An attitude represents both an orientation toward or away from some object, concept, or situation, and a readiness to respond in a manner to these or related objects, concepts, or situations. Both orientation and readiness to respond have emotional, motivational, and intellectual aspects. The concept of “attitude” is one which is shared by symbolic interactionist and other social psychologists. It has been viewed that attitudes are the most distinctive and indispensable concept in contemporary American social psychology. It refers to certain regularities of an individual’s feelings, thoughts, and predispositions to act toward some aspect of his environment. The affective component of an attitude is an individual’s predisposition to evaluate the given object as good or bad, favourable or unfavourable.
The behavioral component of an attitude refers to the individual’s tendency to avoid or approach the subject, to behave in a particular manner toward it. The cognitive component of an attitude has been thought to consist of all our thoughts or ideas about the object, or class of objects in question. Thus this component of an attitude would include all the opinions or beliefs held concerning that particular object. Moreover, it has been suggested that attitudes are learned from one’s daily experience, or from a single dramatic instance, or they may be taken over ready-made from parents, playmates, and others. There are several dimensions or properties of attitudes which are important to the problem of measurement:
- Directions refer to the positive or negative, the “like” or “dislike,” aspects of attitude— its “for” or “against” quality— whether the attitudes involved relate to quiz shows, or high school band issue, disarmament, euthanasia, or the possibility of interplanetary travel.
- Degree denotes the amount of favourableness or unfavourableness an attitude possesses.
- Strength or intensity. Attitudes are at different levels of intensity.
- Salience has been used to refer to the freedom with which one gives vent to his attitudes.
- Coherence or consistency is the ordering or integration of attitudes.