What Are Attitudes in Social Psychology?


Martha Robinson

Attitudes play a crucial role in social psychology. They are a measure of our beliefs and feelings about people, things, and ideas. Attitudes are an important aspect of human interaction and behavior, as they can influence how we perceive and respond to the world around us.

What exactly are attitudes?

In social psychology, attitudes refer to an individual’s overall evaluation or opinion about something. Attitudes can be positive, negative or neutral. They can be based on personal experiences or beliefs, cultural norms, or societal expectations.

Types of Attitudes

There are three main types of attitudes:

1) Affective Attitudes: This type of attitude is based on emotions and feelings towards an object or situation. For example, you may have a positive affective attitude towards ice cream because it makes you feel happy and satisfied.

2) Behavioral Attitudes: This type of attitude is based on actions taken towards an object or situation. For example, you may have a behavioral attitude towards going to the gym because you consistently exercise every day.

3) Cognitive Attitudes: This type of attitude is based on beliefs and knowledge about an object or situation. For example, you may have a cognitive attitude towards climate change because you believe that it is caused by human activity.

The Formation of Attitudes

Attitudes can be formed through various means such as personal experiences, social interactions with others, education and cultural norms. Our family members and peers shape our attitudes during the formative years of our lives. We also tend to adopt the attitudes that are prevalent in our society.

The Function of Attitudes

Attitudes serve several functions for individuals:

1) Utilitarian Function: Attitude helps individuals to maximize rewards while minimizing pain and discomfort.

2) Social Identity Function: It helps individuals to align themselves with a particular group and to create a sense of belongingness.

3) Knowledge Function: Attitude helps individuals to organize and understand the world around them.

The Role of Attitudes in Behavior

Attitudes can influence an individual’s behavior. However, attitudes only influence behavior when they are strong, accessible and relevant to the situation at hand. For example, if you have a positive attitude towards recycling, you are more likely to recycle when given the opportunity.


Attitudes are an integral part of social psychology and play a significant role in how we perceive and interact with our environment. Understanding attitudes can help us better understand human behavior and decision making. By being aware of our own attitudes, we can make more informed choices that align with our values and beliefs.