Comments as “you have a bad attitude! Do something about it” are more and more frequently heard in communication situations. If taking such a remark is uncomfortable enough, changing attitudes is more difficult because of the close connection between social attitude and status. The higher is social status, the harder become the attitude change process.
Since attitude is not native, but learned from different situations, anything that’s learned can be unlearned or changed in time. Psychologists have identified three main approaches to attitude change.
The cognitive one is based on changing the way people think about an attitude object by using information or persuasive communication to induce a dissonance between the old attitude and the new one. According to this assumption, we are capable of holding two contradictory beliefs as long as we are not aware of them. In the moment we become conscious, cognitive dissonance appears.
The immediate step is to get rid of the discrepancy and to reduce dissonance. The most efficient strategy relies on providing relevant information at just the right time. Don’t overwhelm somebody with a lot of observations about his inappropriate attitude from the very start because he will persist in his attitude as a self-protection reaction.
Behavioral approach implies using both reinforcements and punishments. It is known that we reiterate the rewarded behavior and we try to avoid the not rewarded ones. Rewarding positive /desired attitudes and not negative /undesirable ones it’s increasing the chance that a positive attitude will be expressed again. Further more the attitude will be included into our belief and behavior system.
For the attitude change to work a few principles has to be respected as: the reinforcement should be specific (concrete reward); the reward must be obviously linked to the desirable attitude (the motive must be clear); the reward should be intermittent (every time the attitude is shown); the reward must be seen as desirable (the persons offering the reward has to be likable).
The last approach, the social one, valorizes our tendency to copy the beliefs and behaviors of people we admire. Attitudes are learned through our interactions with the social world. The phenomenon is actually visible in a group when being accepted is requiring that we agree to the group’s norms. So, in the end, we adopt those attitudes as our own.
There are two social processes shape attitudes and behaviors. One of these two is modeling which means that group members tend to imitate the highest status individuals in it. The other is consensus reached when everyone understands a certain issue and those continuing to doubt the group decision comprehend it without sabotaging it.
All the exposed ideas underlines that attitude is indeed everything in social relations. Attitude defined as a person’s state to respond to stimulus from outside must be appropriate to the social context. If you discover having an incompatible attitude, make the effort to change it for your own good and interior equilibrium! Psychologist, Nicoleta Cramaruc