Structure of Attitude

The ABC Model

The classic view is that an attitude contains three components: cognitive, affective, and behavioural. It is the most influential model of attitude (also called ABC model of attitude).

According to it, an attitude has the following three components:

  • Cognitive component (C component): It refers to the beliefs, thoughts, and attributes that we would associate with an object. Many times a person’s attitude might be based on the negative and positive attributes they associate with an object. In other words, this component includes the belief part of attitude. For example, the belief that members of X community have Y kind of features.
  • Affective (or Affection) component (A component): It refers to feelings or emotions linked to an attitude object, i.e. the positive or negative feelings towards the object for which we are holding our attitude. Affective responses influence attitudes in a number of ways. For example, many people are afraid/scared of spiders. So this negative affective response is likely to cause one to have a negative attitude towards spiders.
  • Behavioural component (B component): It refers to the past behaviours or experiences regarding an attitude object. It is the tendency to behave in a certain way (behavioural intentions) towards the attitude object. For example, if we do not like a person, then we are likely to ignore him in a gathering. This helps people infer attitudes from the previous actions of the attitude holder.

Although commonly used, this model is not validated by empirical research. Clear distinctions between thoughts, emotions, and behavioral intentions associated with a particular attitude cannot be established. A criticism of this ABC view of attitudes is that it requires cognitive, affective, and behavioral associations of an attitude to be consistent, but this may be implausible. For example, despite having negative attitude towards people from some caste, our behaviour is mostly driven by the situation. Still, it cannot be denied at all that attitude has a structure, even if it may not be coherent. It reflects something more than just negative and positive evaluation of a particular object. Thus, this ABC structure of attitude acts as a good basic model to understand attitude. Importantly, it helps to identify the source from where attitude is originating. This will be helpful in persuading someone to change attitude towards something.

Mode Model

This is the theory of attitude evaluation (Motivation and Opportunity as Determinants of the attitude – behavior relation). When both motivation and opportunity are present, behavior will be deliberate. When one of them is absent, impact on behavior will be spontaneous.

Hence this model talks about two different types of attitude

  • Explicit: Explicit attitude is at the conscious level- those that are deliberately formed and easy to self-report.
  • Implicit: Implicit attitudes are at an unconscious level- those that are involuntarily formed and are typically unknown to us. Implicit attitudes are generally unacknowledged or are something.

Both explicit and implicit attitudes can shape individual’s behaviour. Implicit attitudes however, are most likely to affect behaviour when an individual feels stressed or distracted and chances for an impulsive reaction are more.

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