The Structure of Attitudes

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The Structure of Attitudes
in review
Chapter 14
Social Psychology
Importance of first
Ambiguous information is interpreted in line with a first
impression, and the initial schema is recalled better and
more vividly than any later correction to it. Actions based
on this impression may elicit behavior that confirms it.
attribution error
The tendency to overattribute the behavior of others to
internal factors.
Actor-observer bias
The tendency for actors to attribute their own behavior
to external causes and for observers to attribute the
behavior of others to internal factors.
Self-serving bias
The tendency to attribute one’s successes to internal
factors and one’s failures to external factors.
Unrealistic optimism
The tendency of people to believe that good things will
happen to them but that bad things will not.
1. The fundamental attribution error appears to be somewhat less likely to occur
among people in
2. First impressions form
, but change
3. If you believed that immigrants’ successes are due to government help but that
their failures are due to laziness, you would be committing the
䉴 Do attitudes always determine behavior?
Our views about health, safety, or any other topic reflect our attitudes. Social psychologists have studied this aspect of social cognition longer and more intensely than any
other. An attitude is the tendency to think, feel, or act positively or negatively toward
objects in our environment (Albarracín, Johnson, & Zanna, 2005). Attitudes play an
important role in guiding how we react to other people, what causes and politicians
we support, which products we buy, and countless other daily decisions.
The Structure of Attitudes
attitude A tendency toward a particular cognitive, emotional, or behavioral reaction to objects in one’s
Social psychologists have long viewed attitudes as having three components (Fabrigar,
MacDonald, & Wegener, 2005). The cognitive component is a set of beliefs about the
attitude object. The emotional, or affective, component includes feelings about the
object. And the behavioral component is the way people act toward the object. If these
three components were always in harmony, we would be able to predict people’s behavior toward the homeless, for example, on the basis of the thoughts or feelings they
express, and vice versa. This is often not the case, however (Schwarz & Bohner, 2001).
Many people’s charitable thoughts and sympathetic emotions regarding the homeless
are never translated into actions aimed at helping them.
What determines whether people’s behavior will be consistent with the cognitive and
affective components of their attitudes? Several factors are important. For one thing,
behavior is more likely to be consistent with attitude when people see the attitude as
important and relevant to their lives (Kenrick et al., 2005; Skitka, Bauman, & Sargis,
2005). Attitude-behavior consistency is also more likely when the behavioral component
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