The Influence of Attitudes on Behavior


On September 11, 2001, a group of terrorists commandeered four airliners filled with passengers and fuel in a coordinated attack on the United States. Two airplanes were flown into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, one into the Pentagon, and the fourth crashed in Pennsylvania when passengers resisted the hijackers. Not only did the attack result in the collapse of the twin towers and in severe damage to the Pentagon—prominent symbols of American financial and military might—but thousands of people lost their lives, including several hundred police officers and firefighters who came to the aid of the victims. The response of the American people was inspiring. A wave of patriotism and national pride washed across the country. Public discussion turned from issues of little substance to serious matters of life and death. The increased solidarity was not limited to words; it found expression in a multitude of private and public deeds. The American flag was prominently displayed on homes, offices, and cars; police officers were cheered in the streets of New York; monetary donations flowed into relief funds; blood banks that had faced dwindling supplies were overwhelmed by volunteer donors; and even otherwise cynical politicians joined in a spontaneous singing of God Bless America on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, DC. Clearly, the dramatic events of September 11 had a profound impact on people’s beliefs and attitudes, and the enhanced pride in country, increased solidarity with fellow citizens, and heightened sense of purpose found expression in a variety of behavioral domains. In light of such evidence, few would question the proposition that people act in accordance with their attitudes. If further evidence were needed, one only need to consider the actions of the terrorists who were prepared to sacrifice their lives for their fundamentalist religious beliefs and extremist political ideology. Yet there was a time when many social psychologists were ready to abandon the attitude construct because they had become convinced that people’s attitudes had little to do with their actual behavior. In this chapter we discuss the role of attitudes in human social behavior. We will show that, in order to understand the influence of attitudes on behavior, we must distinguish between two types of attitude. The first type are general attitudes toward physical objects (Yosemite National Park, the Empire State Building); racial, ethnic, or other groups (African Americans, Jews,

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@inproceedings{Ajzen2004TheIO, title={The Influence of Attitudes on Behavior}, author={Icek Ajzen and Martin Fishbein}, year={2004} }