The Psychology of Ego-Involvements: Social Attitudes & Identifications

By Muzafer Sherif; Hadley Cantril | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
SOME EXPERIMENTAL FACTS CONCERNING THE
BASIS OF ATTITUDES

Attitudes are inferred from the reactions (verbal or nonverbal) of man. When an individual reacts repeatedly in a characteristic way (positive or negative) in relation to a certain stimulus object, we infer that he has an established attitude toward that stimulus. When a group of individuals react repeatedly in a characteristic way to a stimulus situation, we infer that the members of the group have an established social attitude in relation to it. This characteristic reaction of groups of people is sometimes called "conforming behavior." These conformities are discriminatory or selective, as all attitudes are. This means that all attitudinal reactions are judgmental activities. It is, therefore, not a mere coincidence that social value judgments reveal themselves in the psychology of the individual as established attitudes. Whether these discriminative activities revealing attitudes are verbally expressed as short-cut judgments of opinion or value, as in logic, or are expressed only in behavior does not matter a bit psychologically.

As we said in the previous chapter, attitudes always imply a subject-object (stimulus-organism) relationship. Attitudes always are related to some object, person, group, or standardized norm. This relationship is not innate, it is formed. In order for it to be formed, the individual first has to come into contact with the object (person, institution, norm). This is a perceptual situation. Therefore, the first stage in the actual formation of an attitude is a perceptual stage, with the internal factors of the organism and external (objective) factors of the stimulus situation coming into play.

The term "attitude" (used in everyday language to denote an established state of readiness) does not express any specific psychological mechanism. It is a composite term, especially useful

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