Theory of Attitude Change
Attitude is a settled way of thinking about an object and it is typically reflected in an individual’s behavior. Additionally, attitude is subject to change by social factors as well as an individual’s intent to maintain cognitive consistency in the event of a cognitive dissonance. Different theories of attitude, such as cognitive dissonance, exist. Cognitive Dissonance theory proposed that natural human motivation is to seek consistency amongst cognitions (Festinger, 1962). Cognitive dissonance is thus the state of psychological tension that occurs when two perceptions are inconsistent (PsychandSound, 2014).
Cognitive dissonance leads to a feeling of discomfort. It creates a post-decisional conflict. (Zakay, 1985). Post-decision conflict is a state in which the choices become hard to make, especially when the options are nearly equivalent. (Zakay, 1985) furtherites that one of the ways to neutralize the discomfort is by changing an attitude so that it aligns the behavior. However, according (Starzyk & Fabrigar, 2009) individuals are more likely to change their attitude when it is not important and vice versa. Therefore, regardless of the discomfort that dissonance brings, if the attitude in question is essential, a person is highly unlikely to change it.
In this paper, attitude change is examined from a scenario involving a lady named Julie. Julie experienced the aforementioned explanation. She has to make a choice between daily exercise to get a good shape and regular smoking, a habit she developed. This feeling she is experiencing brings about discrepancy about behavior and attitude. Julie’s attitude about a fit body led her into drafting an exercise schedule. She believes that sticking to her fitness schedule would give her the dream body shape. However, her positive implicit attitude towards smoking is likely to influence her behavior. Arondon et. al (2019) explains implicit attitude as that which is involuntary and uncontrollable. Julie’s positive implicit attitude towards smoking governs her action. In this case, there is a high possibility that her desire for cigarette would counter her goal for a good body shape.
Attitude change results from contradictory cognitions which causes an individual a psychological discomfort. The dissonance is believed to cause a change in an individual’s reasons for various reasons amongst them, chemical reactions in the brain and the fact that it is easier for a person to change their cognition than their behavior.
Aronson, E., Wilson, T. D., Akert., R., & Sommers, S. (2019). Attitude and Attitude Change: Influencing Thoughts and Feelings.
Festinger, L. (1962). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford university press.
Harmon-Jones, E., & Harmon-Jones, C. (2007). Cognitive dissonance theory after 50 years of development. 7-16.
PsychandSound. (2014). Simply Psychology: Cognitive Dissonance. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2q1dv4a56e8
Starzyk, & Fabrigar, L. (2009). A painful reminder: The role of level and salience of attitude importance in cognitive dissonance.” Personality and Social Psychology. sagepub.
Zakay, D. (1985). Post-decisional confidence and conflict experienced in a choice process. Elsevier.