no distractions, fatigue, etc.). The intention in turn depends on three factors. These are:

  • the attitude towards the behavior,
  • the social norms , i.e. the expectation of how close people will evaluate the planned behavior, as well as
  • the expectation of how easy or difficult it will be to perform the planned behavior (perceived behavioral control).

Attitude towards behavior and social norms: According to Ajzen, a person will carry out a behavior if they assess it positively and if they believe that people who are important to them would also assess the execution of this behavior positively. If there are no relevant caregivers for the person , the attitude determinant will be given greater weight. On the other hand, it is possible that the strong anchoring of the person in a group causes the subjectively experienced pressure to be the primary or even only behavioral determinant and the attitudes to behavior prediction become irrelevant. According to the model, attitudes and subjective norms influence the intention to show or not to show a certain behavior. Ultimately, this intention acts directly as a decision-making component on behavior. The probability that the behavior is exercised increases the stronger the intention.

Perceived behavior control: In the theory of planned behavior (Fig. 1), perceived behavior control is added as a third determinant of the intention, in addition to attitudes and the subjective norm. This denotes the expected ease in actually performing the intended behavior. It is used to establish a person's belief in how easy or how difficult it is for them to perform a behavior. This addition to the theory is particularly beneficial in those behaviors over which a person has little personal control. This is a very good way of predicting the probability that a person will exhibit certain behavior over which they have only limited personal control. According to the model, the more resources and behavioral possibilities a person believes they have, the greater the perceived behavioral control over behavior. It must be noted, however, that the perceived behavioral control does not have to correspond to the actual behavioral control, which is difficult to determine. The perceived behavior control can on the one hand influence the behavior indirectly via the intention, but on the other hand it can also have a direct effect. Accordingly, the intention only predicts the attempt to execute the behavior and not necessarily its execution. In addition to the influence on intention and behavior, the three predictors also interact with one another (see also Figure 1). According to Ajzen's considerations, one can now assume that the perceived behavior control correlates positively with the execution of the behavior. However, this correlation will only be high if the perceived behavioral control largely corresponds to the actual behavioral control.

The theory of planned action emerges from the revision of the theory of deliberate action . Both theories are identical if the perceived behavioral control or the control over internal and external factors reaches a maximum value and the subjective probability of success of the execution of the action thus approaches 1.0. In this case, intention will be a good predictor of behavior, and reasoned action theory can be applied directly. However, it remains to be noted that there are a lot of different internal and external factors such as For example, there is insufficient money, time, unfavorable opportunity, or skill that may prevent a person from engaging in highly intentional behavior.

Here is an example:

Let's say I love mountain climbing. Does the behavioral intention arise: “I will climb Kilimanjaro!”? First of all, the question is not how I feel about mountaineering in general, but what my attitude towards climbing Kilimanjaro is. The second variable touches on the question of whether people around me would approve or disapprove of such behavior and whether their opinion is important to me (for example, my wife's attitude may be more relevant than the attitude of my postman). Thirdly, it is important to weigh up whether I have the behavior and its consequences under control: Are my climbing skills sufficient? Am I on vacation at this time? Will the weather be good enough? If all of these considerations lead to a positive result, then I will probably formulate the appropriate behavioral intention. If the characteristics of these 3 variables are known and a behavioral intention is formulated, the behavior can be predicted relatively well. Attitudes therefore only have an effect on our behavior through the mediation of other variables; the best predictor is behavioral intention.

Other relevant variables

However, the predictive power of behavior also depends on other factors:


The more specifically an attitude fits a specific behavior, the better that attitude predicts the behavior. The so-called correspondence principle according to Icek Ajzen & Martin Fishbein states that attitude and behavior match most closely when the degree of specificity of both matches well.

One study (Davidson & Jaccard, 1979) asked women about their attitudes towards contraception. They were interested in whether these women would actually take the pill in the near future - a very specific behavior. If the women were asked very globally “What is their attitude towards contraceptives?”, Their attitude predicted the actual use poorly (correlation: 0.08). However, the more specific the questioned attitude was (the more similar the behavior in the degree of specificity) the better it predicted the behavior: “What do you think of the pill?” (Correlation: 0.32); “What do you think of taking the pill yourself?” (Correlation: 0.52); “Would you take the pill in the next two years?” (Correlation: 0.57).

Salience of attitude

The more salient an attitude towards a certain behavior, i. H. the more accessible it is to consciousness, the better the two agree. Salience refers to v. a. on the availability in memory.

Snyder and Swam conducted a study on the subject in 1976: They asked students about their attitudes towards positive discrimination and had them write an essay with their arguments. Two weeks later they were presented with a case report of gender discrimination and asked to give their opinion. Half of the test subjects were asked to structure their arguments from the essay again in memory - the other half received no instructions. Those group that had reconsidered their attitudes showed a greater correlation between their attitudes in the essay and their assessment of the case report. For her, her own attitude was obviously more salient.

Personal experience with the setting object

The more personal experience one had with the attitude object, the more attitudes and behavior towards this object corresponded. Fazio described the strength of the association between the setting and its object in memory as availability .

In one study, test subjects were given five different types of puzzles and asked to rate them in terms of their incentive. One group formed its judgment from personal experience with the tasks - they worked on them on a trial basis. Another group received completed puzzles that had been worked on by other people and were then asked to form their judgment. The test subjects were later given the freedom to choose between the tasks and were instructed to work on them as they pleased. For the group that was allowed to work on the puzzles personally beforehand, the resulting judgment on the task types predicted the later extent of the processing of the individual puzzle tasks better than for the other group.

Social pressure

The lower the social pressure on people to represent a certain behavior or attitude, the better the action and attitude correspond. An example from politics in the USA: The majority of congressmen voted in favor of the invasion of Iraq in 2002 - in a survey, however, most of them privately opposed the Iraq war.


The principle of aggregation states that global measures of attitudes predict global measures of behavior better than specific actions.

Additional relevant variables include a .: Habits, moral obligations for a certain behavior and the relevance of a behavior for self-identity. If I am used to having a cleaning lady clean my apartment, then there may not be any behavioral intent (habit) despite the favorable characteristics of the other variables. Even if all other variables favor the exercise of vigilante justice on my sister's murderer, perhaps my Buddhist belief prevents such an intention (moral obligation) from arising. If my self-image as a Samaritan is very important, then maybe I intend to participate as a “doctor without borders” in crisis areas, even if my family, on the other hand, and behavior control (I could be killed) is low (relevance for self-identity).

Personality traits

People with a high level of self-monitoring (i.e. people who base their actions heavily on the anticipated attitudes of others) tend to have a lower consistency between attitudes and behavior. Obviously, environmental influences play a major role here.

People with high reported self-consistency (i.e., people who rate their own behavior as consistent with their attitudes) are actually more likely to behave consistently.

Example of discrepancy between behavior and attitude

In a study, Batson and colleagues confirmed what they termed moral hypocrisy :

Test subjects were given two tasks: for one solution, $ 30 could be won, for the other nothing. You should now assign one of the two tasks to yourself and the other to a second person. First, they were asked whether it would be fair to assign the $ 30 task to oneself and the no-profit task to the other. Only one twentieth of the subjects agreed with this statement - the vast majority felt that this act was not fair or appropriate.

Afterwards, the subjects were actually allowed to assign the tasks to themselves and to someone else. Now the majority of them assigned the $ 30 task to themselves and the $ 0 task to the other person. Their behavior and their attitude did not match! Even when the subjects were instructed to toss a coin in a room alone without observation to decide who should be given which task, the majority still assigned themselves the $ 30 task. They must have cheated when the coin tossed (maybe they had only decided after the toss who got heads and who got tails). Even if the sides of the coin were clearly marked and the assignment of tasks was therefore undisputed, the vast majority assigned themselves the $ 30 task.

Attitude measurement methods

The aim of attitude measurement methods is to empirically test the theory of planned behavior. One-dimensional methods are the over-all measurement , summed rating scales ( Likert scale ) and the scalogram method according to Guttman .

Multi-dimensional methods are multi- attribution models and the semantic differential . The multi-attribution models can be differentiated into compositional and decompositional methods (especially the conjoint analysis or a factorial survey ). The compositional methods include the approaches of Fishbein and Morris Rosenberg as well as the further development of Trommsdorff .

The attitude towards a certain situation must therefore first be measured. Here play a role:

  • the subjective norms,
  • the intention to carry out the behavior,
  • as well as the actual behavior, which is determined by observation and / or a behavior report of the respondents (e.g. a behavior review).

The factors can e.g. B. can be determined directly by interviewing people who judge each question by filling out a scale. More precisely, a full test of the model should measure the following variables:

  • The attitude components: These include the beliefs in relation to possible behavioral consequences, as well as their evaluation (indirect determination of the attitude). In addition, the setting is measured directly, usually via a semantic differential. This is a well-known form of a rating scale. In Charles Osgood's original scale (see semantic differential ), there are usually two adjectives opposite each other, for example “good” and “bad”. The position of the answer cross determines the evaluation of the question.
  • The subjective norms: Here, too, one first measures the normative convictions and the motivation for conformity. There is also a direct measurement of the subjective norms, as well as a determination of the weighting of the various norms for a person.
  • The intention, which is queried directly.
  • The behavior that is determined either through observation or a behavioral report.

It must be noted that the attitude and behavioral components, as well as those of the subjective norm and behavior control, have a comparable degree of specification with regard to the action, goal, context and time aspects ( principle of correspondence ).

The term "attitude" in popular psychology

In the United States , where authors such as Dale Carnegie method of already in the 1930s, positive thinking have applied the psychological concept of setting (Engl. Attitude ) to a much greater extent popularized as such. B. in Germany. The thought that what one achieves in life (success in school and at work, getting along well with one's partner, etc.) is largely determined by one's attitude (towards one's own abilities, one's partner, etc.) is im popular psychological discourse of this country is omnipresent. An extensive advisory literature, which extends into the children's book section, teaches the conscious handling of one's own attitudes and gives instructions on how expectations with which the person in question hinders himself according to the principle of self-fulfilling prophecy can be replaced by more favorable ones.

See also


  • E. Aronson , TD Wilson, RM Akert: Social Psychology. 6th edition. Pearson Studium, 2008, ISBN 978-3-8273-7359-5 , Chapter 7, pp. 192-227.
  • G. Bohner: Attitudes. In: W. Stroebe (Ed.): Social Psychology. Springer-Verlag, Berlin 1996.
  • S. Chaiken: Heuristic versus Systematic Information Processing and the Use of Source versus Message Cues in Persuasion ,. In: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol. 39 (5), 1980, pp. 752-766.
  • S. Chaiken: The Heuristic Model of Persuasion. In: MP Zanna, JM Olson, CP Herman (Eds.): Social Influence: The Ontario Symposium. Vol. 5, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, NJ. 1987, pp. 3-39.
  • S. Chaiken, A. Liberman, AH Eagly: Heuristic and Systematic Information Processing within and beyond the Persuasion Context :. In: JS Ureman, JA Bargh (Eds.): Unintended Thought. The Guilford Press, New York, NY 1989, pp. 212-252.
  • S. Chaiken, D. Maheswaran: Heuristic Processing Can Bias Systematic Processing: Effects of Source Credibility Argument Ambiguity, and Task Importance on Attitude Judgment ,. In: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol. 66 (3), 1994, pp. 460-473.
  • D. Frey, D. Stahlberg, PM Gollwitzer: Attitudes and behavior: The theory of considered action and the theory of planned behavior. In: D. Frey, M. Irle (Ed.): Theories of Social Psychology. Volume 1: Cognitive Theories. Hans Huber Verlag, Bern 1993. online ( Memento from April 28, 2005 in the web archive )
  • Frank Görgen: Communication Psychology in Business Practice. Oldenbourg, Munich 2005.
  • W. Stroebe, K. Jonas: Principles of employment acquisition and strategies of attitude change. In: W. Stroebe (Ed.): Social Psychology. Springer Verlag, Berlin 1996, pp. 253-289.
  • RE Petty, JT Cacioppo: Central and Peripheral Routes to Persuasion: Application to Advertising. In: L. Percy, A. Woodside (Eds.): Advertising and Consumer Psychology, Lexington. Lexington Books, 1983, pp. 3-23.
  • RE Petty, JT Cacioppo: The Effects of Involvement on Responses to Argument Quantity and Quality: Ventral and Peripheral Routes to Persuasion ,. In: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol. 46 (1), 1984, pp. 69-81.
  • RE Petty, JT Cacioppo: Communication and Persuasion, Central and Peripheral Routes to Attitude Change. Springer, New York, NY 1986.
  • RE Petty, JT Cacioppo, T. Goldman: Personal Involvement as a Determinant of Argument-Based Persuasion. In: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol. 41 (5), 1981, pp. 847-855.
  • Semantic differential. ( Memento from February 12, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) on:
  • The brain gain network: Attitude - A theoretical overview. April 29, 2009.
  • The Fate of an Honest Intellectual. In: Understanding Power. The New Press, 2002, pp. 244-248. Including about Norman Finkelstein (English)
  • Jung's method of changing political attitudes. In: Els Nannen: Carl Gustav Jung the driven visionary. P. 223. (PDF file; 1.7 MB)

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ I. Ajzen: Nature and operation of attitudes. In: Annual Review of Psychology. 52, 2001, pp. 27-58.
  2. ^ Richard J. Gerrig, Philip G. Zimbardo: Psychology. 18th updated edition. 2008, pp. 642-646.
  3. Harry C. Triandis: Attitudes and Attitude Changes . Beltz, Weinheim / Basel 1975, ISBN 3-407-51074-8 , p. 3 ff. (Eng. Attitude and Attitude Change. John Wiley & Sons, 1971).
  4. ^ ER Smith, DM Mackie: Social Psychology. 2nd Edition. Psychology Press, 2000, ISBN 0-86377-587-X , p. 247.
  5. ^ GW Allport: Attitudes. In: C. Murchison (Ed.): Handbook of social psychology. Clark University Press, Worcester 1935, pp. 798-844. (cf. Harry C. Triandis: attitudes and attitude changes. Beltz, Weinheim / Basel 1975, ISBN 3-407-51074-8 , p. 4.)
  6. ^ PG Devine: Automatic and controlled processes in prejudice. 1989.
  7. Dovidio include: Implicit and explicit prejudice and interracial interaction. In: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 82, 2002, pp. 62-68.
  8. Hofmann et al .: A meta-analysis on the correlation between the Implicit Association Test and explicit self-report measures. In: Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 31, 2005, pp. 1369-1385.
  9. ^ E. Aronson , TD Wilson, RM Akert: Social Psychology. 6th edition. Pearson Studium, 2008, ISBN 978-3-8273-7359-5 , p. 194.
  10. ^ GR Maio, JM Olson: Relations between values, attitudes, and behavioral intentions: The moderating role of attitude function. In: Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 31, 1995, pp. 266-285.
  11. ^ M. Snyder, KG De Bono: Understanding the function of attitudes: Lessons for personality and social behavior. In: AR Pratkanis et al. (Ed.): Attitude structure and function. Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ 1989, pp. 339-359.
  12. ^ ER Smith, DM Mackie: Social Psychology. 2nd Edition. Psychology Press, 2000, ISBN 0-86377-587-X , p. 250.
  13. LR Fabrigar, RE Petty: The role of affective and cognitive bases of attitudes in susceptibility to affectively and cognitively based persuasion. In: Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 25, 1999, pp. 363-381.
  14. ^ N. Rhodes, W. Wood, Self-esteem and intelligence affect influenceability: The mediating role of message reception. In: Psychological Bulletin. 111, 1992, pp. 156-171.
  15. ^ A b S. Chaiken, A. Liberman and AH Eagly, AH: Heuristic and systematic information processing within and beyond the persuasion context . In: JS Uleman and JA Bargh (Eds.): Unintended thought . Guilford, New York 1989, pp. 212-252 .
  16. a b James Price Dillard and Michael Pfau: The Persuasion Handbook: Developments in Theory and Practice . SAGE, 2002, ISBN 978-0-7619-2006-9 , pp. 195-196 .
  17. a b Arie W. Kruglanski and Edward Tory Higgins (eds.): Social Psychology: A general reader . Psychology Press, 2003, ISBN 978-0-86377-695-3 , pp. 490 .
  18. Chaiken, Libermann & Eagly (1989, p. 212)
  19. S. Chaiken: Heuristic versus systematic information processing and the use of source versus message cues in persuasion. In: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 39, 1980, pp. 752-766.
  20. ^ S. Chaiken: The heuristic model of persuasion. In: MP Zanna et al. (Ed.): Social influence: Ontario Symposium Proceedings. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1987, ISBN 0-89859-678-5 .
  21. Alice Hendrickson Eagly and Shelly Chaiken: The Psychology of Attitudes . Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers, 1993.
  22. Shelly Chaiken, Roger Giner-Sorolla and Serena Chen: Beyond accuracy: Defense and impression motives in heuristic and systematic information processing . In: PM Gollwitzer and JA Bargh (eds.): The psychology of action . Guilford, New York, pp. 553-578 .
  23. TD Wilson et al .: Effects of introspecting about reasons: Inferring attitudes from accessible thoughts . Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 1995, pp. 16-28.
  24. TD Wilson et al .: Effects of analyzing reasons on attitude-behavior consistency. In: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 47, 1984, pp. 5-16.
  25. TD Wilson et al .: Introspection, attitude change, and attitude-behavior consistency: The disruptive effects of explaining why we feel the way we do. In: L. Berkowitz (ed.) Advances in experimental social psychology. 19, Academic Press, Orlando, FL 1989, pp. 123-205.
  26. ^ GL Levine et al .: Reasoning and the weighting of attributes in attitude judgments. In: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 70, 1996, pp. 230-240.
  27. JB Halberstadt, GL Levine: Effects of reasons analysis on the accuracy of predicting basketball games . Unpublished manuscript, Indiana University , 1997.
  28. ^ J. Sengupta, GJ Fitzsimons: The effect of analyzing reasons on the stability of brand attitudes: A reconciliation of opposing presictions. In: Journal of Consumer Research. 31, 2004, pp. 705-711.
  29. ^ Russell Fazio : Accessible attitudes as tools for object appraisal: Their costs and benefits. In: GR Maio, JM Olson (eds.): Why we evaluate: Functions of attitudes. Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ 2000.
  30. ^ I. Ajzen: From intentions to actions: A theory of planned behavior. In: J. Kuhl, J. Beckmann (Eds.): Action control: From cognition to behavior. Springer, Heidelberg 1985, pp. 11-39.
  31. ^ E. Aronson , TD Wilson, RM Akert: Social Psychology. 6th edition. Pearson study. 2008, ISBN 978-3-8273-7359-5 , p. 215 f.
  32. ^ Jaccard Davidson: Variables that moderate the attitude behavior relation: Results of a longitudinal survey. In: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 37, 1979, pp. 1364-1376.
  33. Jeff Keller: Attitude Is Everything: Change Your Attitude ... and You Change Your Life! INTI, 2007, ISBN 978-1-891279-21-8 ; Napoleon Hill: Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude. Pocket, 2007, ISBN 978-1-4165-4159-2 ; Jeffrey Gitomer: Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude: How to Find, Build and Keep a Yes! Attitude for a Lifetime of Success. FT Press, 2006, ISBN 0-13-198647-3 .