So I was writing a paper for a psychology class on "attitudes" and I came to realize something. Character have attitudes, not just people in real life. Far too often characters will unrealistically change their attitudes on a given subject. As you read this, think about how a character might change their attitudes based on stimuli.
The reading this week was on attitudes. It seems to be the basis for a lot of psychological thought and when it’s all said and done a very important topic to understand intimately. I’ll endeavor to relate what was taught to me by the reading. The most important topic discussed was the topic of definitions.
The psychological definition of what an attitude is a topic of debate within the psychological community. The most agreed upon one reads, “attitudes are evaluations of various object that are stored in memory”. Further, attitudes have three components. The first is an affect or a feeling. The next is the cognition or more simply put- a thought. The last is a behavior or action that relates to the attitude (the attitude is the stimuli for the behavior).
Simply using that definition would be far from adequate. One school of thought suggests that attitudes are simply evaluations of things. Attitudes are acquired dispositions and teach us to respond in certain fashion (positively or negatively) to a given stimuli. Another school of thought suggests that attitudes are mnemonically related. An attitude to the “attitudes as memory” camp is a set of interrelated memories about a particular thing. This chain of memories is triggered when the correct (or at least a similar) stimuli is presented to the person with those memories. The final school of thought is something of a merger of the previous two. It’s referred to as the “ABC tripartite model”. It’s from this school of thought that we get the three components (affect, behavior, and cognition) of an attitude. Personally the ABC tripartite model seems closer to what I’ve experienced, though there are valid points in each of the schools of thoughts. Attitudes are certainty related to a chain of memories and evaluations play a big role in it as well.
Like a lot of things, attitudes in the extreme are rare. There are many attitudes that we take for granted. It’s only when someone has an extreme attitude that we notice it and mark it (consciously or subconsciously) as a deviant behavior. We all have attitudes about things we’ve experienced, even if we are not aware of it. Many hot button issues have deeply rooted attitudes associated with them and may provoke an extreme behavioral response in people.
When we are born it is generally assumed that we don’t have attitudes towards things until we start to experience stimuli. A stimulus helps to generate attitudes. Information is a common form of stimuli that will influence someone’s attitude. That information can come from a wide verity of sources including (but not limited too) the media, people in your life, and material you read. Likewise reinforcement, negative or positive, can influence your attitude (“that sucks!” or “good job” for example). A negative experience can negatively influence your attitude towards the stimuli. It has been suggested that genetic factors may play a role in attitudes. If you are predisposed to be active you may also predisposed to like a particular sport more. Role can also influence a person’s attitude. When in a role a person may be expected to perform in a certain fashion and that may solicit a different attitude.