Attitude Development: Cognitive Steadiness and Inconsistency

Minahil Meher

Attitude Formation

Many in our views are obtained in situations in which we connect to or take notice of the behavior of others, called cultural learning. Such learning can be acquired through several techniques, which in turn help us form attitudes.

Classical Conditioning: Learning predicated on Association

The evoking of any frame of mind by the relationship of the unconditioned stimulus with a neutral conditioned stimulus is the first procedure for "learning"; classical conditioning. Whenever a stimulus that is with the capacity of creating a positive response (U. S) regularly precedes a second stimulus (C. S), the first becomes a sign for the second. Advertisers and other persuasion agents have considerable experience in by using principle to create positive attitudes towards their products.

EXAMPLE: Marketing a fresh drink.

Before Conditioning:

Attractive Young ladies Positive Emotions

(Unconditioned Stimulus) (Unconditioned Response)

Drink's Brand No Response

(Natural Stimulus)

During Conditioning:

Attractive Girls

Positive Feelings/Attitudes

Drink's Logo (Conditioned Response)

After Fitness:

Drink's Brand Positive Emotions/ Attitudes

(Conditioned Stimulus)

As the Drink's Logo design is constantly being paired with images of attractive females, positive behaviour will be developed within the target population.

Classical conditioning occurs best in social settings where an individual's close ones are worried, thus supporting form attitudes. A kid sees her mom frown and show other indications of displeasure and pain in the existence of a specific societal or religious class of individuals. At first the child is neutral for the presence of the people as she/he is unaware of their different characteristics e. g. epidermis colour, kind of clothes, language etc. The child at this point has not yet learned to categorize these modifications in terms of group membership. However, once these cues are paired frequently with the mother's negative emotional reactions, classical fitness occurs, and the kid then gradually begins to respond in an identical fashion as her mother in the presence of this set of people. This often takes put on the unconscious level i. e. the child may well not have conscious access to the role that mother's modified psychological reactions play on the forming of a negative frame of mind. As a result, the child acquires a poor attitude that is generalized to people of this group all together.

  1. Subliminal Conditioning:

According to a study by Krosnick et. al. (1992, as cited in Baron et. al. 2010), individuals can often form an frame of mind without being alert to the stimulus dependable. Students were shown photos of your stranger engaging in a supermarket or walking into her apartment. While enjoying these images, other pictures; associated with either positive or negative thoughts, were exposed for brief periods of time. Participants who were exposed to photos that induced positive thoughts (e. g. laughter, newly wed couple) liked the stranger better than participants who had been exposed to images that induced negative thoughts (e. g. open-heart surgery). This for of attitude formation is known as subliminal conditioning.

  1. Mere Coverage:

This identifies having seen an thing before, however, not remembering having seen it. This too ends up with attitude formation and its effects on behaviour are more powerful as the stimuli are recognized consciously somewhat than subliminally thus, conscious recollection of the stimuli is not needed (but conscious coverage is). Alzheimer patients, who cannot not memorize the stimuli, have emerged to form new attitudes on the basis of mere exposure to certain stimuli.

Instrumental Conditioning: Rewards for the "Right" Views.

We can acquire an frame of mind toward our classes and careers through instrumental conditioning i. e. learning based on immediate experience with the thing on the basis of rewards and punishments. If an individual experience rewards related to some object, his/her attitude will be beneficial. Thus, if their work provides them with good pay, a sense of success, and compliments from co-workers, their attitude toward it will be quite positive. Attitudes that are followed by positive outcomes tend to be strengthened and are likely to be repeated, while attitudes that are accompanied by negative final results are weakened so their likelihood of being portrayed again is reduced.

The rewards given to individuals during such fitness, in a social framework, are usually by means of psychological acceptance. That is why it is seen that most children express political, religious and public views that are highly comparable to those of their parents and other family members, until the teen when the peer affects become especially strong.

EXAMPLE: Positive/Beneficial Attitude toward alcoholic beverages utilization (Teenage).

Before Instrumental Conditioning:

Alcohol Usage Negative

(Behaviour) (Frame of mind towards it)

Peers provide IF Alcoholic beverages Consumed: Social Popularity/ Status

(Incentive Given)

After Instrumental Conditioning:

Alcohol Intake Positive (Behaviour) (Frame of mind towards it)

This shows that if someone rewards a habit, even if the behavior itself is incorrect, it is much more likely to be repeated as it is strengthened - it is the "right" view in the viewpoints of those who are and only alcohol intake.

As adults, we may be aware that different organizations we belong to will pay back or punish us for expressing support for a specific attitude position. We might even find ourselves expressing one take on a topic to 1 audience and another view to a different audience. Another example would be the forthcoming Elections '13 of Pakistan i. e. they rely upon a candidate's success at providing the "right view" to the "right audience", and so may be perceived as shifting their responses to accommodate the views of different viewers rather than going for a strong stand on anything. This implies that they change their attitudes just to gain rewards from people (votes). This however, may also be put on the voters who will change their views or behaviour of voting for a specific party based on the rewards waiting for you for these people e. g. financial benefits, technological breakthroughs etc.

Observational Learning: Learning by Exposure to Others

Attitudes can develop also in the absence of immediate rewards for acquiring or expressing those behaviour through the method of observational learning or vicarious learning; when individuals acquire behaviour or behaviors simply by observing others. Relating to Myers and Caniglia (2004, as cited in Delamater & Myers, 2011) the media provide interpretive deals or casings about an thing that may affect the behaviour of visitors and readers. By portraying happenings and actors in certain ways, TV news, news mags, and papers can produce cognitive images of any racial group to be volatile, dangerous, or unreasonable that subsequently produce negative behaviour. The example is that of how Muslims are shown on international tv; as terrorists, instilling within the international audience that all Muslim's are terrorists even though they could do not have actually been in direct connection with them and yet develop a bad attitude towards them. But why do people choose the attitudes that they notice others express or imitate the actions they view in others?

  1. Social Contrast:

This identifies our trend to compare ourselves with others to determine whether our view of social reality is correct or not, even as often choose the behaviour that others keep. A person is then seen to look at the frame of mind position of these they see as similar to themselves rather than of these they consider or see as dissimilar. An 18 year-old young lady is more likely to check out another 18 year-old gal to look at a clothing fashion or be up-to-date with the latest fads rather than 50 year-old female who isolates herself from societal ideals. Similarly in case a teenaged boy wants to know about the latest game titles to try out on his Xbox/PS3, he'll more likely observe 'gamers' alternatively than non-gamers also, if we go deeper, he will observe gamers who play the same kind of games as him; same genre of games.

  1. Reference Groupings:

A guide group includes the people an individual values and prefers to identify with, who they look up to when adjusting and creating their behaviour. The adoption of attitude thus be based upon extend to which an individual recognizes with the group advocates the forming of an frame of mind or the change. This may connect with making small purchase decisions; which brand of sunscreen to buy, as well as building behaviour about other groups of people; whether a new sociable group is positive or negative. Regarding to a study it has been proven that if your reference group retains negative views in regards to a new sociable group we've never been in contact with, we are more likely to form the similar bad attitude towards them despite being unsure of them at all. In addition but we ourselves be prepared to be affected by those who we consider as similar. Example: College or university students being given a lecture on Helps and the hazards of unsafe sex will be affected by the frame of mind or views of the audio system if they are also school students, like themselves.

Cognitive Steadiness/Inconsistency

Consistency among someone's cognitions i. e. beliefs and behaviour is widespread. If you have liberal political values, you probably prefer medical attention programs for individuals surviving in poverty. If you'd prefer equal rights for all those persons, you almost certainly support affirmative action projects. The observation that most people's cognitions are regular with each other implies that folks are motivated to keep up that persistence. Several theories of attitude business are based on this principle. In general, these cognitive uniformity ideas hypothesize that if an inconsistency advances between cognitive elements, people are motivated to restore harmony between those elements.

Balance Theory:

Social balance theory as suggested by Fritz Heider (1946) is the theory that people strive for cognitive balance in their network of needs and wants. According to the balance theory, an imbalanced state is one where two of the relationships between elements are positive and is negative or where all three are negative. This theory can thus be utilized to clarify our behaviour and panic related to people we realize, and involves three possible states:

  1. Balance: If the person/people we know have the same frame of mind as us.
  2. Imbalance: Once the person/people we know maintain a contradictory attitude to ours.
  3. Non-balance: If the person/people we can't stand hold a contradictory frame of mind to ours.


Consider Fatima and Bilal, who are seniors in college. They are going out along for three years and soon want to get wedded. Bilal is considering going to legislation college. Fatima doesn't want him in which to stay college after he gets his bachelor's degree. She doesn't want him to visit college for 3 more years, throughout their starting years of marriage.

  1. Bilal feels strongly about Law School (Positive Attitude).
  2. Bilal is in love with Fatima greatly therefore will she (Positive Attitude).
  3. Fatima doesn't want him to go to Law Institution (BAD ATTITUDE).

Thus there is an imbalance that needs to be restored. You will discover three basic ways to get this done:

  1. First, Bilal may change his attitudes so that the attitude position (negative or positive) of one of the relations is reversed. For example, Bilal may make a decision he will not want to wait law university (Positive to Negative). Alternatively, Bilal may determine he does not love Fatima (Positive to Negative), or he may persuade Fatima it is a good idea for him to go to law college (Negative to Positive). Each of these includes changing one relationship so the system of values includes either zero or two negative human relationships.
  2. Bilal can reestablish balance by changing a good or negative regards to a null connection. Bilal may determine that Fatima doesn't know any thing about law college and her attitude toward it is irrelevant.
  3. Third, Bilal can rebuild balance by differentiating the features of the other person or object. For instance, Bilal may identify between major law universities, which require on a regular basis and energy of their students, and less prestigious ones, which require less work. Fatima is accurate in her notion that they might have to postpone marriage if he went to Yale Law School. However, Bilal feels he can visit a local university part-time and also work and maintain a marriage.

Balance is usually restored in whichever way is easiest. If one romance is weaker than the other two, the easiest mode of repairing balance is to change the weaker romance. Because Bilal and Fatima have been finding each other for three years, it might be very difficult for Bilal to change his sentiments toward Fatima. It might be easier for him to change his frame of mind toward law college than to obtain a new fiance. However, Bilal would like to keep their relationship and go to legislation school. Therefore, he might try to change Fatima's frame of mind, perhaps by differentiating the thing (law colleges). If this impact attempt fails, Bilal will probably change his own attitude towards law college.

Cognitive-Dissonance Theory:

Whenever we make a decision, there are some cognitions; attitudes, values, knowledge, that are consonant start decision, and other cognitions that are dissonant with it. Dissonant cognitions create an unpleasant psychological declare that we are determined to lessen or eliminate. Whereas balance theory deals with the relationships among three cognitions, dissonance theory handles consistency between two or more elements (conducts and behaviour). You will discover two situations where dissonance commonly occurs:

  1. After a choice.
  2. When one operates in a way that is inconsistent with one's values.
  1. Post-decision Dissonance:

After one has made a decision.

Example: Sajid requires a job in the town to earn money for his family.


Having made the choice, Sajid is experiencing cognitive dissonance; circumstances of psychological pressure induced by dissonant romantic relationships between cognitive elements. Some decisions produce a sizable amount of cognitive dissonance, others very little. The magnitude of dissonance experienced is based in part on the proportion of elements that are dissonant with someone's decision. In Sajid's case, there are three consonant and only two dissonant cognitions, so he'll experience moderate dissonance. The magnitude is also inspired by the value of the elements. He'll experience less dissonance if it's not important that he'll seldom get any occasion, but more dissonance if hanging out with his family is of great importance to him. A way of lowering the dissonance is always to stress more on the consonant cognitions and de-emphasize the dissonant cognitions.

  1. Counter-attitudinal Tendencies:

A second situation that produces dissonance occurs when a person behaves in a manner that is inconsistent along with his or her behaviour.

Example: When a one who considers himself saturated in integrity is asked to lie. Jameel works as a sales man and it is asked to lie to the clients about the quality of a certain product; asked to say it's imported if it is not. For each and every customer he convinces to make such a purchase, he will get extra money (apart from his basic salary). If Jameel actually lies to the customer, he will face dissonance as it will go against his frame of mind of being genuine; behavior is inconsistent with cognitions. The idea of cognitive dissonance, in regards to reducing the quantity of dissonance being encounters predicts that

  1. One changes their behaviour toward the jobs (like them better).
  2. The amount of change will be based upon the incentive paid in order to the lie.

Specifically, the idea predicts that greater frame of mind change will happen when the incentive to inform the lie is low rather than high, because one will experience higher dissonance under low bonuses than under high bonuses.


Baron, R. A. , Bhardwaj. G. , Branscombe, N. R. & Byrne, D. (2011) Friendly Psychology (12th ed). India: Dorling Kindersley.

Delamater, J. D. & Myers, D. J. (2011) Sociable Mindset (7th ed). CA, USA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

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