Meaning and difination : We cannot say attitudes directly we infer them from the things a person does. Althouth they are not visible attitudes have a powerful influence on everyone's likes and dislikes and on every one's behaviour. A business executive needs favourable attitudes to keep a company going. A politian needs favourable attitudes to get elected and all of us try much of the time to create favourable attitudes in the people we meet.
An attitude is defined as a more or less stable opinion about a person or an object or a place. An attitude has three components a central component is a relatively enduring feeling about some object. The object may be a person, a group, an institution or something abstract.
Besides feeling, an attitude usually has a cognitive component that is the person holds some belief about the object. A belief is the acceptance of a statement if you have a negative attitude towards something, you will also have a unfavourable belief about it the belief may be a general statement, such as x is bad or it may be more specific such as inflation leads to high taxes.
The third component of an attitude is an action component, a tendency to act in accordance to the feeling and opinion. For one reason or another people do not or cannot always act the way they feel, but the tendency is there. Hence we can often predict behaviour from attitudes.
Development or formation of attitudes
How do we develop attitudes from birth to adulthood. The following factors play a significant role in the formation of attitudes.
1. Parental influence : From birth to puberty, children's attitudes or greatly influenced by their parents. For example when some children are interviewed they frequently quote their mothers and fathers " mama tells me not to play with coloured children" or "daddy says black people are lazy"
Studies that compare the attitudes of children and their parents always show a high corelation, especially in political and religious attitudes.
Critical period in attitude formation
Parental influences decrease as children grow older and other school influences become increasingly important with the begining of adolescence. During the period from 12 to 30 most of a person's attitude take final form and thereafter changed little. This has been called a critical period - the period during which attitudes crystalize. During this period 2 main factors are at work namely
Attitudes are formed to be changed by simple persuasion. Intensive laboratory study of persuasion during the 1950's revailed that the attitude of the individuals underwent change due to the techniques of persuasion namely argument.
Attitudes also change due to the use of techniques of propaganda, here a number of factors such as prestige suggestion that is people in authority giving a statement about a particular product will be used. A small section of people is bound to be influenced by this form of suggestion. We have for example sportsmen recommending a tonic or a beverage or a film star recommending a particular brand of toilet soap.
Another important means to change the attitude is through the employment of mass media such as radio, T.V. and news papers these have played a very important role in changing the attitude of people towards a particular political party or a person or an institution.
Of all the techniques which are employed to change the attitude of the people, it is the education which influence the human mind greatly. When the individual is exposed to various information about a person or the object or a situation, he is bound to change his attitude.