Attitude: What is the way of living in the world?
We humans, we live on the planet of Earth which has various characteristics which made life possible and sustainable for the living beings. In this world there are organisms that are living and have distinction on the bias of their traits and way of life. We all are different from animals, as we speak and do things which animals are not capable of doing and at the same time there are things which cannot be done by animals. This can be considered as a differentiating factor on the surface level but what goes beyond it? What actually makes us ‘Humans’ different from any other living creature on earth? All our advanced ways of behaving, interacting are evident. The most highlighting aspect is our cognition more specifically metacognition. Metacognition is the ability think about that think about what we are thinking. Like we know that what we are thinking and we are actively engaged in evaluating and altering our cognitions. This makes us capable to sustain mental processes through which we can make ourselves as strong as possible and at the same time as weak as possible. Our opinions, thoughts, understanding and perceptions are what makes us unique in certain aspects. We form understandings of so many things and there are certain things which we encounter for the first time. But when we assign a meaning to a particular thing, we are always influenced by the pre-existing realities, ideas or an understanding that has already been established by someone else. It’s about thinking about the understanding that we have established and how they were formed? And how other people get influenced by it?
We all have an attitude and you might have heard someone saying that ‘oh I don’t like her she has got so much attitude or I don’t like people with such attitude, but what does this term really mean? According to American Psychological Association, attitude is a relatively enduring and general evaluation of an object, person, group, issue or concept on a dimension ranging from negative to positive. Our attitude towards various things tell a lot about us and at the same time we perceive the other person on some basis. Some of our attitudes appear to be stable and we don’t want to change them while others may not be so stable and their way of reacting might change from situation to situation. Attitude related studies have been a part of social psychology as they hold the potential to virtually color every aspect of our experience. It’s like even if we do not have a strong attitude towards something but we do have a certain understanding. Our attitudes are capable of influencing our behavior and decision making. If this is how influential attitudes are then the question is how are they formed and can we shape them? We all have been involved in learning new things since the day we were born and for that we have various ways through which learning takes place. Learning is a lifelong process and we keep on adding and subtracting learnings, but initially how do we acquire it? Talking about learning there are 3 main processes through which we learn a new attitude. Classical conditioning, Instrumental conditioning and observational learning that enable us to learn and form. Attitudes can be of 2 types explicit and implicit. Explicit attitudes are the ones that are controllable, conscious, and reportable and the person is entirely aware of it. Implicit attitudes are the ones about which the person is less aware, attitudes that are not consciously accessible. Each and every attitude has a different level of extremity and that level of extremity is determined by frequency of displaying that attitude. Why do people adopt the attitudes of others or their behaviors related to a particular attitude? The point here can be clear, we humans keep ourselves evaluating and while doing that we compare ourselves with others and their attitudes. If we feel that our attitude in not correct and what the other person is saying is making a lot of sense, then we try to inculcate that attitude and that change is positive as well because we added to our chunk of existing information and enhanced it. At the same time if we feel that the attitude that we have is not how it should be then we try to unlearn it. It is to be understood that our subjective experiences play an important role in deciding how strong the attitude will be formed. Attitudes have been playing an important role in forming and establishing a relationship. We might have noticed that we tend to feel more connected with those who have an attitude towards certain things that is similar to our attitude. At the same time, we do not feel connected with those who have opposing attitudes. It clearly indicates how influential attitudes can be in a social setting and at the same the same time they contribute in influencing our perception that is formed about others.
Sometimes an attitude is formed as a result of conformity and because of the need to fit in. Most of the time when we do not know about a concept we try to understand it from the point of view of the other person. It can sometimes lead to forming an attitude that is flawed or an attitude which is influenced by prejudices and biases. Situational factors can also change the existing attitudes. It is essential to have an understanding of the attitude being portrayed. It is important because our attitude allows us to deal with a particular situation or a person. What attitude we have regarding a particular aspect holds the potential of changing our behaviour towards it. With regards to a situation, it can lead us to forming attitudes that are not formed clearly by following a procedure of actively selecting and evaluating the perceived information from various rational point of views. If we have less time or our exposure is very less in a situation then we might miss the real essence of the situation and immediately form an understanding. There can be several factors that affect the strength of the relationship between attitudes and behaviors. At this point it should be kept in mind that we ourselves need to see how we are forming an attitude and what our ways are. We have the cognitive abilities to magnify through a concept with a rational approach and try to make it as biased free as possible. In that manner the kind of evaluation that will be established would be of such a kind that will positively boost our behaviour in a positive manner. It is in our hands and we can look after the ways in which we select to establish an attitude. We might judge the other person on the basis of that without even giving a second thought, at the same time we forget that the way which we have selected is how the other person must also be doing. The kind of attitude we represent reflects the kind of mid set we have developed over time. It could take some time to think about it but then it could really help use to kick start the process so that the attitudes that we will acquire in future will be formed on more rational grounds and we will be able to give an explanation for them.