Attitudes refer to general evaluations people have regarding people, places, objects, and issues. Attitudes serve a number of important functions such as guiding choices and actions and giving people a sense of identity and belonging. Attitudes can differ in the extent to which they come from affect, cognition, and behavior. These bases of attitudes can be appraised objectively and subjectively. Attitudes can also differ in their strength, with some attitudes being more impactful and predictive of behavior than others. Some indicators of attitude strength have been viewed as relatively objective in nature (e.g., stability, resistance, accessibility, spreading) whereas other strength indicators are more subjective in nature (e.g., attitude certainty, subjective ambivalence, perceived moral basis of attitudes). Attitudes can be stored in memory in different ways, including an attitude structure in which attitude objects are linked to both positivity and negatively separately, tagging these evaluations with varying degrees of validity. Finally, after a long tradition of assessing attitudes using people’s responses to self-report measures (explicit measures of attitudes), more recent work has also assessed attitude change with measures that tap into people’s more automatic evaluations (implicit measures of attitudes). Implicit and explicit measures can be useful in predicting behavior separately and also in combination.
Pablo Briñol, Richard E. Petty, and Maria Stavraki
Amanda L. Rebar
Much of our sport and physical activity behavior is regulated by processes occurring outside of conscious awareness. In contrast, most sport and physical activity research focuses on processes that are easily accessible by conscious introspection. More and more, however, research is demonstrating that automatic regulation is instrumental to our understanding of how to get people to maintain a physically active lifestyle and how to get the most out of people’s sports performance potential. Automatic regulation is the influence on our thoughts and actions that result from the mental network of associations we use to make sense of the world around us. Habits are automatic associations of cues with behavioral responses. Automatic evaluations are automatic associations of cues as being good or bad. Automatic schemas are automatic associations of cues with actual or ideal self-identity. These processes have been assessed with implicit measures by making indirect inferences from self-report or response latency tasks. Emerging research demonstrates that automatic associations influence sport performance and physical activity behavior, but further work is still needed to establish which type of automatic regulation is responsible for these influences and how automatic regulation and reflective processes interact to impact movement.
Zoltan Dienes and Anil K. Seth
The major theories of consciousness that distinguish conscious from unconscious states can be grouped into two main classes, either higher-order or integration theories. There is evidence that different types of mental states can be unconscious, though that conclusion depends on the theory of consciousness assumed. Unconscious memory (in the sense of the influence of a prior event not recollected) can shape perception and liking and control our behavior. Subliminal perception can produce semantic priming and guide attention and decision making; and optical variables that a person describes incorrectly can guide action. Implicit learning can shape judgments and choices in complex environments. Unconscious intentions can allow people to respond appropriately in goal-directed ways while the person experiences the actions as involuntary. Unconscious attitudes are no more or less plausible than any other mental state being unconscious, but it has been hard to obtain evidence for unconscious attitudes as distinct from gut reactions one does not agree with.
Lukas J. Wolf, Geoffrey Haddock, and Gregory R. Maio
“Attitudes” refer to summary evaluations of people, groups, ideas, and other objects, reflecting whether individuals like or dislike them. The study of attitudes takes a central position in social psychology. Decades of research have demonstrated that attitudes are important for understanding how individuals perceive the world and how they behave. One of the key aspects of attitudes is their cognitive, affective, and behavioral content. That is, an individual may associate an attitude object with cognitions or beliefs, emotional reactions, and intentions or past actions. The attitude itself may also have a simple (e.g., positive or negative) structure or a more conflicted, ambivalent (e.g., simultaneously positive and negative) structure; it may serve different psychological functions (e.g., simplification of knowledge, value-expression); and it may vary in strength. Diverse techniques have been developed to measure attitudes, showing that they are useful predictors of behavior and that the strength of this link depends on diverse factors, such as how strongly the attitude is held, the individual’s personality, and the context. Overall, the long history of research on attitudes has supported their considerable theoretical and practical relevance.
John F. Dovidio, Fabian M. H. Schellhaas, and Adam R. Pearson
Prejudice is an attitude toward a social group and its members that can be expressed as either a negative or positive (e.g., paternalistic) evaluation and creates or maintains hierarchical status relations between groups. The origins of prejudice include individual differences in personality and ideological preferences, socialization experiences relating to exposure to different social norms, and the functional ways that groups relate to one another. Prejudice can be measured directly through self-report measures or indirectly through patterns of behavior or with techniques such as response latency methods. Moreover, implicit prejudice, which is automatically activated, can be distinguished from explicit prejudice, an attitude people know that they hold and may be able to control. Both types of prejudice predict discrimination—the differential treatment of a group or its members—but the strength of these relationships varies as a function of a variety of contextual factors (e.g., social norms). Because of the wide range of forces that shape prejudice and the functional nature of bias, prejudice can be difficult to change. Among the more robust ways to reduce prejudice are strategies that promote frequent, positive contact with members of another group; encourage people to categorize others in ways that emphasize shared group identities; or alter automatic associations underlying implicit bias. The study of prejudice continues to be an important and actively researched topic in social psychology, with contemporary approaches increasingly considering a broader range of micro- (e.g., genetics) and macro-level (e.g., culture) forces that shape the nature of prejudice and its influence on discriminatory behavior.