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Generally speaking, attitudes are certain predispositions, values or opinions of individual persons. Attitudes can influence how individuals behave or act.

Theory and function of attitudes

Social attitudes were already defined in the 1930s by Gordon Allport (1935) as kind of a mental or neutral standby mode which is structured by experience and has a controlling or dynamic influence on an individual's reaction to all objects and situations (Allport 1935: 810). Attitudes are a distinctive concept of social psychology and cause of its scope und ambiguity, it is complicated to find an explicit definition. One possible version is to define attitudes as the valuation of an object what can differ concering valency, tendency and strength (Stroebe & Jonas 2007: 189). Regarding the origin of attitudes, one can say that a large part of attitudes are learned and internalized during the course of socialization (Bottenberg 1996; Berger & Luckmann 2007: 139-148).

One possible assumption is, that attitudes are relatively resistant to change, cause they are consolidated for a longer period of time (Fischer & Wiswede 2009: 298; Berger & Luckmann 2007: 157-174). Another contrary theoretical concept assumes, that attitudes are not only developed very early, but are evolving throughout life. It is possible, that attitudes change in different contexts of life or with or in certain experiences of an individual person.

Attitudes, stereotypes and ideals are classified as structural and functional components of social systems. Among other things, attitudes can influence social action and behavior and they help to evaluate objects. Moreover, attitudes can fulfill different functions and needs like assimilation, knowledge, self-expression or self-assertion. In this way, they influence how we perceive the world and our behavior (Allport 1935; Stroebe & Jonas 2007).

Theoretical models for the correlation of attitudes and behavior were written by (Ajzen & Fishbein 1975). Other authors criticize this concept, because there has to be a certain correspondence between both constructs. Furthermore, this is difficult to measure. Attitudes were influenced by a lot of diffused factors, why there is not always a clear connection. Moreover, it is possible that social action can be in contradiction to someone’s attitudes.

As a criterion for online participation, it can be distiguished between attititudes of different actors, e.g. citizens respectively participants, political decision makers or administrators, that are changed as a consequence of experiencing online participation.


Ajzen, Icek; Fishbein, Martin (1975): Belief, Attitude, Intention and Behavior. An Introduction to Theory and Research. Reading: Addison-Wesley.

Allport, G. W. (1935): Attitudes. In: C. Murchison (Hg.): A handbook of Social Psychology. Worchester: Mass, pp. 798–844.

Fischer, Lorenz; Wiswede, Günter (2009): Grundlagen der Sozialpsychologie. München: Oldenbourg.

Stroebe, Wolfgang; Jonas, Klaus (2007): Sozialpsychologie. Heidelberg: Springer.


This category has the following 5 subcategories, out of 5 total.




Pages in category "Attitudes"

The following 16 pages are in this category, out of 16 total.