Attitudes: Essential Components

Regardless of exactly how you might feel, the attitudes you express may be recognized as consisting of three major components: an evaluative component, a cognitive component, and a behavioral component. They represent the basic building blocks of the definition of attitudes.

 Attitudes have a great deal to do with how we feel about something. Indeed, this aspect of attitude, its evaluative component, refers to our liking or disliking of ant particular person, item, or event (what might be called the attitude object, or the focus of our attitude). You may, for example, feel positively or negatively toward your boss, the scuplture in the lobby, or the fact that your company just landed a large contract.

 Attitudes involve more than feelings; they also involve knowledge—that is, what you believe to be the case about an attitude object. For example, you might believe that one of your coworkers is paid much more than you, or that your supervisor doesn’t know too much about the job. These beliefs, whether they are completely accurate or totally false, comprise the cognitive component of attitudes.

 As you might imagine, the things you believe about something (e.g.,”my boss is embezzling company funds”) and the way you feel about it (e.g., “I can’t stand working for him”) may have some effect on the way you are predisposed to behave (e.g., “I’m going to look for a new job”). In other words, attitudes also have a behavioral component—a predisposition to act in a certain way. It is important to note that such a predisposition may not actually be predictive of one’s behavior. For example, although you may be interested in taking a new job, you might not actually take one if a better position isn’t available or if there are other aspects of the job you like enough to compensate for the negative feelings. In other words, your intention to behave a certain way may or may not dictate how you actually will behave.

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