Attitude: Formation & Change

We all have our own opinions about people, situations, issues or life. These opinions are formed over time with experience and are an example of attitude. An attitude is basically a state of mind or a set of views regarding some topic. It is accompanied with a tendency to act in a particular way with regard to attitude object. Attitude are not a behaviour in itself but rather it represents the tendency to behave in a certain way.
Attitudes have an evaluative feature i.e. they are either positive or negative. Attitudes are formed through interaction and changes throughout our lives through experiences. Some attitudes however, remain fairly constant. Such attitudes get incorporated in our lives as a part of our belief system and moral values. Beliefs and values differ for every individual. For some they may change over time while for others they may never change.
In general, attitudes are learned. This learning can take place through association, observation, exposure, culture etc. In early age group, attitudes are learnt by being rewarded or punished. For example, praising(rewarding) a child every time he does his share of chores will lead to a positive attitude formation towards doing chores. Most of the attitudes are formed by modelling or observation. During pre teen years or even teenage in that matter, important attitudes about life and related matters are formed by observation of living environments. Social norms also shape our attitudes. Social norms are exclusive to their cultures and become a part of our social cognition.
Family and school environment especially during the early years play a significant role in shaping the attitude of an individual. Most of the attitudes are formed through direct personal experiences which bring about a drastic change in our opinions towards people and our own life. Over the years, media has become an important source and factor for attitude formation. It provides an exposure to vast amount of information, both positive and negative. Internet is also a very powerful factor for attitude formation.
Change in the attitude depends on it’s existing nature. Nature of attitude includes it’s positivity or negativity, simplicity or complexity and centrality. Generally speaking, positive attitudes are easier to change. Extreme attitudes and central attitudes are rather difficult to change. Attitude may change in the same direction as the existing one, or it may change in the opposite direction. It has been observed that attitude changes when message comes from a highly credible source. A message in the information that is presented to change the attitude. Whether the message contains a rational or emotional appeal also makes a difference. People who have a more open and flexible personality change more easily then those who are less open. People with low self esteem and low confidence also tend to change their attitudes more easily than those with high self esteem and confidence. People with strong prejudices do not easily change their attitudes. More intelligent people change their attitude less easily but sometimes they change it more willingly than others.