Attitude: Definition, Nature and Characteristics (Explained)

what is attitudeAn attitude is a positive; negative or mixed evaluation of an object that is expressed at some level of intensity. It is an expression of a favorable or unfavorable evaluation of a person, place, thing or event. These are fundamental determinants of our perceptions of, and actions toward all aspects of our social environment. Attitudes involve a complex organization of evaluative beliefs, feelings, and tendencies toward certain actions.

How much we like or dislike something determines our behavior towards that thing.

We tend to approach, seek out or be associated with things we like; we avoid, shun or reject things we do not like.

Some examples of attitudes are- he has a positive attitude about the changes, she is friendly and has a good attitude, he was showing some attitude during practice today, so the coach benched him, I like my friends that means I am expressing my attitudes towards my friends, etc.

Definition of Attitude

Attitude is the manner, disposition, feeling and position with regard to a person or thing, tendency or orientation especially in the mind.

According to Gordon Allport, “An attitude is a mental and neural state of readiness, organized through experience, exerting a directive or dynamic influence upon the individual’s response to all objects and situations with which it is related.”

Frank Freeman said, “An attitude is a dispositional readiness to respond to certain institutions, persons or objects in a consistent manner which has been learned and has become one’s typical mode of response.”

Thurstone said, “An attitude denotes the sum total of man’s inclinations and feelings, prejudice or bias, preconceived notions, ideas, fears, threats, and other any specific topic.”

Anastasi defined attitude as, “A tendency to react favorably or unfavorably towards a designated class of stimuli, such as a national or racial group, a custom or an institution.”

According to N.L. Munn, “Attitudes are learned predispositions towards aspects of our environment. They may be positively or negatively directed towards certain people, service or institution.”

Characteristics of Attitude

Characteristics of Attitude

Attitude can be described as a tendency to react positively or negatively to a person or circumstances.

Thus the two main elements of attitude are this tendency or predisposition and the direction of this predisposition.

It has been defined as a mental state of readiness; organize to through experience which exerts a directive or dynamic influence on the responses.

These can also be explicit and implicit.

Explicit attitudes are those that we are consciously aware of and that clearly influence our behaviors and beliefs. Implicit attitudes are unconscious, but still, have an effect on our beliefs and behaviors.

As said by psychologists Thomas which imposes limits as a level attitude trend is positive and negative, associated with the object of psychology.

Object psychology here include symbols, words, slogans, people, institutions, ideas and so on.

Characteristics of Attitude are;

  1. Attitudes are the complex combination of things we tend to call personality, beliefs, values, behaviors, and motivations.
  2. It can fall anywhere along a continuum from very favorable to very unfavorable.
  3. All people, irrespective of their status or intelligence, hold attitudes.
  4. An attitude exists in every person’s mind. It helps to define our identity, guide our actions, and influence how we judge people.
  5. Although the feeling and belief components of attitude are internal to a person, we can view a person’s attitude from his or her resulting behavior.
  6. Attitude helps us define how we see situations, as well as define how we behave toward the situation or object.
  7. It provides us with internal cognitions or beliefs and thoughts about people and objects.
  8. It can also be explicit and implicit. Explicit attitude is those that we are consciously aware of an implicit attitude is unconscious, but still, have an effect on our behaviors.
  9. Attitudes cause us to behave in a particular way toward an object or person.
  10. An attitude is a summary of a person’s past experience; thus, an attitude is grounded in direct experience predicts future behavior more accurately.
  11. It includes certain aspects of the personality as interests, appreciation and social conduct.
  12. It indicates the sum total of a man’s inclinations and feelings.
  13. An attitude is a point of view, substantiated or otherwise, true or false which one holds towards an idea, object or person.
  14. It has aspects such as direction, intensity, generality or specificity.
  15. It refers to one’s readiness for doing Work.
  16. It may be positive or negative and may be affected by age, position, and education.

Attitude may be defined as a feeling or disposition to favor or to be against objects, persons, and situations.

It is a well-defined object of reference. It may be defined as ‘an enduring predisposition or readiness to react or behave in a particular manner to a given object or situation, idea, material or person’.

It describes and evaluates the action with respect to an object or a situation, with each belief having a cognitive effect and behavioral components.

Each of these beliefs is a predisposition that results in some preferential response towards the object or the situation.

Actually, it is frequently used in describing people and explaining their behavior.

For example:-

“I like her attitude”, “He has a good attitude” etc. Actually, it is characterized by the tendency to feel and behave in a particular way toward some object.

Components of Attitude

Components of Attitudes

Attitudes are simply expressions of much we like or dislike various things. Attitudes represent our evaluations, preferences or rejections based on the information we receive.

3 components of attitude are (1) Cognitive Component, (2) Affective Component and (3) Behavioral Component.

Factors Influencing Attitudes

Factors Influencing Attitude

By attitudes, we mean the beliefs, feelings, and action tendencies of an individual or group of individuals towards objects, ideas, and people.

Attitudes involve some knowledge of a situation.

However, the essential aspect, of the attitude is found in the fact that some characteristic feeling or emotion is experienced and, as we would accordingly expect, some definite tendency to action is associated.

Subjectively, then, the important factor is the feeling or emotion.

There are a number of different factors that can influence how and why attitudes form. These are-

  • Social Factors.
  • Direct Instruction.
  • Family.
  • Prejudices.
  • Personal Experience.
  • Media.
  • Educational and Religious Institutions.
  • Physical Factors.
  • Economic Status and Occupations.

Learn more about factors influencing attitudes.

Types of Attitudes

3 Types of Attitude

Attitude is something that lies between emotions and thought processing. It may be positive or negative.

In organizational behavior; 3 types of attitudes are;

  1. Job Satisfaction,
  2. Job Involvement, and
  3. Organizational Commitment.

Functions of Attitudes

Functions of Attitudes

The most important function of an attitude can only be ascertained by considering it in relation to the person who holds it and the environment in which they operate.

Daniel Katz outlines 4 functions of attitude areas:

  1. Adjustment Function.
  2. Ego-Defensive Function.
  3. Value-Expressive Function.
  4. Knowledge Function.

Barriers to Change Attitudes

Barriers to Change Attitudes

Employees’ attitudes can be changed and sometimes it is in the best interests of management to try to do so.

For example, if employees believe that their employer does not look after their welfare, the management should try to change employees’ attitude and help to develop a more positive attitude towards them.

However, the process of changing the attitude is not always easy.

Actually, the barriers are the limits which prevent the organization from achieving its predetermined goals.

So every organization should be aware of these and should take corrective actions.

Barriers to Change Attitudes are;

  • Prior Commitment.
  • Insufficient Information.
  • Balance and Consistency.
  • Lack of Resources.
  • Improper Reward System.
  • Resistance to Change.

Prior Commitment

When people feel a commitment towards a particular course of action that has already been agreed upon and thus it becomes difficult for them to change or accept the new ways of functioning.

Insufficient Information

It also acts as a major barrier to change attitudes. Sometimes people do not see a reason why they should change their attitude due to unavailability of adequate information.

Sometimes people do not see a reason why they should change their attitude due to unavailability of adequate information.

Balance and Consistency

Another obstacle to a change of attitude is the attitude theory of balance and consistency.

That is human beings prefer their attitudes about people and things to be in line with their behaviors towards each other and objects.

Lack of Resources

If plans become excessively ambitious, they can sometimes be obstructed by the lack of resources on the part of a company or organization.

So, in this case, if the organization wants to change the attitude of the employees towards the new plan, sometimes it becomes impossible for the lack of resources to achieve this.

Improper Reward System

Sometimes, an improper reward system acts as a barrier to change attitude.

If an organization places too much emphasis on short-term performance and results, managers may ignore longer-term issues as they set goals and formulate plans to achieve higher profits in the short term.

If this reward system is introduced in the organization, then the employees are not motivated to change their attitude.

Resistance to Change

Another barrier is resistance to change.

Basically, change is a continuous process within and outside the organization to achieve the set goal.

When the authority changes a plan of the organization the employees have to change themselves.

But some of them do not like this. If their attitude regarding the change of plan cannot be changed, the organization will not be successful.

Ways of Changing Attitudes

Changing Attitudes

Attitude can be changed if we differentiate negative attitude from a positive attitude.

A positive attitude can bring positive change in life, It is difficult to change attitudes but with some effort, it can be done.

The individual from a culturally deprived environment who holds an array of hostile attitudes may change often he is given opportunities for education.

A person from a privileged subculture, who has always held to a democratic attitude, may become negative towards some group because of one unfortunate experience.

Well established attitudes tend to be resistant to change, but others may be more amenable to change.

Attitudes can be changed b a variety of ways.

Ways of Changing Attitude

  • New information will help to change attitudes.
  • Negative attitudes are mainly formed owing to insufficient information.
  • Attitudes may change through direct experience.
  • Another way in which attitudes can be changed is by resolving discrepancies between attitudes and behavior.
  • Change of attitude can come through the persuasion of friends or peers.
  • Attitudes may change through legislation.
  • Since a person’s attitudes are anchored in his membership group and reference groups, one way to change the attitude is to modify one or the other.
  • Fear can change attitude. If low levels of fear are used, people often ignore them.
  • Changing the attitude differs with reference to the situation also.

Workplace and Attitudes

Workplace and Attitudes

Taking this a step further, we can assemble some ideas of how these three components can impact the workplace.

The challenge in the workplace is that now these components are tied to work functions, policy, procedures and organizational structure, as well as the people and individuals present in the organization.

For example, we could have thoughts or beliefs (cognitive) about managers in general, and those thoughts or beliefs could manifest themselves is not trusting a manager (effective), and thus we would never want to develop a close relationship with a manager (behavioral).

It is important to make the point here that these are attitudes – and yes, they can be wrong. Just because we have an attitude that does not mean it is correct. It is just how we feel about a person or situation.

Obviously not every manager is trustworthy, but if we let our negative attitudes dictate how we view and react to managers, we will never be able to see if some are really good people and can be trusted.

Certainly having a good relationship based on trust with the manager is a great thing to have in the workplace.

Attitude Surveys

Attitude Surveys

The concept of an “attitude” comes from Social psychology.

The term “attitude” is defined as “a psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favor or disfavor”

It provides an understanding of how the employee perceives the organization and workgroups.

The preceding review indicates that knowledge of employee attitudes can be helpful to managers in attempting to predict employee behavior.

The most popular method is through the use of attitude surveys.

Often an essential component of organizational training and development, Employee Attitude surveys provide a picture of the organization’s needs.

These surveys often contain a series of multiple-choice items grouped along one or more dimensions of the organization.

The surveys of this type provide an understanding of how the employee perceives the organization.

Employee attitude surveys measure the employee’s opinions on most of the aspects of a workplace including:

  • Overall satisfaction.
  • Management/employee relations.
  • Corporate culture.
  • Career development.
  • Compensation.
  • Benefits.
  • Recognition and rewards.
  • Working conditions.
  • Training.
  • Staffing levels.
  • Safety concerns.
  • Policies and procedures.

Organizations are increasingly interested in retaining right talents while targeting for new talents; measuring employees attitude provides an indication of how successful the organization is in fostering a conducive environment which nurtures great attitude among employee’s towards their job and company.

The usual measures of employee attitude involve an employee attitude survey with a set of statements or scale.

The employee is asked to evaluate each statement in terms of their perception of the performance of the organization being measured.

Uses of Employee Attitude Survey

Employee opinion surveys are about improvement and providing the authority with the information they need to be successful.

The use of regular attitude surveys can alert management to potential problems and employees’ intentions early so that action can be taken to prevent repercussions.

Uses for Employee Attitude Surveys include;

  • Focusing on employee development programs.
  • Enhancing management/employee relations.
  • Training needs assessment.
  • Evaluation of training.
  • Organizational climate survey.
  • Facilitating the development and organizational change.
  • Getting employee feedback on the internal health of the organization.
  • Measuring the impact of current programs, policies, and procedures.
  • Motivating employees and improve job satisfaction.
  • Customer satisfaction survey.
  • Increase employee retention.

Attitudes and Beliefs

Attitudes and Beliefs

An attitude is a relatively enduring organization of beliefs, feelings, and behavioral tendencies towards socially significant objects, groups, events or symbols.

It is a learned predisposition to respond in a consistently favorable or unfavorable manner with respect to a given object.

It is an expression of evaluation toward a person, place, thing or event. It will always have a positive and negative element and have a tendency to behave in a certain way.

Attitudes are formed primarily based on underlying values and beliefs.

While attitude is the predisposition to act in a particular way towards an object or situation, opinion is the expression of the judgment of an individual about a particular set of facts.

It is an evaluation of the circumstances presented to an individual.

Beliefs are acquired through real experiences but the original experience related to a particular belief is mostly forgotten.

It affects the quality of our work and relationships because we experience what we believe and it is not based on reality. They are an important part of our identity.

They may be religious, cultural or moral.

Beliefs reflect who we are and how we live our lives. It is composed of multiple factors tending to family, society and the structure of life. It is the trust that something is true and good without any doubt.

It is an internal feeling that something is true, even though that belief may be unproven or irrational.

I believe that walking under a ladder brings bad luck.

Attitudes vs. Behavior

Attitude Behavior

Attitude refers to feelings, beliefs and behavior predispositions directed towards people, groups, ideas or objects.

It influences the behavior of the individuals. It decides how to act or behave in a particular situation.

Attitude is a kind of habit. It is the usual way of doing things.

Everything in an organization will get better if the attitude of everyone gets better. Successes and failures in life depend upon the attitude of the individuals.

If attitudes are positive, then human relations will be positive. It is internal and very difficult to change.

Behavior is the way a person responds to his attitude. This response is either positive or negative, depending on how that views his position.

For example, an employee who disagree?

With his supervisor may ignore office protocol.

In addition, an employee who dislikes another coworker or has little respect for a coworker may display this attitude by speaking harshly to this individual.

Behavior can be influenced by a number of factors beyond attitude, including preconceptions about self and others, monetary factors, social influences, and convenience.

It is the actions or reactions of a person or animal in response to external or internal stimuli. It indicates the manner in which something functions or operates.


Finally, we can say that attitudes are evaluative statement favorable or unfavorable related to the person, object or events.

Although there are some differences regarding attitudes, based on the opinions of the above, it can be concluded that the attitude is a state in which man moves to act or do anything in response to a situation or condition of the objects in the surrounding environment.

Actually, it is a statement toward something, or someone exhibited in one’s beliefs, feelings, or intended behavior. It is a social orientation an underlying inclination to respond to something either favorably or unfavorably.

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