chapter  2
20 Pages

Putting Attitudes in Their Place: Behavioral Prediction in the Face of Competing Variables

The greatest discovery of our generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind. As you think, so shall you be.

—William James

As James’s words imply, our lives and the courses of our lives often appear to hinge on our preferences. What foods we eat, where we choose to work or go to school, who we marry-to the average person, much of our behavior seems to be driven by our likes and dislikes. Attitude is the term that psychologists use to denote these differing preferences for objects, ideas, behaviors, and people. A more formalized and conventional version is that an attitude “is a psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favor or disfavor” (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993, p. 1). Over the more than 80 years of attitude research history, opinions have varied about the degree of inuence that attitudes have on our behavior. Many early social psychologists were compelled by the notion that an individual attitude could signicantly impact behavior. Perhaps most prominent among them, Gordon W. Allport (1935) asserted that attitudes exert a direct and dynamic impact upon behavior, whereas his contemporary Richard LaPiere (1934) contended that attitudes may only minimally predict behavior.