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[ INSTA Ethics ] : Attitude : Content, Structure and Function | Part 2



Functions of attitude:

Generally speaking, these functions of attitudes serve as the motivational bases that determine and strengthen positivity towards achieving goals perceived as satisfying or negativity towards objects deemed threatening or punishing. Daniel Katz has given a four-fold classification of attitudes like:

  1. Utilitarian function: This function drives individuals towards rewarding and pleasurable objects and away from undesirable or unpleasant ones. It is a practical concept that maximizes reward and minimizes punishment.
  2. Ego defensive function: The ego function serves to develop attitudes that are meant to protect self-image or ego. Such an attitude is ego defensive and meant to protect the individual’s self-image, which usually occurs unknowingly.
  3. Value expressive function: Unlike the ego defensive function, which preserves our self-image, the value expressive function enables individuals to express their central values.
  4. Knowledge function: As humans, we usually seek stability, understanding, consistency, and definition to live in an orderly and structured environment. The need for structure makes humans develop an attitude of acquiring knowledge.

Formation of attitude:

There are a number of factors that can influence how and why attitudes form. Here is a closer look at how attitudes form.


Attitudes form directly as a result of experience. They may emerge due to direct personal experience, or they may result from observation.

Social Factors

Social roles and social norms can have a strong influence on attitudes. Social roles relate to how people are expected to behave in a particular role or context. Social norms involve society’s rules for what behaviors are considered appropriate.


Attitudes can be learned in a variety of ways. Consider how advertisers use classical conditioning to influence your attitude toward a particular product. In a television commercial, you see young, beautiful people having fun on a tropical beach while enjoying a sports drink. This attractive and appealing imagery causes you to develop a positive association with this particular beverage.


Operant conditioning can also be used to influence how attitudes develop. Imagine a young man who has just started smoking. Whenever he lights up a cigarette, people complain, chastise him, and ask him to leave their vicinity. This negative feedback from those around him eventually causes him to develop an unfavorable opinion of smoking and he decides to give up the habit.


Finally, people also learn attitudes by observing people around them. When someone you admire greatly espouses a particular attitude, you are more likely to develop the same beliefs. For example, children spend a great deal of time observing the attitudes of their parents and usually begin to demonstrate similar outlooks.

Cognitive dissonance:

According to Festinger, cognitive dissonance occurs when people’s thoughts and feelings are inconsistent with their behavior, which results in an uncomfortable, disharmonious feeling.

Social influence Persuasion

Social influence involves intentional and unintentional efforts to change another person’s beliefs, attitudes, or behavior. Unlike persuasion, which is typically intentional and requires some degree of awareness on the part of the target, social influence may be inadvertent or accidental.

Elaboration Likelihood theory

  • This theory of persuasion suggests that people can alter their attitudes in two ways. First, they can be motivated to listen and think about the message, thus leading to an attitude shift.
  • Or, they might be influenced by the characteristics of the speaker, leading to a temporary or surface shift in attitude. Messages that are thought-provoking and that appeal to logic are more likely to lead to permanent changes in attitudes.

Some of the skills required to become an effective persuader are:

  • Communication skills
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Active listening skills
  • Logical reasoning ability
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Negotiation skills