Social Psychology of Attitudes

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First of all, social psychology analyzes those regularities of human behavior and activity that are caused by the fact of the inclusion of people in real social groups. Therefore, the first empirical fact, which this science faces, is communication and interaction of people. Social psychology uses the definition of the personality, provided by the general psychology, and finds out, in what concrete group/groups the personality, on the one hand, acquires social influences and, on the other hand, realizes his or her social essence.

Social psychology has a somewhat different approach. It reveals how these social and typical characteristics are created, why under certain conditions of the personality formation, they are shown fully, and under other conditions, there are any other social typical characteristics contrary to personality’s belonging to a certain social group. In most cases, such regulators of behavior and activity of the personality are considered as a single system of interpersonal relations, in which the emotional regulation is studied along with his or her activity. The social psychology studies behavior and activity of the socially determined personality in concrete real social groups, an individual contribution of each personality to the activity of the group, and the reason, on which the size of this contribution to the general activity depends. For social psychology, the main reference point in the personality study is the relationship of the personality with the group and his or her attitude to it (Kassin, Fein, and Markus, 2011).

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The attitude is traditionally a significant category for social psychology. Since the beginning of the 20th century, this category has been used in the context of the general psychological perspective as the methodological principle of the description of the organism interacts with the environment. The attitude, being an element of the real reflection, represents the procedural aspect of mentality, which is the most important part of its functioning.

In general terms, the attitude can be defined as a substantial communication of the person with the outside world. The attitude is defined as mainly conscious, selective, and psychological communication of the person based on his or her experience with the various aspects of the reality, being expressed in actions and experiences of a person. Researchers distinguish three components in the attitude structure (cognitive, affective, and connotative), the existence of which in one form or another is admitted by the leading researchers of this phenomenon. Besides, it should be noted that the attitude may be unconscious, and the nature of its contents can be not presented in the consciousness of the person in an expanded form (Hewstone, 2011).

In terms of various aspects of human reality, scientists distinguish objective and subjective aspects. The objective attitudes, in which people engage during their life and subjective reflection of these attitudes in the form of thoughts, feelings, and evaluations make two genetically connected layers of the attitudes. This way, the subjective aspect of the attitudes is in the real vital attitudes of the person, instead of the act as their assessment. The real (objective) attitudes, in turn, define a substantial context of the formation of personal attitudes. The subjective reality of the person is not only a reflection but also the internal maintenance of his or her real attitudes.

The subjective aspect of the attitudes of the person is formed based on the person’s comprehension of his or her vital reality in the interaction processes with it. In modern researches, the concept of personal sense as an individualized and realized “value-for-me” reflection of the attitudes of personality to objects, with which he or she interacts, is established. The sense represents the trace of activity recorded in the attitude to the object, the sources of which are represented by practical activities and the individual assignment of the publically generated knowledge. The sense is generated by the real relations connecting the personality and the objective reality. Meanings are generated and changed inactivity, in which only the vital relations of the person are implemented, understood as objective attitudes (independent of understanding by the person) between the person and object or phenomenon, which are characterized by potential possibility of qualitatively certain form of interaction between them (Forgas, Cooper, and Crano, 2010).

In the attitudes of the person, the emotive and connotative functions of his or her mental activity, which can be considered both as a result and the regulator of the attitudes and their embodiment inactions of the person, are realized. The attitude has the potential character expressing the probability of realization of selective activity in connection with different objects and materializing in the behavior of the carrier of this attitude.

In modern psychology, it is shown that the attitudes of the person exist in various forms (personal, interpersonal, and public attitudes), emergence and development of which are empowered with a number of mechanisms, among which the mental, social, and psychological attitudes are distinguished. The listed above forms and mechanisms of the attitudes connect the person with the various sides of reality. For social psychology, the main interest is represented by the attitudes of the person towards other people, arising in the process of interactions with them. These attitudes possess all the characteristics described above; however, they have the expressed specifics caused by various effects of human attitudes. The major feature, in particular, is a bilateral character of such attitudes that allows considering them as the relationship, in which some subjects are involved (Maio, and Haddock, 2009).

The modern social psychology does not possess any extensive methodological base for carrying out researches in the field of interaction of group subjects. One of the solutions to this widespread task today is the analysis of the experience of the person as a representative of one or another social group. On the one hand, it is caused by that the attitudes as an ideal phenomenon can materialize and by that become available for research only in the behavior of certain people that is caused by the symbolical character of big social groups. They are often considered by social psychologists and sociologists as a system of attitudes to other groups. On the other hand, the symbolical nature of these associations is defined as the most important condition of their existence as a similarity of these attitudes for their members, which are based on mechanisms of social identification. The social representations underlying social stereotypes, which are carried by the person, find the reflection in the maintenance of the social identity of the personality. They allow the person to identify him- or herself with this or that social group and by that provide the possibility of the existence of a big social group within society as a whole.

The appeal to experience of the person as the representative of social group assumes actualization of that status and role position, which he or she takes in society thanks to own group accessory since any big social group as a whole and each its member, in particular, are defined by a place taken in the hierarchy of the social relations, and the tasks solved within functioning of society. Thus, the main interaction, assuming the primacy of the role templates of the behavior over the behavior regulated on the basis of individual experience can be considered as a context of emergence and development of those forms of attitudes, in which the person acts as the representative of various social groups (Weiner, 2003).

In the interpersonal relations, on the contrary, social stereotypification fades into the background in terms of regulation of interaction of people. It concedes a dominating role to personal experience of interacting persons, on the basis of which the private social installations appear to operate in concrete situations of interaction, regulating interaction with specific partners, as well as the social stereotypes finding reflection in the maintenance of social identity. This way, social identity can be considered not only in the same row with social stereotypes and installations, as one of a determinant of the attitudes, but also as the special social and psychological phenomenon. At the same time, it is a product and regulator of the attitudes, developing at various levels of interaction between people and a comprising set of social stereotypes and installations that are actually at this stage of life (Fiske, Gilbert, Lindzey, and Jongsma, 2010).

The theoretical analysis of the attitudes ideas in a context of a social and psychological perspective allows drawing a conclusion that the social and psychological perspective finds reflection in the attitudes arising and developing in the process of interaction of people. Such attitudes represent the selective communications of the person with partners in the interaction. This interaction possesses semantic nature, based on the experience of interactions with them, and is regulated by social stereotypes and installations as components of the social identity of the personality. The attitudes arising in the process of interaction of people function in certain sociocultural contexts finding reflection in social representations as phenomena of public consciousness. Social stereotypes and social installations as the main determinants of people’s relationships ensure the maintenance of the social identity of the personality that is a product and regulator of the attitudes developing at various levels of interaction between people.

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