Discussing Attitudes from two opposing angles in social psychology: Cognitive and Discursive

Essay by mikepntUniversity, Bachelor'sB-, November 2009

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Within social psychology the topic of "attitude", and all that surrounds this label, is regarded my many as the focal point and therefore among the most explored. Whether studies investigate attitudes as inner cognitive states and processes or as evaluations of a constructing nature within speech and writing, the importance remains equal within social psychology. These two types of perspectives, cognitive or discursive, will be explored, in relation to attitudes. Both approaches share the view that social attitudes should be an essential study in any scheme of social psychology, but the way these attitudes are perceived differs greatly. The difference in perception brings with it a difference in methodology. An overall review of the topic of attitudes, according to the two approaches, will be given. Ultimately all differences and common points will be summed up and the extent to which it is possible to align the two angles will be discussed.

Gordon Allport's view that an attitude is the most distinctive and indispensable concept in social psychology has been cited countless times (1935: cited in Hogg and Vaughan 2005). He defined it as a state of readiness, organized through experience, which influences an individuals' responses to a situation or object to which it is related.

Defining something that cannot be seen or touched is not an easy task; that is why many aspects of definitions, at times even the wording, have been matter of debate. The concept of "an attitude" is problematic and it should not be assumed attitudes are always present (Kremer, Sheehy, Reilly, Trew and Muldoon, 2003). In fact there are issues towards which we do not have an attitude, other times we may have an attitude about something but behave in a completely unrelated way and other times we focus on our behaviour to subsequently formulate an...