Theories of Attitude and Behavior Change

  • Persuasion, Attitude Change, and the Elaboration Likelihood Model
  • Persuasion is a method for attitude/behavior change. The elaboration likelihood model explains when people will be influenced by the content of a speech more superficial features.
  • 3 main characteristics that impact on how we are persuaded for/against a message:
    • 1) Message characteristics – message itself, clarity, how well thought message it. Also includes how well written it was, does speaker have good grasp of grammar, appropriate vocabulary, length of talk, etc.
    • 2) Source characteristics – what is their level of expertise, trustworthy, and is information credible or not. Physical environment, venue of event.
    • 3) Target characteristics – characteristics of listener such as mood, self-esteem, alertness, intelligence, etc. How we receive a message.
  • According to model, we process info along 2 target paths: central and peripheral routes.
    • Central – people are persuaded by the content of the argument. Leads to deep processing of information. Results in a lasting attitude change. People will only choose this route when they are interested in the topic.
    • Peripheral – don’t care about topic, little motivation/interest. Leads to shallow processing of information, such as the speaker’s looks. Creates a temporary attitude change.
  • Reciprocal Determinism
  • Reciprocal determinism is the interaction between a person’s behaviours, personal factors (motivation), and environment.
  • The Social-Cognitive Theory view behaviours as being influenced by people’s actions/cognitions and their social context. Talking about interactions between individual and situation they’re in.
    • Cognition -> Environment -> Behavior
    • Meg is interested in soccer (cognition), joins a soccer team (environment), and spends time with soccer players (behavior).
    • Or, she can spend a lot of time with soccer players, become interested in it, and joins a soccer team. Behavior leads to a cognition.
    • Other direction: hangs with soccer players, so she joins a soccer team , and then after a while develop a real interest in soccer, which then reinforces her hanging with the team.
  • This theory was developed by Bandura (same scientist who did work on observational learning).


  • Personal Control (Locus of Control, Learned Helplessness, and the Tyranny of Choice)
  • Important element of social cognitive theory is personal control. Internal or external.
    • I should have studied harder – internal locus of control, can control fate of own destiny
    • That was an unfair test – external locus of control, perceive outside forces that help to control your fate
  • Those internal achieve more in school/work, cope better with stress and lower depression. External do not as well and higher rates of depression.
  • Learned helplessness – when tone is sounded dogs receive electric shock, but could press button to stop the shock. Group 2 had no way to turn off the shocks.
    • After, dogs placed in new environment and had 2 sides separated by low partition in middle. Given electric shocks, but dogs in group 1 learned to escape shock by jumping over barrier. Dogs in group 2 didn’t try to escape the shock.
    • Therefore, uncontrollable bad events can lead to a perceived lack of control, which leads to general helpless behavior.
  • Increasing people’s control over very small things, like TV remote can increase the health and well-being of people in nursery homes.
  • What about too much control? Too many choices can also negatively impact our cognition and behavior – the tyranny of choice.
    • too many choices at stores
    • Those who had to pick 1/6 were more satisfied with their behavior, those who had to pick 1/30 less happy with their choice.
    • One result is information overload, and can lead people to decision paralysis and increased regret over choice made.
  • Personal control is important, any control people have on environment even a little has good effect on well-being. On other hand too much is not good either.


  • Self-Control
  • The ability to control our impulses and delay gratification.
  • Humans have desires which aren’t necessarily bad, but they can become a temptation (when they conflict with our long-term values and goals).
    • So self-control is focussing on long-term goals while putting off short-term temptations.
  • The most famous experiment is commonly referred to as the marshmallow test. Kids in preschool given marshmallow and could eat it whenever, but if they waited 15 minutes they could get another marshmallow.
    • Some ate it right away, but other kids licked it.
    • Those who were able to wait tended to have better life outcomes when followed 10 years later.
  • Ego depletion – idea that self-control is a limited resource. If you use a lot of it it can get used up, and less to use in the future.
    • Demonstrated by experiment that those who resisted eating cookies ended up giving up sooner on another unrelated task that also requires self-control.
    • Muscle is used as a metaphor for self-control. Can be strengthened, but also depleted.
    • Training self-control in one area can improve it in other areas.
  • How to improve self-control
    • 1) Change environment – ex. moving snacks to more difficult to reach shelf.
    • 2) Operant conditioning – reinforcing good behaviours with rewards. Positive/negative reinforcement or punishment.
    • 3) Classical conditioning – ex. eat healthy chocolate every time you crave chocolate.
    • 4) Deprivation? – Removing something completely is problematic. Can make you want it more, and leads to ego depletion.
SEE ALL Add a note
Add your Comment

Section Categories

Copyright © 2020 Mokshal Media Privacy Policy