Did you know that attitudes can be broken down into three components? In this lesson, we’ll explore the cognitive component of attitude using examples of people who volunteer at a pet shelter.
The Cognitive Component of Attitude
The cognitive component of attitude refers to the beliefs, knowledge, and thoughts that we have about an attitude object. Bur what does this really mean?Jane is a 33-year-old professor at a private college. For the past ten years, Jane has spent 5 hours each week volunteering at the local pet shelter. Volunteering at the pet shelter is very important to Jane. Jane sees her volunteer work as a way to improve society and make a positive difference in the lives of animals. She posts pictures of adoptable pets on the bulletin board at her work and she offers her students extra credit for volunteering at the pet shelter.
Jane loves the feelings of joy, love, and satisfaction that she receives from her volunteer work. Jane’s attitude about volunteering at the pet shelter can be broken down into three components.
Background on Attitudes
Before we can explain Jane’s attitude, we must first define some key terms. Attitude refers to our evaluation of some object, idea, situation, group, or person. What you are evaluating is referred to as the attitude object. The attitude object in this example is volunteering at a pet shelter.
The three components of attitude are affective, behavioral, and cognitive. We can refer to these components collectively as the ABC of model of attitude.The affective component of attitude has to do with the feelings and emotions you hold regarding an attitude object.
Volunteering at the pet shelter produces feelings of joy, happiness, and satisfaction for Jane. The behavioral component of attitude deals with how she acts in relation to the attitude object. Jane’s behavioral component includes volunteering regularly at the pet shelter and giving her students extra credit for volunteering at the pet shelter. And remember, the cognitive component of attitude consists of the beliefs, knowledge, and thoughts you have about the attitude object.
For example, Jane believes that volunteering at pet shelters is important, is a positive and socially responsible thing to do, and can benefit society.Let’s look at another example to further explain the cognitive component of attitude.
A Further Example
Jane has been trying unsuccessfully for the past few months to convince Bill, one of her colleagues, to adopt a puppy.
Bill explains to Jane that he doesn’t like pets and will never own one. Bill was bitten by a dog when he was in the fourth grade. Bill also told Jane how there was a tall greyhound on his block that would often break free from its chain and chase Bill home from his bus stop on a regular basis. He also stated that dogs are impossible to train and can be ruthless, especially toward kids. Jane gave Bill pamphlets to read about animal companionship and dog training.
While Bill agreed that not all dogs are mean and aggressive, most of the dogs that he has encountered are, and he can’t ever see himself owning one.We generally have a multitude of beliefs and thoughts for any one attitude object. For example, Bill believes that dogs are aggressive, mean, difficult to train, and particularly harmful for kids. Bill also thinks that he will never own a dog. Bill’s beliefs and thoughts represent the cognitive component of attitude.
The attitude object in this case is dogs. The cognitive component of attitude is heavily influenced by our experiences. For example, Bill’s beliefs about dogs are heavily influenced by the fact that he had previously been bitten and chased by dogs. The cognitive component can also be influenced by other sources of information.
For example, Bill changed his opinion of dogs slightly when presented with reading material from Jane.
Let’s review what we’ve learned. Your attitude is your personal evaluation of something, and what you are evaluating is the attitude object. There are three components of attitude.
The affective component of attitude is concerned with your feelings and emotions. The behavior component of attitude is concerned with your actions. The cognitive component of attitude is concerned with your thoughts and beliefs.
The cognitive component of attitudes is heavily dependent upon your experiences with the attitude object and information gained from other sources. So remember, the next time someone asks you what your thoughts are about something, what they’re really asking you about is the cognitive component of attitude.