Attitude change

Attitudes can be changed through persuasion and an important domain of research on attitude change focuses on responses to communication. Experimental research into the factors that can affect the persuasiveness of a message include:

Target Characteristics: These are characteristics that refer to the person who receives and processes a message. One such trait is intelligence—it seems that more intelligent people are less easily persuaded by one-sided messages. Another variable that has been studied in this category is self-esteem. Although it is sometimes thought that those higher in self-esteem are less easily persuaded, there is some evidence that the relationship between self-esteem and persuade-ability is actually curvilinear, with people of moderate self-esteem being more easily persuaded than both those of high and low self-esteem levels (Rhodes & Woods, 1992). The mind frame and mood of the target also plays a role in this process.

Source Characteristics: The major source characteristics are expertise, trustworthiness and interpersonal attraction or attractiveness. The credibility of a perceived message has been found to be a key variable here; if one reads a report about health and believes it came from a professional medical journal, one may be more easily persuaded than if one believes it is from a popular newspaper. Some psychologists have debated whether this is a long-lasting effect and Hovland and Weiss (1951) found the effect of telling people that a message came from a credible source disappeared after several weeks (the so-called "sleeper effect"). Whether there is a sleeper effect is controversial. Perceived wisdom is that if people are informed of the source of a message before hearing it, there is less likelihood of a sleeper effect than if they are told a message and then told its source.

Message Characteristics: The nature of the message plays a role in persuasion. Sometimes presenting both sides of a story is useful to help change attitudes. When people are not motivated to process the message, simply the number of arguments presented in a persuasive message will influence attitude change, such that a greater number of arguments will produce greater attitude change.

Cognitive Routes: A message can appeal to an individual's cognitive evaluation to help change an attitude. In the central route to persuasion the individual is presented with the data and motivated to evaluate the data and arrive at an attitude changing conclusion. In the peripheral route to attitude change, the individual is encouraged to not look at the content but at the source. This is commonly seen in modern advertisements that feature celebrities. In some cases, physician, doctors or experts are used. In other cases film stars are used for their attractiveness.

Everything we do is affected directly or indirectly by our attitudes. A change in a person's attitude can affect just about everything else in that person's life. Even a small shift in "attitude adjustment" can have a profound effect on what we do and how we do it. If you have ever had a son or daughter in school, you know how true that is. A change in attitude can result in a change in grades, dress, habits, and friends.

The better the attitude, the better the results, in almost anything we do. Because attitude affects our feelings and feelings affect what we do and how well we do it, having a good attitude can be the deciding factor in our successes or failures. The right attitude gives us that important edge.

Since our attitudes are the result of our programming, it makes good sense to take a look at the attitudes we are living with, why they are what they are, and which of them we might like to change. Because every attitude we have directly affects how we feel about everything around us and what we do about it—our attitudes are important! Without the right attitudes we will never have the key that unlocks the treasure chest of happiness and success we so badly want and so richly deserve.

Attitudes create the biggest part of the picture we see of ourselves. They are the filters through which we view everything in our sight. Our attitudes are our dispositions—they are the "state of mind" we live in.

Our attitudes express themselves through our moods, our temperament, our willingness, and our hesitations. Our attitudes propel us forward toward our victories or bog us down in defeat. They are the foothold beneath us in every step we take. They are what others see most of the personality within us; they describe us and define us, projecting the image we present to the world around us. Our attitudes make us rich or poor, happy or unhappy, fulfilled or incomplete. They are the single most determining factor in every action we will ever make. We and our attitudes are inextricably combined; we are our attitudes and our attitudes are us.