Attitude theories

In effect another name for speech act theories; though, strictly speaking, attitude theories analyze the meaning of certain words or sentences in terms of the expression of attitudes rather than the performing of various other acts that one can perform by speaking, such as prescribing or denying.

The name therefore applies to emotivism more happily than to, say, prescriptivism or the speech act theory of negation.


Social psychology

An attitude is an evaluation of an attitude object, ranging from extremely negative to extremely positive. Most contemporary perspectives on attitudes permit that people can also be conflicted or ambivalent toward an object by simultaneously holding both positive and negative attitudes toward the same object. This has led to some discussion of whether the individual can hold multiple attitudes toward the same object.[6]

An attitude can be a positive or negative evaluation of people, objects, events, activities, and ideas. It could be concrete, abstract or just about anything in your environment, but there is a debate about precise definitions. Eagly and Chaiken, for example, define an attitude as “a psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favor or disfavor.”[7] Though it is sometimes common to define an attitude as affect toward an object, affect (i.e., discrete emotions or overall arousal) is generally understood as an evaluative structure used to form attitude object.[8] Attitude may influence the attention to attitude objects, the use of categories for encoding information and the interpretation, judgement and recall of attitude-relevant information.[9] These influences tend to be more powerful for strong attitudes which are accessible and based on elaborate supportive knowledge structure. The durability and impactfulness of influence depend upon the strength formed from consistency of heuristics.[9] Attitudes can guide encoding information, attention and behaviors, even if the individual is pursuing unrelated goals.

Jung’s definition

Attitude is one of Jung’s 57 definitions in Chapter XI of Psychological Types. Jung’s definition of attitude is a “readiness of the psyche to act or react in a certain way”.[10] Attitudes very often come in pairs, one conscious and the other unconscious. Within this broad definition Jung defines several attitudes.

The main (but not only) attitude dualities that Jung defines are the following.

  • Consciousness and the unconscious. The “presence of two attitudes is extremely frequent, one conscious and the other unconscious. This means that consciousness has a constellation of contents different from that of the unconscious, a duality particularly evident in neurosis”.[10]
  • Extraversion and introversion. This pair is so elementary to Jung’s theory of types that he labeled them the “attitude-types”.
  • Rational and irrational attitudes. “I conceive reason as an attitude”.[10]
  • The rational attitude subdivides into the thinking and feeling psychological functions, each with its attitude.
  • The irrational attitude subdivides into the sensing and intuition psychological functions, each with its attitude. “There is thus a typical thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuitive attitude”.[10]
  • Individual and social attitudes. Many of the latter are “isms”.

In addition, Jung discusses the abstract attitude. “When I take an abstract attitude…”.[10] Abstraction is contrasted with concretism. “CONCRETISM. By this I mean a peculiarity of thinking and feeling which is the antithesis of abstraction”.[10]



The attitude of a person is determined by psychological factors like ideas, values, beliefs, perception, etc. All these have a complex role in determining a person’s attitude. Values are ideals, guiding principles in one’s life, or overarching goals that people strive to obtain (Maio & Olson, 1998). Beliefs are cognitions about the world—subjective probabilities that an object has a particular attribute or that an action will lead to a particular outcome (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975). Beliefs can be patently and unequivocally false. For example, surveys show that a third of U.S. adults think that vaccines cause autism, despite the preponderance of scientific research to the contrary (Dixon et al., 2015).[11][12] It was found that beliefs like these are tenaciously held and highly resistant to change. Another important factor that affects attitude is symbolic interactionism, these are rife with powerful symbols and charged with affect which can lead to a selective perception. Persuasion theories say that in politics, successful persuaders convince its message recipients into a selective perception or attitude polarization for turning against the opposite candidate through a repetitive process that they are in a noncommittal state and it is unacceptable and doesn’t have any moral basis for it and for this they only require to chain the persuading message into a realm of plausibility (Gopnik, 2015 & O’Keefe, 2016).


Family plays a significant role in the primary stage of attitudes held by individuals. Initially, a person develops certain attitudes from his parents, brothers, sister, and elders in the family. There is a high degree of relationship between parent and children in attitudes found in them.


Societies play an important role in formatting the attitudes of an individual. The culture, the tradition, the language, etc., influence a person’s attitudes. Society, tradition, and the culture teach individuals what is and what is not acceptable

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