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

By Deborah J. Terry; Michael A. Hogg | Go to book overview

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Social Contextual Influences on Attitude-Behavior Correspondence, Attitude Change, and Persuasion

Michael A. Hogg Deborah J. Terry University of Queensland

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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