Attitudes and Judgments

Personal attitudes are our judgments of other people, behaviors, and objects that control or impact our behaviors toward those objects. It is the way a person views things, causing them to react in internally consistent or patterned ways (Venes, 2001). The judgments we have are measured by strength and valence. Valence is how positive or negative that attitude may be. Resulting behaviors are the actions or reactions of an individual under specific circumstances. Attitudes can have a forceful influence over behavior. Attitudes are typically the result of life happenings or how a person was raised. Social roles and social norms have an influential impact on attitudes, and one can also develop an attitude by observing those around them. The relationship between personal attitudes and resulting behaviors is that attitudes can predict behaviors.

There are three components that make up attitudes, commonly known as CAB or the ABC’s of attitude. The first one is the cognitive component, individual thoughts and beliefs about the matter. The second one is the affective component, how the matter makes you feel. The third one is the behavioral component, how your attitude impacts your behavior.

If a person has a negative attitude toward a particular individual or group, the potential implications of their behavior toward that individual or group could be that they do not like them, have had a negative experience with them, or have heard others speak negatively about the individual or group.

Attitudes may be implicit or explicit. Explicit attitudes are those we are knowingly aware of that noticeably affect our behaviors and beliefs. Implicit attitudes are those we are unknowingly aware of, but also affect our beliefs and behaviors. Explicit attitudes are established through language, logic, or some other symbolic representation (Feenstra, 2013). As a result, explicit attitudes may form right away through communication. We develop implicit attitudes by actually encountering the attitude object.

Behaviors are not always easy to predict simply by an individual’s attitudes. The theory of planned behavior links three factors to better predict behavior. The first factor is the individual’s attitude toward a specific behavior. The second factor is subjective norms related to that behavior. Subjective norms are the beliefs of influential people among the individual’s environment. The third factor is perceived behavior control. Perceived behavior control is an individual’s belief that they can participate in the behavior. The theory of planned behavior depends on these three factors for predicting behavior.

The theory of cognitive dissonance is when an individual has conflicting attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors (McLeod, 2009). Cognitive dissonance is the tension created in an individual by the divergence in doing what they did over their beliefs. Individuals are driven to reduce this tension. Cognitive dissonance creates a discomfort that causes an individual to change their attitude in order to reduce this tension. The theory of cognitive dissonance helps us to understand or encourage change in behavior.

The self-perception theory makes it clear how an individual might develop or increase a specific attitude. Psychologist, Daryl Bem offered this theory as an alternative to the cognitive dissonance theory to explain how attitudes are formed. The basis of the self-perception theory is that our attitudes can be determined by our behaviors.



Cherry, K. (2015, May 18). Attitudes and Behavior. Retrieved February 17, 2016, from

Cognitive Dissonance and Self-Perception Theory. (2016). Retrieved February 17, 2016, from

Feenstra, J.  (2013).  Social psychology (2nd ed.) .  Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

McLeod, S. (2009). Attitudes and Behaviors. Retrieved February 17, 2016, from

McLeod, S. (2008). Cognitive Dissonance. Retrieved February 17, 2016, from

Self-Perception Theory. (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2016, from

Venes, D. (2001). Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary (20th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: F.A.Davis Company.




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