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Psychology's main aim is to explain and predict human behaviour.

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Introduction

Psychology's main aim is to explain and predict human behaviour. If there is a link between a person's attitude and their behaviour then possibly a person's behaviour can be predicted by understanding their attitudes. It has been said that attitude is 'probably the most distinctive and indispensable concept in psychology' (Allport, 1954). The strongest influence on the formation of attitudes is social learning whereby people learn from their direct and indirect experiences. Some also argue that genetics play an influential part. Is it difficult to define exactly what an attitude is; Petty and Caioppo (1986) defined it as 'general evaluations people make about themselves, others, objects or issues' and went on to say 'attitudes have a past, present and future; they were developed from past experience, they guide our current behaviour, and can direct our development in the future'. There are many definitions of attitude, and the main gist of most of them is that attitudes are evaluations (good or bad) of something or some object. Whether or not they can predict an individual's behaviour or not is what is looked into and developed in this essay. There are various theories which have looked at this link such as the theory of reasoned action, cognitive dissonance and the triadic theory for example. The aforementioned triadic theory is also known as the three-component model theory, its attempts to define "attitude" is based upon the idea that an attitude is made up of three reactions to an object. ...read more.

Middle

However, to criticise La Piere's study, he doesn't specify how many hotels/restaurants actually replied, his figures are based solely on the ones that did reply, so the 92% percent which sounds high (and supportive of his study) could actually be taken from just 30 hotels/restaurants when they actually stayed in over 200, making the evidence unreliable. Also within the six months attitudes could have changed or different people could have replied to the letters and might not be the same people who accepted them on their travels. Dissonance theory accepts that we have these inconsistencies and basically says as humans we strive to smooth out any inconsistencies. This theory is best explained with an example; Jenny works everyday but today her sister is going shopping and has asked Jenny if she would like to come. Jenny should go to work and does. Jenny's knowledge that she is missing out on the shopping trip is known as a dissonant cognition, whereas the knowledge that she has come to work and is earning some money is a consonant cognition. Her dissonance will increase even more if the trip is to an out-of-town shopping complex as opposed to the small local centre. Individuals do not want to have dissonant cognition therefore try to reduce it. Jenny can do this in a number of ways; firstly, she can keep telling herself about the extra money she is earning and perhaps convince herself that she had a pleasurable day at work. ...read more.

Conclusion

Basically this suggests people are biased when it comes to their attitudes because people will accept anything that resembles a similar attitude to their own. Attitudes which had less in common with their attitudes would be rejected and seen as unfair (this is the 'contrast' part of the theory). This is mainly because assimilating attitudes is much easier than trying to accommodate new attitudes. The theory of reasoned behaviour (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975) suggests that subjective norms (which are beliefs about what is appropriate behaviour in a situation) and attitude towards the behaviour (based on expectancies and values) suggest a behavioural intention which then predicts behaviour. The definition of attitude and intention in this context is very similar and doesn't define in strong enough terms exactly what the intentions derived are. All this evidence shows varying approaches towards the attitude-behaviour link, some in support of attitude predicting behaviour and some against it. To say that attitude has three main parts which are highly correlated draws up too many contradictions to conclude it as the best theory, the single model provides more scope to address these contradictions but dissonance theory which suggest we will have inconsistencies and will just strive to balance them is a much more realistic proposal of how attitude links with and predicts behaviour. The evidence shows that there is a link between attitude and how it can predict behaviour but it is not to the extent that you can say it predicts a person's behaviour every time in all situations. ...read more.

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