After reading this essay you will learn about Attitude:- 1. Definition of Attitude 2. Formation of Attitude 3. Functions 4. Measuring.

Definition of Attitude:

The concept of “attitude” has been variously defined by social scientists so that there has been a good deal of ambiguity regarding the concept.

But, perhaps, the most acceptable is that of Rokeach: “An attitude is a relatively enduring organization of beliefs around an object or situation predisposing one to respond in some preferential manner.”

This definition of attitude specifies at least five factors or meets five conditions:


a. An Attitude is Relatively Enduring Over Time:

The concept of attitude is reserved for enduring persistent organizations of predispositions round a central belief. Attitudes are formed by past experiences and are learned responses to particular objects, things or processes.

b. An Attitude is an Organization of Beliefs:

It represents a cluster or syndrome of two or more interrelated beliefs. A belief is any simple proposition, conscious or unconscious inferred from what a person says or does. Each belief has three components: a cognitive component (person’s knowledge), an affective, component (capable of, leads to some action when suitably activated).


c. An Attitude is Organized Bound an Object or a Situation:

An attitude object may be concrete or abstract while an attitude situation is a dynamic event around which a person organizes a set of interrelated beliefs about how to behave.

d. An Attitude is a Set of Interrelated Predisposition to Respond:

A response may be either a verbal expression or a non-verbal behavior, an attitude is an “agenda for action” that is, it specifies the response a person will make to a given object within a given situation.


e. An Attitude Leads to a Preferential Response:

An attitude predisposes one to respond in a preferential manner to individuals or groups who agree with or oppose us with respect to that particular attitude. Many persons tend to use the terms attitude and opinion interchangeably as if there were no distinction between them.

Opinion is the overt expression (verbal or non-verbal) of an attitude which is only internal to the individual. Thus, when we measure opinions, we only infer that they refer to an internal attitude of the individual.

Formation of Attitude:

One of the most important matters to be discussed is how attitudes are formed. More than ever before it is now necessary to know why people hold the views they do. In other words, how their attitudes have been formed? First, let us consider how attitudes arise and where do their origins lie.


One can trace three sources:

a. In the child rearing experience of the first five or six years of life from the parent-child relationship.

b. By association between individuals or the formal and informal groups met with in later life.

c. From unique and isolated experiences or similar experiences repeated throughout life.


But those three sources must be considered within the framework of society and its culture or way of life to which the individual belongs. In the earlier years a parent tries to plant this culture into the child and this process is known as mediated social-cultural influence. Later on, the process becomes self-incubated and this is known as direct social-cultural influence.

Functions of Attitudes:

This is a point that has been subject to a great deal of arguments, and consequently contradictions. One of the main questions asked is this “does an attitude possess drive-producing properties or do motives come from sources other than the attitude itself?”

To answer this question one must develop a more comprehensive formulation of the functions of an attitude. A certain line of thinkers, Lasswell, Formm, Maslow and others believe that attitudes serve mainly irrational, ego- defensive functions.

Another group of thinkers, students of culture and sociology went further to say that attitudes have an adjustive function, meaning by this the adjustment of primitive and modern man to their specific cultures and subcultures.


This gives attitudes positive functions which were formulated by Katz as follows:

a. The Instrumental Adjustive Function:

Involves such values as security, achievement, competence, success and loyalty in group. It is served when people strive to maximize the rewards and to minimize the penalties of their external environment.

b. The Ego-defensive Function:


In which a person protects himself from acknowledging the basic truth about himself or the harsh realities in his external world. It may be reflected in positive values as, honor, chivalry, racial purity or the extensive condemnation of such negative values as lust, intemperance.

c. The Value Expressive Function:

In which the individual derives satisfactions from expressing attitudes appropriate to his personal values and his concept of himself. This function is central to doctrines of ego psychology which stress the importance of self-expression, self- development and self-realization.

d. The Knowledge Function:

Based upon the individual’s need to give adequate structure to his universe. It refers to a person’s central values concerning truth, understanding and the search of meaning, also serving self-expression, self-development and self-realization.Determinants of Attitude Formation, Arousal and ChangeDeterminants of Attitude Formation, Arousal and Change

Measuring Attitudes:

Attitude measurement is a process whereby one assesses an individual’s response to a set of social objects of situations. This is done by observing a sample of behavior from an attitude universe. Each behavioral element in the attitude universe in the response to a particular situation or object that evokes the response together with a specified set of response categories is called an item.


The set of behavior comprising an attitude is called an attitude universe. There are several methods available for measuring attitudes among them.

a. Judgment Methods:

There are two major aspects of this method.

Firstly, each item is scaled to give its degree of favorableness towards the issue.

Secondly, the respondents must be scored on the basis of their responses to the items.

b. The Method of Summated Ratings:


Techniques similar to techniques used in the mental-testing field. In this method, five categories of responses are provided for each item: strongly disapprove, with scores 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, respectively. An individual’s scale score is the sum of his scores on the items.

c. Scalogram Analysis:

In 1944 Guttmann proposed a nonmetric method for scaling monotone attitude items. In a Guttmann scale, the items have a special cumulative property. For example, a person who responds positively to the third item on the scale is almost sure to have responded positively to the first and second items.

The basic idea of the scalogram is that items can be arranged in an order so that an individual who agrees with, or responds positively to, any particular item also responds positively to all items of lower value order.

The rank order of the items is the scale of items; the scale of persons is very similar, people being arranged in order according to the highest rank order of items checked, which is equivalent to the number of positive responses in a perfect scale.