NCERT Class 12 Psychology Chapter 6: Attitude and Social Cognition YouTube Lecture Handouts

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NCERT Class 12 Psychology Chapter 6: Attitude and Social Cognition
  • Social psychology is that branch of psychology which
  • investigates how the behavior of individuals is affected by others and the social environment – go beyond common sense and folk wisdom to explain how people observe diverse behaviors
  • Attitude – way of thinking about things and people
  • You are speaking alone versus in front of crowd (even when they are not listening) – may influence your performance - social environment influences our thoughts, emotions and behavior
  • Impression formation – when you meet people you make inferences about their personal qualities
  • Attribution – we assign cause to the behavior shown in specific situations
  • Social Cognition (activated by cognitive units called schemas) involves attitude, attribution and impression formation

Examples of Social Influences

  • Social facilitation/inhibition, i.e.. the improvement/decline in performance in the presence of others, and helping
  • Pro-social behavior, i.e.. responding to others who are in need or distress


  • Opinions: simple way of thinking – others might agree or disagree, some topics might be important, if someone opposes your views you might get emotional (only thoughts)
  • Attitudes: thought (cognitive) + emotion (affective) + action (behavioral or conative) (ABC) - state of the mind, a set of views, or thoughts, regarding some topic with evaluative features – explain tendency to behave in certain way
  • Beliefs - cognitive component of attitudes, and form the ground on which attitudes stand, such as belief in God, or belief in democracy as a political ideology.
  • Values - are attitudes or beliefs that contain a ‘should’ or ‘ought’ aspect, such as moral or ethical values. One example of a value is the idea that one should work hard, or that one should always be honest. Formed when certain belief is inseparable from one՚s outlook
  • Attitude makes it easier to decide how to behave in a new situation. It has 4 features:
  • Valence (positivity or negativity) – range on 5 or 7 point scale (allow extreme and neutral ideas)
  • Extremeness - how positive or how negative
  • Simplicity or Complexity (multiplexity) - how many attitudes there are within a broader attitude. About health and well-being is complex as includes physical, mental well being, happiness, beliefs and health
  • Centrality – role of particular attitude in attitude system; greater centrality would influence the other attitudes (attitude towards peace)

Attitude Formation and Change

  • Attitudes towards different topics, things and people also are formed as we interact with others
  • Attitudes are learned by experiences and interactions
  • Learn by association – positive quality in teacher linked to subject and creates interest in subject
  • Learn by being rewarded or punished – child falls ill due to junk food and develops aversion or negative attitude towards junk food
  • Learn by modelling (observing others) – respect towards elders by seeing parents do the same.
  • Learn by group or cultural norms – unwritten rules of behavior that everyone is supposed to show under specific circumstances, offerings at place of worship
  • Learn by exposure to information – read biographies of self-actualized persons

Factors Affecting Attitude Formation

  • Family
  • School
  • Reference groups - indicate to an individual the norms regarding acceptable behavior and ways of thinking
  • Personal experiences – driver in army narrowly escapes death and works as community leader
  • Media-related Influences – audio-visual media and internet; create consumerist attitudes

Attitude Change

Attitude can change, some change more than others

Balance concept by Fritz Heider - ‘P-O-X’ triangle, which represents the relationships between three aspects or components of the attitude. P is the person whose attitude is being studied, O is another person, and X is the topic towards which the attitude is being studied (attitude object) .

Attitude changes cases - if all sides are negative or two sides are positive and one is negative or all sides are positive or 2 sides are negative and one is positive

Dowry - P-X relationship (P starts disliking dowry as a custom) , or in the O-X relationship (O starts liking dowry as a custom) , or in the O-P relationship (O starts disliking P) .

Cognitive dissonance was proposed by Leon Festinger

Cognitive component must be consonant (logically inline with others) . If an individual finds that two cognitions in an attitude are dissonant, then one of them will be changed in the direction of consonance

Cognition I: Pan masala causes mouth cancer which is fatal.

Cognition II: I eat pan masala

His idea is dissonant and will change it to make consonant

Festinger and Carlsmith experiment - Telling a Lie for Twenty Dollars for a boring experiment to be declared interesting

The $ 1 group, (there was cognitive dissonance)

The initial cognitions would be: (Dissonant cognitions) “The experiment was very boring” “I told the waiting students that it was interesting” “I told a lie for only $ 1.”

The changed cognitions would be: (Dissonance reduced) - “The experiment was actually interesting” ; “I told the waiting students that it was interesting” ; “I would not have told a lie for only $ 1.”

The $ 20 group, (no cognitive dissonance)

“The experiment was very boring” ; “I told the waiting students that it was interesting” ; “I told a lie because I was paid $ 20.”

Conclusion: Telling others that the experiment was interesting, for only a small amount of money, they concluded that their attitude towards the experiment was positive

Both balance and cognitive dissonance are examples of cognitive consistency. Cognitive consistency means that two components, aspects or elements of the attitude, or attitude system, must be in same direction. Each element should logically fall in line with other elements. If this does not happen, then the person experiences a kind of mental discomfort.

Two-Step Concept by Mohsin (Indian psychologist) - In the first step, the target of change identifies with the source. The ‘target’ is the person whose attitude is to be changed. The ‘source’ is the person through whose influence the change is to take place

Identification – target has liking and regard for source

Source allows the attitude change by observation or imitation

Preeti reads in the newspapers that a particular soft drink that she enjoys is extremely harmful. But Preeti sees that her favourite sportsperson has been advertising the same soft drink. She has identified herself with the sportsperson, and would like to imitate her/him – if sportsperson changes attitude and moves to health drink – Preeti will also do the same.

Factors influencing Attitude Change

4 characteristics of existing attitude (discussed above)

Attitude change may be congruent — it may change in the same direction as the existing attitude (for example, a positive attitude may become more positive, or a negative attitude may become more negative) . For instance, suppose a person has a somewhat positive attitude towards empowerment of women. Reading about a successful woman may make this attitude more positive

Incongruent – may change in opposite direction to existing attitude – same example – women neglect family responsibilities

Research has found that fear sometimes works well in convincing people but if a message generates too much fear, it turns off the receiver and has little persuasive effect.

Source characteristics – credibility and attractiveness - Attitudes are more likely to change when the message comes from a highly credible source (like computer engineer if tells to buy certain laptop)

Message characteristics – contain emotional and rational appeal - pressure-cooking preserves nutrition (emotional) or pressure cooking saves LPG (rational) – what motives the message activates is important

Mode of Spreading Message – face to face transmission, lecture, pamphlets (ORS protects from heat of summer)

Target characteristics - target, such as persuasibility, strong prejudices, self-esteem, and intelligence (open personalities change easily)

People with strong prejudices are less prone to any attitude change than those who do not hold strong prejudices.

Persons who have a low self-esteem, and do not have sufficient confidence in themselves, change their attitudes more easily than those who are high on self-esteem.

More intelligent people may change their attitudes less easily than those with lower intelligence

Attitude – Behavior Relationship

Behavior follows logically from attitude. High consistency is seen when

Attitude is strong, and occupies a central place in the attitude system

Person is aware of her/his attitude

There is very little or no external pressure for the person to behave in a particular way.

Person՚s behavior is not being watched or evaluated by others

Person thinks that the behavior would have a positive consequence, and therefore, intends to engage in that behavior.

In the days when Americans were said to be prejudiced against the Chinese, Richard LaPiere, an American social psychologist, conducted the following study. He asked a Chinese couple to travel across USA, and stay in different hotels. Only once during these occasions they were refused service by one of the hotels. Sometime later, LaPiere sent out questionnaires to managers of hotels and tourist homes in the same areas where Chinese couple had travelled, asking them if they would give accommodation to Chinese guests. A very large percentage said that they would not do so- negative attitude towards the Chinese, which was inconsistent with the positive behavior that was actually shown towards the travelling Chinese couple. Thus, attitudes may not always predict actual pattern of one՚s behavior.

Prejudice & Discrimination

  • Prejudice - Attitude towards certain group of people and usually negative – it may translate to discrimination – genocide committed by the Nazis in Germany against Jewish people is an extreme example of how prejudice can lead to hatred
  • Stereotype – cluster of ideas regarding specific group, cognitive component about specific group, all members have this characteristics, these are usually undesirable and lead to negative attitude; it is a category based schema
  • Prejudice and discrimination can exist without each other but yet they exist together
  • Sources of Prejudice
  • Learning – Learnt through association, reward and punishment, observing others, group or cultural norms and exposure to information that encourages prejudice
  • Strong social identity and ingroup bias -
  • Scapegoating - the majority group places the blame on a minority outgroup for its own social, economic or political problems; minority is small and weak
  • Kernel of truth in what everyone says and supports the stereotype
  • Self-fulfilling Prophecy - the group that is the target of prejudice is itself responsible for continuing the prejudice. The target group may behave in ways that justify the prejudice, that is, confirm the negative expectations.

Handling Prejudice Would be Effective if They Aim At

  • minimizing opportunities for learning prejudices,
  • changing such attitudes,
  • de-emphasizing a narrow social identity based on the ingroup, and
  • discouraging the tendency towards self-fulfilling prophecy among the victims of prejudice.

Goals can be fulfilled by

  • Education
  • Information dissemination
  • Increasing inter-group contact
  • Highlight individual identity rather than group identity

Social Cognition

  • Mental process that deal with obtaining and processing information related to social objects. Information related to social object differs from physical objects and are guided by mental units called schemas
  • Schema is defined as a mental structure that provides a framework, set of rules or guidelines for processing information about any object
  • Most of the schemas are in the form of categories or classes. Schemas that function in the form of categories are called prototypes, which are the entire set of features or qualities that help us to define an object completely.

Impression Formation & Attribution

The person who forms the impression is called the perceiver. The individual about whom the impression is formed is called the target.

In attribution, the perceiver goes further, and explains why the target behaved in a particular way. Attaching or assigning a cause for the target՚s behavior is the main idea in attribution.

These are influenced by

Nature of information available to the perceiver

Social schemas in the perceiver (including stereotypes)

Personality characteristics of the perceiver

Situational factors

Process of impression formation involves – selection, organization and inference

Information presented first has a stronger effect than the information presented at the end. This is called the primacy effect (first impressions are the lasting impressions) .

Recency effect – last impression has a lasting impression

Halo effect - We have a tendency to think that a target person who has one set of positive qualities must also be having other specific positive qualities that are associated with the first set. Tidy and punctual person would be hard working

Attribution of Causality - assign causes to a person՚s behavior.

Cause can be internal or external - A hit B because A is a hot-tempered person (internal) while B is nasty (external)

Bernard Wiener – stable causes don՚t change with time while unstable do change with time

Fundamental attribution error - In making attributions, there is an overall tendency for people to give greater weightage to internal or dispositional factors, than to external or situational factors.

People attribute success to internal factors, such as their ability or hard work. They attribute failure to external factors, such as bad luck, the difficulty of the task

The Attribution of Causality

Actor-observer effect: Distinction is also found between attribution that a person makes for her/his own positive and negative experiences (actor-role) & attribution made for another person՚s positive and negative experiences (observer-role)

Your good marks are attributed to my hard work but bad luck; friends′ good marks are due to good luck and not hard work

Social Facilitation: Performance on specific task is influenced by mere presence of others – perform well when others are there

Due to others person experience arousal (explained by Zajonc)

Arousal is due to fear of being evaluated (evaluation apprehension)

Nature of task to be performed (in the case of a simple or familiar task, the person is more sure of performing well, and the eagerness to get praise or reward is stronger) ; fear of criticism is stronger in case of difficult tasks

Others performing same action is known as co-action (there is social comparison and competition)

Task performance can be facilitated and improved, or inhibited and worsened by the presence of others

Larger the group, less effort each member puts in – this is called social loafing based on diffusion of responsibility (seen in situations where people are expected to help)

Pro-Social Behavior

Doing something for or thinking about the welfare of others without any self-interest – sharing things, cooperating with others, showing sympathy

aim to benefit or do good to another person or other persons

be done without expecting anything in return

be done willingly by the person, and not because of any kind of pressure

involve some difficulty or ‘cost’ to the person giving help

If a rich person donates a lot of money that is obtained illegally, with the idea that her/his photograph and name will appear in the newspapers, this cannot be called ‘pro-social behavior’ although the donation may do good to many people

Pro-social behavior is based on inborn natural tendency to help others, is influenced by learning and culture.

It is affected by expected reaction of who is being helped, likely to be shown by person with higher empathy, it may be reduced by bad mood and reduced when bystanders are more than one (due to diffusion of responsibility)

It is expressed when situation activates certain social norms.

The norm of social responsibility: We should help anyone who needs help, without considering any other factor.

The norm of reciprocity: We should help those persons who have helped us in the past.

The norm of equity: We should help others whenever we find that it is fair to do so.

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