SAARF Attitudes User Guide | June 2013

Attitudes are complex and there is no simple way of defining them. Allport’s (1935:810) definition, based on an extensive review of existing knowledge, was that “An attitude is a mental and neural state of readiness, organized through experience, exerting a directive or dynamic influence upon the individual’s response to all objects and situations with which it is related.” In differentiating between an attitude and a trait, Allport (1937: 293-4) considered that both entailed a “readiness for response”, combining both “the fruits of heredity and the fruits of learning.” However, distinguishing aspects of an attitude were that it had “a well-defined object of reference”, which could be in the form of a concept or something that was material; it could be both “specific as well as general” and for the most part indicates a positive or negative predisposition. In contrast a trait tended to have a broader spectrum.

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