The Royal Spanish Academy mentions three definitions of the word attitude, a term that comes from the Latin actitudo. Attitude is the state of mind that is expressed in a certain way (as a conciliatory attitude). The other two definitions refer to posture: the body of a person (when he transmits something effectively or when the posture is associated with the mood) or of an animal (when he manages to arrange attention for some matter).
Three examples with this term: «I don’t like the attitude Manuel is having towards the employees», «If you continue with that attitude, you will be out of the team», «The attitude of the leopard showed that the animal was not willing to get caught with ease ».
Attitude has also been defined as a state of nervous and mental disposition, which is organized based on experiences and which guides or directs the response of a subject to certain events.
Therefore, attitude is more of a social motivation than a biological motivation. From experience, people acquire a certain predisposition that allows them to respond to stimuli.
An attitude is the way in which an individual adapts actively to his environment and is the consequence of a cognitive, affective and behavioral process.
Therefore, social psychology is in charge of studying the attitudes of human beings to predict possible behaviors. When the attitudes of an individual are observed, it is feasible to foresee their way of acting.
Attitudes fulfill various functions in social life. It may be the case of someone who adopts a defensive attitude and, in this way, predisposes himself in a particular way to interactions. Attitude can also be adaptive, in an attempt to minimize conflict.
There are several types of attitudes:
A disinterested attitude is one that leads one person to have another present not as a means to achieve something, but as an end to achieve their own benefit. To achieve it, four qualities are needed: availability, openness, acceptance and request.
The manipulative attitude is the one exercised by a person to achieve a personal end and considers the other as a means, giving him enough attention to achieve his goal.
Interested attitude: it is caused by a situation of destitution. A person is deprived of something she needs and seeks by all means to recover or get her needs met. The others are also a resource that can help her to get out of this helpless situation.
An integrating attitude is one that a person has who seeks not only their benefit but also that of those around them. It is based on close communication between two people whose objective is unification and integration.
Throughout history there have been many theories around attitude, here we present some of them.
In learning theories attitudes are learned just like everything in life. We capture new information and learn the feelings, actions and thoughts that are related to them. In this line of thought, people are conceived as passive subjects where learning is the trigger for the attitude they can take. It intimately depends on the amount of positive and negative elements that the subject has learned.
The theories of consistency cognitive say that people seek consistency in their lives and that based on get is that they vary their attitudes and thoughts to feel a oneness in your inner being as the presence of two states of consciousness (inconsistency) are uncomfortable. In this case the attitude would have to do with the succession of actions that ensure a balance for the individual.
In theories of cognitive dissonance it is argued that, as explained in the previous theory, subjects feel uncomfortable when they have ideas or attitudes that contradict each other (dissonance) and as a consequence they seek to reduce such dissonance. The same occurs when an action is carried out that goes against what the subject believes or does not relate to the life he wants to lead, with who he is.
From a psychology perspective, attitudes can be made tangible in three ways: on an ideational, behavioral, or emotional level. We will explain it with an example:
The supermarket cashier behaves kindly towards a customer (the attitude is expressed in a behavioral way) but at the same time she has an unseen thought “I must be nice to this person” (an expression on an ideological level); in turn the cashier is not only doing it and thinking, but she is feeling it (expression on an emotional level). Taking these three parts into account is essential in order to change an attitude that does not go according to what we want.
It is also important to establish the difference between positive and negative attitudes. The positive ones are those that collaborate with the individual to manage to face reality in a healthy and effective way, the negative ones are those that hinder this relationship of the individual with her environment. The freedom of the individual resides in being able to choose between one attitude and another at every moment.
Finally, it only remains to say that attitudes not only modify individual behavior, but also group behavior. A person with a positive attitude towards problems can get the group motivated to get ahead and improve; while one with a negative attitude, manages to “infect” him but to guide him in a behavior that will lead him to failure.