Attitudes, Behavior, and Social Context: The Role of Norms and Group Membership

Attitudes, Behavior, and Social Context: The Role of Norms and Group Membership

Attitudes, Behavior, and Social Context: The Role of Norms and Group Membership

Attitudes, Behavior, and Social Context: The Role of Norms and Group Membership

Synopsis

The reasons why people do not always act in accord with their attitudes has been the focus of much social psychological research, as have the factors that account for why people change their attitudes and are persuaded by such influences as the media. There is strong support for the view that attitude-behavior consistency and persuasion cannot be well understood without reference to the wider social context in which we live. Although attitudes are held by individuals, they are social products to the extent that they are influenced by social norms and the expectations of others. This book brings together an international group of researchers discussing private and public selves and their interaction through attitudes and behavior. The effects of the social context on attitude-behavior relations and persuasion is the central theme of this book, which--in its combination of theoretical exposition, critique, and empirical research--should be of interest to both basic and applied social psychologists.

Excerpt

The study of attitudes lies at the core of social psychology. Thomas and Znaniecki (1918) and Watson (1930) went so far as to define the whole of social psychology as the scientific study of attitudes, and, with only slightly less imperialism, Allport (1935) called attitudes social psychology's most indispensable concept. Attitudes are important in social psychology for at least three reasons. First, if social psychology is essentially cognitive (Fiske &Taylor, 1991; Markus &Zajonc, 1985), then attitudes are the apotheosis of social cognition, because they are unobservable cognitive constructs that are socially learned, socially changed, and socially expressed. Second, attitudes are practically important to social psychologists, because social psychologists use expressed attitudes, in the form of questionnaire responses, as the data base for most theories of social behavior. Finally, attitudes are politically important for social psychology, as they provide a potent entrée to the real-world application of social psychology.

In his discussion of the attitude concept in 20th-century social psychology, McGuire (1986) identified three distinct phases of attitude research: a focus in the 1920s and 1930s on static issues of measurement and relation to behavior, a focus in the 1950s and 1960s on dynamics of individual attitude change, and a move in the 1980s and 1990s toward understanding the structure and function of attitude systems. Attitudes have weathered the storm of . . .

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