Educational Psychology: What are attitudes in the context of the teaching process? What are some of their components?




8a i). Outline the components of attitudes and how the impact the teaching-learning process.


In this chapter, I have discussed the role played by attitudes in school situations,

      • The components of attitudes
      • The functions of attitudes
      • How attitudes develop
      • How a teacher can change learners’ attitudes.

Learning in the school and even a pupil’s adjustment to school is largely determined by the attitudes the pupil holds. The pupils’ interaction with the school and with peers lead to the development of various attitudes. The pupil learns to like school or to dislike it. The liking of school is related to the ability to adjust well in school. It can also be good performance. On the other hand, the dislike for school is related to the inability to adjust well in the school setting and it could also affect the learner’s performance.

It is of utmost importance then for a teacher to know how attitudes develop. If the teacher knows how positive attitudes towards school and school subjects develop then he will be able to influence their development. Also if the teacher knows how negative attitudes can be changed he will be able to influence the changes.


Definition of the term

Like many psychological constructs, attitude does not led itself for easy definition. However we shall define it as a favorable or unfavorable evaluative reaction towards something or someone exhibited in ones beliefs, feelings or intended behavior, (Myers, 1996.Severy Brigham and Schlenker, (1976) defined attitude as an orientation towards an object in ones environment inferred from behavior. Attitude can also be defined as a predisposition to act in a negative or positive way towards persons, objects, ideas or events.

      • As predisposition attitudes are anticipatory responses.
      • They describe a relationship between a person and something else called the attitudinal object.
      • The attitudinal object could be another person, a place, an event or even oneself.
      • Attitudes are directional in the sense that they represent a positive or negative preference for the attitudinal object.
      • Attitudes also vary in intensity meaning, that an attitude towards something can be very strong or moderate or even weak.
      • Attitudes can also be defined as learned ways of consistently interacting with and responding to the stimuli in one’s environment.
      • We can also look at attitudes as general response patterns in the sense that they predispose a person to be motivated in ways that are consistent to the attitude.
      • The way people behave reveal the attitudes they hold. Sometimes it is difficult to infer attitude from behavior.

Components of Attitudes

Attitudes have three components

  • The affective /feeling
  • The cognitive
  • The behavior


  • The Affective component

This component describes ones emotional reactions towards the attitudinal object. It consists of positive or negative feelings. In the positive direction, there are positive feelings of liking, loving, enjoying accompanying the attitudinal object. Whereas in the negative direction there are negative feelings of dislike, hate, feeling uncomfortable in the presence of the attitudinal object.

In terms of component evaluation, the effective component is the most primitive and irrational of the three components. Any attitude operating at this level can cause a lot of destruction. Many animosities that people visit each other are caused by attitudes operating at this level. In this life Muslims may hate Christians, Catholics may fight with

Protestants and vise versa, men may dislike women, boys may dislike female teachers, one tribe my rise up in arms and massacre another tribe simply because of negative feelings held. Students may dislike a teacher, a subject or school without knowing why. Most politically motivated attitudes operate at this level.

  • The Cognitive Component Of Attitudes

The cognitive component includes beliefs, facts, and information about the attitudinal object. At this level, the person holds an attitude on the basis of information. This component has its inherent problems in the sense that the attitude may be based on a large store of incorrect information and false beliefs. For example, a person may belief hat somebody is good or bad or one may rely on stories told by people who have various biases and prejudices regarding the attitudinal object. For example a principal who does not want to go on transfer because of certain vested interests in the current school may tell terrible stories about the incoming principal. He may summon the school an the parade ground and tell the students that the incoming principal will eat up all the money in the school, or that he is being transferred because of his inability to run his previous school. The story may run to the effect that the incoming principal has even killed a student and so on. Given all the misinformation the students will rise up in rebellion against the incoming principal before he sets his foot in the neighborhood leave alone the school compound. With this in mind, it is very important for people to confirm the sources of their information by considering the evidence and crosschecking facts. People should seek to base the cognitive component of their attitudes on solid, factual and unbiased information.

  • The Behavioral Component

Attitudes towards a person, an even, a place or an idea affect how the person behaves towards the attitudinal object. An attitude is never observable. We cannot look at a person and then tell the attitude he holds. Therefore we infer attitudes from observable behavior. Attitudes are assumed to be important say that determinants of behavior. That is if a person’s attitude towards a certain object is positive then the person’s behavior should be positive and therefore correspond with the attitude. Likewise, if the held attitude is negative we expect the person to display negative behavior towards the attitudinal object. Logically we expect a person to display positive behavior towards an attitudinal object that evokes positive feelings. Contrary we expect a person to display negative behavior towards an attitudinal object that evokes negative feelings.


These examples are meant to tell us that, sometimes the link between attitudes and behavior tends to be weak. So although social psychologists agree that attitudes and actions feed each other, they also agree that attitudes are poor predictors of our action. Many times people pay verbal pledge when they are not committed in their behavior. This can be seen in friendships and even in religion. People pay lip service to their friends and even to their religious faith. They say one thing but do the opposite. A person will proclaim the undying friendship with you when they need a favor but run away when you need them most. Under these specific circumstances, we have to observe the behavior in order to know the attitude. We also confirm that actions speak louder than words.


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