Attitude and Behaviour

Differentiate between attitude and behaviour. How do the characteristics of Source, message and audience affect the attitude making?


Attitudes and Behaviour:

Social scientists have debated the relationships between attitudes and behaviour –attitude as predictor of behaviour. Two studies of Richard Lapiere and Kutner et al indicated a lack of correspondence between actual behaviour and the behaviour th; respondents verbally indicated that they would take. A careful review of the research from 1930 to 1969 led to the conclusion that attitude accounts for about to percent I variability in behaviour. Warner and DeFleur have noted that the debate has resulted i three distinct views.

The first is the postulate of consistency. It is based on the assumption that attitude can be used as reasonably valid guides for prediction of the behaviour. The second is the postulate of independent variation. It claims that there is no valid reason to assume that attitudes and behaviours should be consistently related. The third position is the postulate of contingent consistency. It combines the previous two positions. According to the postulate, behaviour appears to be influenced by the person’s attitude combined with other personality and other situational factors. An examination of the attitude/behaviour-research reveals that most of the studies were focused on attitude alone in predicting behaviour. The results indicate that attitudes by themselves are not very good predictor of behaviour. DeFleur and Westi argue that the lack of a strong relationship between verbal attitude and overt behaviour may be explained in terms of social constraints preventing the person from acting out his convictions, for example, an individual may e extremely prejudiced against smokers, but when introduced by his or her significant others, he or she responds in a gracious manner. Most contemporary researchers have been influenced by the insight and have attempted to include situational constraints in understanding attitude/behaviour relationships.


Characteristics of the Source, the Message, and the Audience on Attitude Making:

Howland, Janis, Kelly and many others have examined in detail issues relating to: (i) the source of the message; (ii) the characteristics and content of the message; and (iii) the characteristics of the recipients of the message in determining the nature and amount of attitude change that will be generated.

Characteristics of the Communicator/Source

Most of us would probably respond more favourably to arguments given by expert on the topic concerned. Researchers have gathered considerable evidence that we are more influenced by an expert than we are by a layman. If someone or some entity is defined as an expert, we almost automatically assume that he or she is a source of valid and correct arguments. However, expertise is issue-specific. The economist who know about the economic policy of the country may know little about the religion. Different experts can disagree about the relative merit of various courses of action. For example, there are probably equal number of arguments on both sides of the debate of adopting small family norms or these of iodized salt. Economists and doctors present credentials to convince the people to adopt such behaviour while religious leaders oppose the issue on religious grounds. In such cases, the public tends to opt for the status quo rather than trying to choose between expert sources.

Another important characteristic of the communicator is his trustworthiness. If we can trust a communicator, we are more likely to be influenced by that source. Other communicator characteristics that influence our attitude are power, attraction, likeahleness, and similarity. We are more likely to be influenced by source who has power. Because the communicator has the power to impose sanctions if we fail to comply with the request. To effectively bring about change, the powerful source must also be visible or have the ability to monitor the degree of compliance. An attractive and likeable communicator will have more effect on an audience than will one who is disliked and unattractive. The salesperson who dresses neatly and is pleasant is much more likely to change the attitude and make the sale than one who is nasty and unattractive. Similarity may operate in much the same fashion. For example a housewife depicted in a commercial who hates to clean dishes can he identified with other housewives who similarly despise that particular job. If she has found a product what can easily clean the dishes then the same product will work for others as well.

Characteristics of the Message

Regarding the message, there are two major issues: (i) the use of fear-arousing as apposed to more rational or less emotional appeal; (ii) the content or organization of the message itself.

–        Fear-arousing appeal:

Many messages have been based on the assumption that if sufficient fear is aroused in an audience, they will be convinced to choose the course of action advocated by the message. An appeal that causes much fear does arouse more worry, concern, and fright in an audience, but this is less likely to be translated into attitude and behaviour change than are appeals that elicit less fear and more thought. Apparently too much fear can cause us to “turn of ” the message and to react unfavourable to it. Highly fear arousing appeals may be so distracting that it is difficult for the audience to attend to what is being said. Many researchers have found that if an immediate response is necessary, and if the subject has low self-esteem, highly fear-arousing appeals are more effective.

–        Organization of the Message:

Extensive research has been conduced on the issues that (a) whether persuasive message should present on one or both sides of the arguments, (b) whether message should draw a conclusion or leave it up to the audience. Researchers concluded that it depends upon several other factors in addition to that of message organization. For example, evidence concerning whether to present only one side of an argument or to recognize the arguments of the opponents as well suggests that it depends upon the characteristics of the audience. If the audience is well-informed and already know the counter arguments, then the speaker will have more impact if he or she recognizes those counter arguments and should answer them if possible. If the audience is not well-informed, presenting both sides arguments will confuse the audience.

Research evidence suggests that if the issue is more complicated then the speaker should draw the conclusion and vice versa.

Characteristics of the Audience:

Certain personal and group characteristics of the individual must be assessed to evaluate the effectiveness of communication.

–        Personality Factors:

There is no research evidence that indicates that some people are rigid and some are more susceptible toward attitude change efforts. But in general, people who have had a history of success are less likely to be amenable to persuasive appeals. Successful individuals are more self-confident and less reliant on others than are those who have a history of failure. Persons who have aggressive personalities are also less likely to respond to efforts to change their attitudes. A person who is absolutely convinced of the Tightness of his or her opinion is not likely to respond favourably to efforts to change that attitude.

–         Group Factors:

Communication appeals are usually filtered through the various group membership and opinion leaders that play an interpretative role for us. Research showed that most voters do not respond directly to appeals made by politicians. Rather, they interpret and evaluate these appeals in terms of religious groups, labour unions, baradarism, provincialism, khanism, vaderaism and so on. When the group ties have been broken they are more amenable to persuasive appeals.


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