Meaning And Definition

A predisposition or a tendency to respond positively or negatively towards a certain idea, object, person, or situation. Attitude influences an individual’s choice of action, and responses to challenges, incentives, and rewards (together called stimuli). Four major components of attitude are :

  • Affective: emotions or feelings.
  • Cognitive: belief or opinions held consciously.
  • Conative: inclination for action.
  • Evaluative: positive or negative response to stimuli.

An attitude is an expression of favor or disfavor toward a person, place, thing, or event (the attitude object). Prominent psychologist Gordon Allport once described attitudes “the most distinctive and indispensable concept in contemporary social psychology.”. Attitude can be formed from a person’s past and present. Attitude is also measurable and changeable as well as influencing the person’s emotion and behavior.

In lay language, attitude may refer to the distinct concept of mood, or be especially synonymous with teenage rebellion.

An attitude can be defined as a positive or negative evaluation of people, objects, event, activities, ideas, or just about anything in your environment, but there is debate about precise definitions. Eagly and Chaiken, for example, define an attitude “a psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favor or disfavor.” Though it is sometimes common to define an attitude as affect toward an object, affect (i.e., discrete emotions or overall arousal) is generally understood to be distinct from attitude as a measure of favorability. 

This definition of attitude allows for one’s evaluation of an attitude object to vary from extremely negative to extremely positive, but also admits that people can also be conflicted or ambivalent toward an object meaning that they might at different times express both positive and negative attitude toward the same object. This has led to some discussion of whether individual can hold multiple attitudes toward the same object. 

Whether attitudes are explicit (i.e., deliberately formed) versus implicit (i.e., subconscious) has been a topic of considerable research. Research on implicit attitudes, which are generally unacknowledged or outside of awareness, uses sophisticated methods involving people’s response times to stimuli to show that implicit attitudes exist (perhaps in tandem with explicit attitudes of the same object). Implicit and explicit attitudes seem to affect people’s behavior, though in different ways. They tend not to be strongly associated with each other, although in some cases they are. The relationship between them is poorly understood.

Jung’s definition

Attitude is one of Jung’s 57 definitions in Chapter XI of Psychological Types. Jung’s definition of attitude is a “readiness of the psyche to act or react in a certain way” (Jung, [1921] 1971:par. 687). Attitudes very often come in pairs, one conscious and the other unconscious. Within this broad definition Jung defines several attitudes.

The main (but not only) attitude dualities that Jung defines are the following.

  • Consciousness and the unconscious. The “presence of two attitudes is extremely frequent, one conscious and the other unconscious. This means that consciousness has a constellation of contents different from that of the unconscious, a duality particularly evident in neurosis” (Jung, [1921] 1971: par. 687).
  • Extraversion and introversion. This pair is so elementary to Jung’s theory of types that he labeled them the “attitude-types”.
  • Rational and irrational attitudes. “I conceive reason as an attitude” (Jung, [1921] 1971: par. 785).
  • The rational attitude subdivides into the thinking and feeling psychological functions, each with its attitude.
  • The irrational attitude subdivides into the sensing and intuition psychological functions, each with its attitude. “There is thus a typical thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuitive attitude” (Jung, [1921] 1971: par. 691).
  • Individual and social attitudes. Many of the latter are “isms”.

In addition, Jung discusses the abstract attitude. “When I take an abstract attitude…” (Jung, [1921] 1971: par. 679). Abstraction is contrasted with creationism.“CREATIONISM. By this I mean a peculiarity of thinking and feeling which the antithesis of abstraction is” (Jung, [1921] 1971: par. 696). For example: “I hate his attitude for being Sarcastic.”

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By Hassham

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