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The Relationship Between Attitudes and Behavior


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The Relationship between Attitudes and Behavior
Attitude is holding a particular object in some degree of favor or disfavor. The attitude object can be a person, an event, an action or a thing.
Previously it was believed that the inner dispositions are what controlled the actions of man. This is to say that man is rational with all behavior being deliberate. However, evidence has shown that this is not always the case and though attitude does influence behavior to an extent, it is not the only factor that influences behavior. Moreover, in some cases behavior can cause attitude change.
Theory of planned behavior
This theory aimed at predicting deliberate and premeditated behavior. The theory was an add on to the previously formulated theory of reasoned Action when research proved that human action is not entirely voluntary or controlled by rational reason. According to this theory the greatest determinant that leads to behavior is intention (a person’s willingness and readiness to perform a certain action).This intention is determined by attitude towards the behavior, subjective norms and an individual’s perception on their ability to control behavior (Ajzen 2005).
Cognitive Dissonance theory
According to this theory people have a tendency of seeking a consistency in their inner dispositions (both attitudes and beliefs). Further there is also a need for personal behavior to be in tune with attitudes and beliefs held. If there is a disconnect between behavior and attitudes, then it is postulated that most people will change their attitude to accommodate the behavior (Vaughan 2005).
Self-perception theory
This theory postulates that people infer on the states of their attitudes from observing their own behavior. That is, an individual’s observes their behavior and then learns his own disposition ,therefore behavior can also shape attitude .This was particularly true for individuals whose attitudes on a subject were weak or conflicted, thus they used their behavior to evaluate how they felt about a situation (Vaughan 2005).

Attitude Strength A good predictor of whether behavior will be shaped by attitude is the strength to which the attitude is held. If an attitude is of high personal relevance (for purposes of social identification or self-interest) then said individual will hold on to the attitude more strongly. In this scenario, therefore, it is more likely that his attitude will predict behavior.
Another determinant of attitude strength is knowledge on the attitude object. Being more knowledgeable or even expertise on an attitude object increased attitude strength. Further, attitudes formed deliberately due to direct experience with an attitude object were stronger than those formed indirectly (reading or hearsay).
For instance if a particular student dislikes people of the Asian race, he may hold this negative attitude but not actually act negatively because he fears to fall into disrepute with social peers who believe racial prejudice is wrong. However, if the same student was in a scenario where it was socially acceptable to be prejudicial along racial lines chances are higher that he would then act negatively.
Other variables, however, are also responsible for behavior and can even override attitude in most cases. For example, intention to act according to attitudes, strength of habits, perceived control over one’s actions and the situational context.
The difference between implicit and explicit attitudes
Explicit attitudes are the attitudes that we are aware of at a conscious level, these are attitudes formed deliberately. Because explicit attitudes are known to an individual, they are a good predictor of deliberate behavior. On the other hand implicit attitudes are those that we are unaware of, they reside in our subconscious and were involuntary formed. Implicit attitudes are linked strongly to spontaneous behavior and can even affect mood and disposition unknowingly (Fishbein 2005).
Implicit Association Tests
The implicit Association test I did tested my association of the careers in the scientific field with a particular gender. The results suggested that I did not automatically associate the scientific field with the male gender. In my opinion the results were accurate as I believe that gender does not automatically determine interest in either a scientific or artistic field.
An implicit association test is a carefully constructed test that grades the strength of an individual’s automatic association between certain concepts stored in memory. Though implicit association tests do have merit in finding associations, should these associations then be used to conclude prejudice? These tests remain controversial as familiarity with concepts and cultural knowledge may result in stronger associations. Furthermore many feel that the tests are not completely reliable, first because results are not consistent each time the test is taken and second there is lack of evidence to support any diagnostic statements made.

Ajzen, I. and Fishbein Matthew. The influence of attitudes on behavior. The handbook of attitudes. 2005.
Hogg, M. and Vaughan G. Social Psychology. London: Prentice Hall, 2005.
Smith, E.R and D.M Mackie. Social Psychology. London: Psychology Press, 2007.

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