Attitudes

ATTITUDES

Developing a salutary social climate in organization calls for predicting and estimating the individual responses or reactions for certain changes. Predispositions to react on the basis of learned preferences are fundamental· in individual behavior, what is the mechanisms that trigger off when an individual is influenced? We are here referring to attitudes a person possesses. Attitude is an internal state of person that is focused on objects, events, people that can exist in the person’s psychological world. An individual’s behavior is also a function of attitudes. An attitude is also a cognitive element; it always remains inside a person. Everyone’s psychological world is limited and thus everyone has a limited number of attitudes. In business organization, employees have attitudes related to world environment, job security or uncertainty prestige of the product or department and plant location etc. The individual’s attitudes toward these factors are indicative of his apathy or enthusiasm towards the activities and objective of this organization.

1.         An attitude is the predisposition of the individual to evaluate some object in a favorable or an unfavorable manner.

2.         The most pervasive phenomenon is “attitude”. People at work place have attitudes about lots of topics that are related to them. These attitudes are firmly embedded in a complex psychological structure of beliefs and other attitudes and values.

3.         Attitudes are different from values. Values are the ideals abstract ideals, positive or negative, not tied to any specific object or situation that represents our beliefs about ideal conduct. Whereas attitudes are narrower, they are our feeling, thoughts and behavioral tendencies towards a specific object or situation.

4.         Attitude is a predisposition to respond to a certain set of facts.

5.         Attitudes are evaluative statements – either favorable or unfavorable, concerning the objects, people, or events.

An attitude is “a mental state of readiness, organized through experience, exerting a specific influence upon a person’s response to people, object and situation with which it is related”. Attitudes thus state one’s predispositions towards given aspects of world. They also provide an emotional basis of one’s interpersonal relations and identification with others.

The definition of attitude entails a much less controversy than any other cognitive element (such as perception, morale, belief, value etc). in the behavioral literatures. In the language of the layman, we may describe an attitude, as the way we fell about something. This may be a feeling toward college, football team, church, democracy, parents, supervisor or organization. The object may be anything people, things, ideas, policies and so on. The notable feature of attitude is that it varies in direction (favorable- unfavorable), intensity (how strongly they are held), and the extent of consciousness (awareness of individual concerning his attitude).

Manager in work organizations needs to known and understand employee’s attitudes in order to manage effectively. Attitudes do influence behavior of people and their performance in organization.

29.3.1 Characteristics of Attitudes

Attitudes can be distinguished in terms of (characterized by) their valence, multiplicity, relation to needs, and centrality.

Valence. It refers to the magnitude of degree of favorableness or unfavourableness towards the object I event. While measuring the attitudes we are basically concerned with the valence. If a person is relatively indifferent towards an object then his attitude has low valence. On the other hand, if a person is extremely favorable or unfavorable towards an attitude object, then his attitude will have a high valence.

Multiplicity. It refers to the number of elements constituting the attitude. For example, one student may show interest in studies, but another shows interest, in addition works hard, sincere, and serious. Similarly an employee may feel simply loyal to an organization, but another may feel loyal, respectful, fearful and dependent.

Relation to needs Attitudes can also vary in relation to the needs they serve. For instance, attitudes of an individual towards the pictures may serve only entertainment needs. On the other hand, attitudes of an individual towards task may serve strong needs for security, achievement, recognition, and satisfaction.

Centrality, One salient characteristic of the attitude refers to the importance of the attitude object to the individual. The centrality indicates the importance of the object. The attitudes which have high centrality for an individual will be less susceptible to change 

29.3.2 Component of an Attitude

The structure of a person’s attitude comprises of three vital components – affective, cognitive and overt.

Affective component. The affective or feeling component refers to the emotions associated with an attitude object. It basically consists of the “feeling” a person has toward an attitude object. According to McGinnies “It is an emotional component that develops as a conditioned response by association with stimuli that have either punishing or rewarding effects”. This component is concerned with the evaluation and emotion and is often expressed as like or dislike, good or bad, pleasing or displeasing, favorable or unfavorable. The expression of warmth, love, hate and other emotional expressions are also belonging to the affective component. It is this affective feature that is most commonly associated with the idea of attitude. 

Cognitive Component

Cognitive component represents the beliefs of a person about an attitude object. The beliefs may be based on a variety of learning experiences, rumors, misunderstandings, or any other information. You may believe that the manager is intelligent or stupid, ethical or unethical good or bad, or autocrat or democrat. Therefore, cognitive component is very important and consist of the individual’s perceptions, beliefs, and ideas about an object. According to Krech, Crutchield, Ballachery the most critical cognition incorporated in to the system of attitudes are the “evaluative beliefs” that take account of good I bad, desirable I undesirable, favorable /

unfavorable qualities of object. The cognitive component of attitude is sometimes referred to as “opinion”.

It is important to note that there may be in congruency between the affective and cognitive components. The affective component (feeling) may be positive and the cognitive component (beliefs) may be negative. For instance, you may have a positive feeling toward a person but still believe that he has negative characteristics.

The overt component. it is also known as “behavioral” component or “component. This overt component is concerned with the way one intends to behave towards a particular attitude objects. Both the affective and cognitive components (feeling and beliefs) influence the way a person intends to behave toward an attitude object. For instance, if person has a negative feeling or belief towards an object, he will be likely to behave negatively towards the object. In other words, the behavioral components of attitude consist of the tendency to act or react towards an attitude object in certain specified ways. 

29.3.3 Attitudes and Behavior

The relationship between attitudes and behavior is highly controversial. On one side, cognitive theorists believe that changes in attitudes affect the behavior of individuals. That is to say, to change behavior of an individual the attitudes he possess must be subject to change initially. In other words, change in behavior calls for a change in attitudes of individuals.

On the other side of argument, some theorists like Beam and other reinforcement theorists, believes that one would have to change behavior initially to change attitudes. Ben’s self-perception theory, for instance indicates that people are generally aware of their cognitions. According to non-motivational interpretation of Beam, an individual who wants to know his own feelings or beliefs will study his own behavior and ask “what must may attitude be if I am willing to behave in this particular fashion in this situation?” This kind of dispute between the theories (cognitive theories and reinforcement theories) is trivial for the beginner students at this level but it would be suffice if they notice the fundamental difference between these two opinions.

The essence of La Piere’s work is that people acted in one way i.e., friendly and hospitality, whereas they respond to Chinese in a different way i.e., negative affects and beliefs about Chinese. In other words, clearly there was di screpancy between the actual behavior and reported attitude. The results of this research has created an uproar among social scientists who then attempted to define, redefine, measure and develop new theories of attitudes. Out of the refinement came some generalizations about attitudes and behaviors.

1.         First of all, the more specific the measurement of attitude, the more it is to be related to the behavior. La Pierre has obtained extremely discrepant information about the prejudice toward Chinese people in America. He simply asked about Chinese people in general. He did not actually measure the attitude.

2.         Attitudes are related to behavior. There is no doubt about it, but they arc influenced by situational factors such as pressures by union, top management etc. 

29.3.4 Functions Served by Attitudes

Organizations spend millions of currencies to measure the attitudes of the employees. It is because attitudes influence other important psychological processes, such as the perceptions and interpretation of stimuli, the learning and retention of controversial material, receptivity and openness to new knowledge and message. Furthermore, attitudes confer substantial consistency and stability to behavior. For instance, knowing that an individual holds a certain attitude enables a manager to anticipate and predict his behavior with a fair amount of accuracy. “An administrator, who is seeking to influence the behavior of others-superiors subordinates or colleagues in the organization, soon becomes aware of the importance of their attitudes. Attitudes serve a number of functions. According to Katz, attitudes serve for important functions adjustment, value, expression, knowledge and ego-defensiveness. 

1.         Adjustment function. This function recognizes the famous hedonistic principle – people strive to maximize the rewards and minimize the penalties in their external environment. Attitudes are the means for reaching desired goals or for avoiding undesirable results. Attitudes are the associations of sentiments based on experiences in attaining the motive satisfaction. 

2.         The ego-defensive function. People normally expend a great deal of their energies in the process of learning to live with themselves. Many of our attitudes serve the function of defending our self-image. For instance, when people cannot admit their inferiority feelings they project their feelings over some convenient minority group and bolster their egos by attitudes of superiority toward this minority group.

3.         The value-expressive function. Many attitudes serve another, yet very important, function in terms of positive expressions of an individual in the minds of other people. Value-expressive attitudes, according to Katz, not, only give clarity to the self-image but also mold that self-image closer to the heart’s desire.

4. The knowledge function. Another main purpose served by attitudes is the knowledge function. This function is based on the need for understanding and making sense of the world. Some attitudes that are appropriate to the situations will be retained and those that are outdated are discarded by an employee. In other words, attitudes that are inadequate for dealing with new and changing environment will be thrown out by an individual because they lead to contradictions and inconsistency.

29.3.5 Attitude Formation

The question often arises “Where do attitudes come from?”. Attitudes are basically learned. People are not born with specific attitudes~ rather they acquire them through the “process of learning”.

Attitudes reflect a person’s previous reinforcement history. The determinants of a person’s attitudes are personal experience, association, family, peer groups, and society. Most of the attitudes are a mixture of the above determinants.

l.          Experience: People gain experience in forming (developing) attitudes by coming in direct contact with an attitude object. Through job experiences, individuals learn attitudes. They develop attitudes about such factors as salary, performance reviews, job design, work group affiliation and managerial capabilities. But by the time a person goes for work in a specified organization, he holds many attitudes toward the type of job which is acceptable to him, the expected pay, working conditions and supervision etc. Previous work experience can account for the individual differences in attitudes such as loyalty, commitments and performance. These differences in attitudes are frequently noticed by many managers in work organizations. For instance, David and Werling have surveyed a West Cost plant employing two hundred and fifty clerical and administrative personal and roughly four hundred operating personnel. They have found that the company success, self-improvement and improvement in operations formed the interests of skilled workers whereas semiskilled workers lacked concern for the company goals and attached insignificant importance to the job content. 

2.         Association: People are highly influenced by the major groups or associations to which they belong. Our geographic region, religion, educational background, race, sex, age and income-class all strongly influence our attitudes. The influence of groups on the attitudes of the individual is inversely proportional to the distance of the group from the individual.

3.         Family: Family is another major influence on the initial core of attitudes held by an individual. Individuals develop certain attitudes from their family members parents, brothers, sisters etc. The family characteristics influence the individual’s early attitude patterns and control to which he is initially exposed. Family is primary to the group which an individual belongs. According to Newcomb and Svehla there have been found high areas. This correlation between parents and children with respect to attitudes in much specific investigation has found a high degree of relationship between parents and children in attitudes then they found between children and their peers. They also empirically observed low correlation between attitudes of the children and their teachers. 

4. Peer Groups: As people approach their adulthood, they increasingly rely on their peer groups for approval I attitude. How others judge an individual largely determines his self-image, and approval seeking behavior. “We often seek out others who share attitudes similar to our own, or else we change our attitudes to conform to the attitudes of those in the group (fraternity dorm, club) whose approval is important to us.” 

5. Society: Social class and religious affiliation also play a vital role in forming attitudes of an individual. The culture, language and the structure of society, all provide an individual with the boundaries of his initial attitudes. At the very early age an individual is taught that certain attitudes are acceptable and certain others are non-acceptable in the society. For instance, the attitudes of Russian toward communism are radically different from those held by an average American. That is to say, what seem to be appropriate in one individual’s culture and society may be totally unacceptable in another culture. 

6. Personality Factors: Personality differences between individuals appear to be a very important concomitant of the formation of attitudes. This particular area has been the subject matter of great interest and it carries a great deal of weight in organizational behavior. An outstanding study by Adorn et al. sketched the “authoritarian personality” and tried to study the personality differences between people. They found a coherent pattern of ethnocentric attitudes including anti-Semitism. The ethnocentric stuck to the straight and narrow, holding conventional values, not being able to accept certain ordinarily unacceptable social impulses as part of their systems. The authors also traced a relationship between· the personality differences and the differences in the childhood training experiences. In another study by McClosky of the personality correlates between conservatism and liberalism, it is revealed that conservative attitudes characterized those at the lower end of the intelligence scale less education and with less awareness of current events. However, McClosky did not find the correlation between conservatism and political party preferences. It is Campbell who has confirmed the lack of relationship between party preference and conservatism or liberalism with respect to attitudes. Personality factors thus also influence the formation of attitudes.