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Outlooks & Setbacks Saturdays

Positive & Negative Attitudes

Changing Your Attitude

I have two small children - a 3 year old and a 5 year old. We are currently working on what it means to change your attitude. Not only that, but we are learning that we get to CHOOSE our attitude.

This is not about teaching my kids toxic positivity at all - rather it’s about teaching my kids that life will always throw challenges our way. We have a choice whether we will respond or react to the challenges. 

Hear me out here - I remember a long time ago that I heard from a motivational speaker about the difference between responding and reacting. One is positive and one is negative - and it’s a choice.

The analogy went on to say this…

Imagine that you are in the hospital with a terrible illness. The Doctor comes in and says “oh no! You are reacting very badly to the medication we have you on!”

Sounds pretty scary doesn’t it!? It’s not good news. We don’t want a reaction to something…

Conversely, imagine the Doctor comes in and says “this is great! You are responding very nicely to the medication we have you on.”

Now that sounds promising! Responding is positive. 

Choosing to respond rather than react does not mean that the circumstance is good. But it does mean that we have a choice to make with how we proceed. 

I’m thinking of a recent experience I had where someone fingered me on the road when they were in the wrong. I’m sure you’ve had this happen to you in the past because it happens often. In that moment, I had a choice of whether I would respond or react. Everything in me wanted to react poorly and flip her the bird right back. But I restrained myself and reminded myself that I get to choose my attitude. My children were in the back seat watching me. So instead I chose to respond with a friendly wave and keep going. 

The next time you find yourself in a challenging situation, think before you react. Choose a positive response because you get to choose your attitude.

Interesting Fact #1

Your attitude has a profound impact on the way you lead people. It affects the way you sell and the way you serve customers. Your attitude has a direct impact on how you communicate and collaborate with others, how you contribute to the culture of your work environment, and how you perform your daily tasks and responsibilities. Ultimately, your attitude shapes your success and your happiness. Other things being equal, the person with the best attitude will win. Other things not being equal, the person with the best attitude usually wins. Unfortunately, many people cling to beliefs and attitudes that restrict rather than empower their performance.


Interesting Fact #2

Attitude is the way you look at life. It is the way you choose to see and respond to events, situations, people, and yourself. Your attitude is not something that happens to you.


Interesting Fact #3

You choose your attitude. Your attitude is created by your thoughts, and you choose your thoughts. You are the architect of your frame of mind. You decide how you will perceive and process the events of life and work. You make the decision if your mindset is positive or negative. If you want to feel better you have to think better. In order to be positive in the way you feel, it is necessary to be disciplined in the way you think.


Quote of the day

“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.” ― Roy T. Bennett

Article of the day - The Components of Attitude

In psychology, an attitude refers to a set of emotions, beliefs, and behaviors toward a particular object, person, thing, or event. Attitude can also be described as the way we evaluate something or someone. For example, we tend to respond positively or negatively about certain subjects.

We can summarize the main components of attitude which are a collection of our thoughts, feelings, and actions in a given scenario. They are formed as a result of our life experiences, upbringing, education, and social influences.

Our positive and negative attitudes can have a powerful influence on our behavior in various situations. While attitudes are often enduring, they can also change. Read on to discover more about the formation of attitudes and what factors are required for a change of heart.

how attitudes are formed

Illustration by JR Bee, Verywell 

Overview of Attitude

To understand the meaning of attitudes, it can be helpful to look at a few different examples. Consider what your attitude is about the following:

  • The death penalty
  • Which political party does a better job of running the country
  • Whether prayer should be allowed in schools
  • Whether violence on television should be regulated

Chances are that you probably have fairly strong opinions on these and other similar topics. You've developed a passionate inner response about such issues, which can influence how you feel, what you do, and how you interact with people.

Attitudes are an important topic of study within the field of social psychology. But what exactly is an attitude? How does it develop? 

How Psychologists Define Attitudes

Psychologists define attitudes as a learned tendency to view and judge things in a certain way. This can include an evaluation of people, issues, objects, policies, or events. It is an umbrella term that consists of our opinions, emotions, perceptions, beliefs, expectations, values, and intentions.1

Such dispositions are often positive or negative, but they can also be uncertain or neutral at times. For example, you might have mixed feelings about a particular person or issue.

Researchers also suggest that there are three main dimensions that make up our attitudes.2 The components of attitudes are sometimes referred to as the ABC's of attitude.

3 Components of Attitude

  • Affective Component: How the object, person, issue, or event makes you feel.
  • Behavioral Component: How you respond to someone or something that elicits a set of feelings and beliefs. This can be a verbal or a physical response.
  • Cognitive Component: Your perception, ideas, and beliefs about the subject matter.

Attitudes can also be explicit and implicit.

  • Explicit attitudes are those that we are consciously aware of and that clearly influence our emotional and behavioral reactions.
  • Implicit attitudes are unconscious but still impact our emotions and behaviors.

 Does Implicit Bias Influence Our Behavior?

Attitude Formation

Several factors can influence how and why attitudes form, including:


Attitudes form directly as a result of personal experience with people, situations, objects, and ideologies. For example, you may experience a social interaction in a favorable way and form a positive attitude about that person, family, or group. On the other hand, you may have an unpleasant encounter that influences an unfavorable attitude.


Attitudes can be learned in a variety of ways.

  • Classical Conditioning: Consider how advertisers use classical conditioning to influence your attitude toward a particular product. In a television commercial, you see young, beautiful people having fun on a tropical beach while enjoying a sports drink. This attractive and appealing imagery causes you to develop a positive association with this particular beverage.
  • Operant conditioning: Consider how rewards and punishments can influence our attitudes (known as operant conditioning). Imagine a young man who has just started smoking. Whenever he lights up a cigarette, people complain, chastise him, and ask him to leave their vicinity. This negative feedback from those around him eventually causes him to develop an unfavorable opinion of smoking and he decides to give up the habit.
  • Observational learning: Finally, people learn attitudes by observing people around them. When someone you admire greatly espouses a particular attitude, you are more likely to develop the same beliefs. For example, children spend a great deal of time observing the attitudes of their parents and usually begin to demonstrate similar outlooks. In addition, social media is having a profound influence on our attitudes as we are exposed to a variety of social media influencers.

Social and Cultural Factors

Social roles and cultural norms can have a strong influence on attitudes. Social roles relate to how people are expected to behave in a particular role or context. Cultural norms involve society's rules for what behaviors are considered appropriate.


Attitudes can form through direct experience, observations, formal education, conditioning processes, and social/cultural factors.

Attitudes Impact on Behavior

We tend to assume that people behave according to their attitudes. However, social psychologists have found that attitudes and actual behavior are not always perfectly aligned.3

After all, plenty of people support a particular candidate or political party yet fail to vote. Some situations may evoke a strong passionate response, but the environment calls for self-control, professionalism, grace, and poise no matter how upset you may feel.

Essentially, people are more likely to behave according to their attitudes under certain conditions mitigated by personal values and social expectations.

Factors Influencing Attitude Strength

  • You are an expert on the subject
  • You experience something personally
  • You expect a favorable outcome
  • You stand to lose something due to the issue
  • You have passion about the subject
  • You are comfortable expressing your opinions

Why Attitudes Change

While attitudes can have a powerful effect on behavior, they are not set in stone. The same influences that lead to attitude formation can also create attitude change.4

Learning Theory

Classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and observational learning can be used to bring about attitude change.

  • Classical conditioning can be used to create positive emotional reactions to an object, person, or event by associating positive feelings with the target object.
  • Operant conditioning can be used to strengthen desirable attitudes and weaken undesirable ones.
  • People can also change their attitudes after observing the behavior of others.

Elaboration Likelihood Theory

This theory of persuasion suggests that people can alter their attitudes in two ways.

  1. They can be motivated to listen to an elaborate explanation and think about the message (central route persuasion), thus leading to an attitude shift.
  2. They might be influenced by the likable characteristics of the speaker (peripheral route persuasion), leading to a temporary or surface shift in attitude.

Messages that are thought-provoking and that appeal to logic are more likely to lead to permanent changes in attitudes.

Cognitive Dissonance Theory

In some cases, people may alter their attitudes to better align them with their current behaviors. Cognitive dissonance is a phenomenon in which a person experiences psychological distress due to conflicting beliefs and behaviors.5 To reduce this tension, people may change their attitudes to match their actual behaviors or alter their behavior to be more congruent with their beliefs.

 Cognitive Dissonance and the Discomfort of Holding Conflicting Beliefs

In order to minimize the cognitive dissonance between your conflicting attitude and behavior, you either have to change the attitude or change your actions.

Imagine the following situation: You've always placed a high value on financial security, but you start dating someone very financially unstable. You have two options to reduce the tension caused by conflicting beliefs and behavior. You can end the relationship and seek a more financially secure partner, or you can de-emphasize the importance of fiscal stability and focus on other important character traits instead.


Attitudes are not set in stone and may change when people learn new information, when they are persuaded by influential people, or when they experience discomfort due to holding conflicting beliefs.

Final Thoughts

Attitudes play a pivotal role in shaping human behavior, from the choices people make about living their lives to the health behaviors they engage in daily. Understanding where these attitudes come from and how they sometimes change can help you look for ways to improve your attitudes, whether it means adopting a more positive outlook on life or changing your opinion based on new information.

Question of the day - What is a situation that you have reacted poorly to in the past?

Positive & Negative Attitudes

What is a situation that you have reacted poorly to in the past?