Aspects of Psychology

How are attitudes formed and how they can be changed?

Attitude is a way of looking at things. It’s a judgment that one has towards objects, and it is positive, negative or neutral judgments. It can also be defined as the way an individual thinks, feels and behaves towards life or an individual’s opinion of how he/she perceive things. Some of the attitudes expressed by people include: happiness, confidence, cheerful, interest, seriousness, jealous, optimism, independent, determined, loving and many more. These among others are some of the attitudes people carry but not personality traits. (Loader, 2009)

Types of attitudes

People with positive attitudes are ready to change and take up opportunities that arise. They are more optimistic about life; they take risks, go through challenges and enjoy learning.

Negative attitude people are very critical about life. They always make comments and complain about what is happening in their lives, they always point out mistakes in others and do not embrace change in their lives always work under pressure and are frustrated. (Gool, 2001)

People with neutral attitude are spectators. They do not contribute much in life, they just sit and observe others do things, change is not part of them , they are afraid to change and do not take risks in life, they are tired back benchers and safe players.

Components of attitudes

Attitudes have three main components and these include:

The cognitive component; is made up of people’s thoughts and beliefs they hold about issues/objects.

Effective component; this consists of how people feel emotionally and how they are stimulated by the object‘s attitude. (Mutz, 1996)

Behavioral component; this is the predispositions to act in a certain way toward an attitudes object.

Why attitudes are formed

People evaluate anything they go through because attitudes are very useful. It helps people understand the environment through knowledge and utilitarian functions, attitude also helps in building and

Maintaining relations with others and this is through value expressive and impression management functions of attitude. (Ayer, 2005)


How attitudes are formed

Most of the attitudes people have are formed in their early stages of life. Adults are very influential when it comes to forming the children’s attitudes because children learn their beliefs and values from modeling after them.

They are basically formed about a certain object by direct experience with the object and, more often association that produces response and also observation of others. They are learned from the experiences people go through and the process through which attitudes are learned through out the circle of life but when people grow up. The attitudes they learn become more complex and the ones already learned become s more resistant to change. Learning is the process through which our experiences create attitudes and this is the basic human process. All our attitudes are learned from our experience of the social context around us like the influence of peer groups as we grow up into adolescence and adulthood, schooling and family. (Halloran, 1976)

Classical conditioning using pleasurable stimuli’s is also a way of forming an attitude. It is mainly used by advertisers, and they pair their products with beautiful coolers, catchy music and attractive employees’ people to attract more clients.

Generally attitudes are learned through a direct experience. The more an individual is exposed towards a certain object either through singing, politics, way of dressing, what to drink and many more, then one develops a positive attitude towards it.

The primary sources of attitudes changes as people grow up into maturity and a final source of attitude is the culture in which one is brought up from.

How attitudes can be changed

Changing an attitude begins with self awareness and motivation. It involves changing a belief. In the process of life, people develop many beliefs that are bias and forces them to look at the world in a certain way and the way they think affects their behavior and their attitude is affected by the way they behave. (Forgas, 2010)

Attitudes can be changed for different reasons. People change their attitudes most commonly in response to social influence. How people behave can sometimes hold a huge effect on our own cognitions, attitude changes as a response of communication.

There are issues that ought to be present for one’s attitude to change and this include:

Cognitive dissonance: This is where on feels uncomfortable with tension and it comes from holding two conflicting thoughts in one’s mind at the same time. It becomes stronger when one belief something about his/herself and then does against the belief, it is a more powerful motivator which often led us to change. Dissonance increases with the importance and impact of the decision along with the difficulty of reversing it. (Bohner, 2002)

Counter attitudinal advocacy: This is effective where it is difficult for a person to later deny that the dissonance causing behavior really took place. It is so powerful in that it can change a person’s attitude about anything.

Persuasive communications: This is a speech, some kind of communication that advocates a particular side of an issue. It is not easy convincing people to have a certain attitude about something and this is where most professionals like teachers, doctors, politicians and lawyers face problems when delivering their services to the people and sharing their view.

Other possible ways of changing attitudes are use of fear. People may decide to change the way they do their work because of fearing unpleasant consequences they might face. (National Research council, 2009)

Resolving discrepancies is also a form of changing one’s attitude. People are confused when they face conflicting situations in choosing particular course of action. Due to this, if he is helped to point out the positive points in favor of the chosen course of action, the person might resolve his dilemma.

Providing new information is also a way of changing ones attitude. Incomplete and scanty information is a major reason for brewing negative feelings and attitudes.

Influence of friends and peers is also a possible way of changing attitudes. Opinions of friends and collogues in making recommendations for something often proves being important.

Despite all that, the process of changing the attitude is not always easy. If one strives to change another person’s attitude, there are two major barriers that one has to overcome and these are prior commitment and insufficient information.


The main factors of attitudes are character traits, feelings and beliefs. Feeling is classified into three; positive, negative and neutral feeling. Because of the factor of feeling, attitude can generally be defined as likeness and dislikeness towards an object. Attitudes are very important in our lives as they help predict work behavior, and also help people adapt to their work environment. Attitudes are classified into three: they are persistent unless something is done to change them, they fall anywhere in life from favorable to unfavorable situations, are directed towards a certain object to which a person has feelings and beliefs.

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