INTRODUCTION: The importance of attitude in understanding psychological phenomenon was given formal recognition early in the history of social psychology. From the time of the concept’s entry in to the language of psychology until now, interest in attitude has been strong and growing. However, over the years attitudes have been studied with differing emphasis and methods.
Concept of Attitude: It is necessary to be precise in defining attitudes, because the variety of published definitions and descriptions is almost endless. Like any other concept, attitude may also be defined in two ways, Conceptual and Operational. There is quite a difference in the conceptual definition of the term attitude, and divergent points of view regarding the concept of attitude have developed.
Major aspects: When the term first entered the field of social phenomenon, it was natural to conceive of attitude as a tendency, set or readiness to respond to some social object. For the first time, ALLPORT noted the definition of attitude, which he had observed contained the words ‘readiness’, ‘set’ or ‘disposition to act’. Even ALLPORT has used these terms in defining attitude.
He defines attitude as follows:
“Attitude is a mental and neural state of readiness organized through experience, exerting a directive or dynamic influence upon the individual’s response to all objects and situations with which it is related”
Features of Attitude
- Attitudes affect behavior of an individual by putting him ready to respond favorably to things in his environment.
- Attitudes are acquired through learning over a period of time. The process of learning attitudes starts right from the childhood and continues throughout the life of a person.
- Attitudes are invisible as they constitute a psychologied phenomenon which cannot be observed directly. They can be observed by observing the behavior of an individual.
- Attitudes are pervasive and every individual has some kind of attitude towards the objects in his environment. In fact, attitudes are forced in the socialization process and may relate to anything in the environment.
Attitude, Opinion and Belief
An opinion is generally the expression of one’s judgment of a particular set of facts, an evaluation of the
circumstances presented to him. “Thurstone” defines opinion as a response to a specifically limited stimulus, but the response is certainly influenced by the predisposition with, with the individual is operating, that is, the attitude structure. A difference can also be made between attitude and belief. A belief is an enduring organization of perceptions and cognitions about some aspects of individual world.
Thus, belief is a hypothesis concerning the nature of objects, more particularly, concerning one’s judgments of the probability regarding the nature. In this sense, belief is the cognitive component of attitude which reflects the manner in which an object is perceived. The difference between attitude, opinion, and belief exists on conceptual basis. Most researchers believe that these three terms are so closely tied that it is difficult to separate them except on a limited conceptual basis.
In the literature, often, there is a considerable amount of overlapping in these three terms. Most psychologists, however, believe that attitudes are more fundamental to human behavior than are the related aspects. For this reason, more attempts have been made to analyze attitudes as compared to others. Obviously attitudes are an important consideration because of their central position in the process of transforming work requirements in to efforts.
Attitude alone do not influence behavior but these acts with other factors in the individual influencing behavior, such as personality, perception, motivation, etc. Further, attitudes are also affected by the individual dimension as well as the objects, persons, and ideas. Attitudes have been through as serving four functions and there by influencing the behavior. These are instrumental, ego defensive, value orientation and knowledge.
- Instrumental: Attitudes serve as a means to reach a desired goal or to avoid an undesired one. Instrumental attitude are aroused by the activation of a need or cues that are associated with the attitude object and arouse favorable or unfavorable feelings.
- Ego-Defensive: The ego-defensive functions of attitude acknowledge the importance of psychological thought. Attitude may be acquired by facing threats in the external world or becoming aware of his own unacceptable impulses.
- Value Orientation: The value-orientation function takes in to account attitudes that are held because they express a person’s self-image, or by cues that engage the person’s values and make them salient to him.
- Knowledge: The knowledge function of attitude is based on a person’s need to maintain a stable, organized and meaningful structure of the world.
Attitude that provides a standard against which a person evaluates the aspects of his world and serve as the knowledge function too.
These functions of attitudes affect the individual’s way of interpreting the information coming to him. Since attitudes intervene between work requirements and work responses, information about how people feel about their jobs can be quite useful in the predication about work response. Thus, these types of attitudes can portray areas of investigation for making the individual and the organization more compatible.