The subject of social psychology is concerned with the behavior of any individual person in a context of social interactions. The issues that take pre-dominance are attitudes, prejudices and unwarranted conformity to pressure groups.

An attitude has three components consisting of the first triad of alphabetical letters, namely; ABC- affection, behavior and cognition. To each of these three corresponds feelings, predispositions and thoughts respectively.

The individual has a moral obligation to learn to value and live with one’s attitudes making them work “for” not “against” one’s benefit. The consciousness of one’s attitudes may result in conceding consent, denial or distortion of one’s pattern of behavior and attitudes.

Man is rational, notwithstanding, we come into the mould with a brain as blank as a slate-tabula rosa with no attitudes ascribed in it. Attitudes are created and developed through direct experience of life in the nuclear, extended family and interactions with various social groups. Social groups influence attitudes and individuals adapt and conform to  them in order to feel fully accepted and integrated into a  particular social group or community.  

In the process of maturity and experience, we develop a treasured repertoire of attitudes. The crucial question then is this: can attitudes be changed or modified? If such a possibility exists, what factors are likely to influence the change of attitudes?

In precedence of all factors, comes the credibility of the communicator, the facilitator or the person attempting to change the attitude of others. This credibility has two components and these are [a] expertness – does his education, position, age and experience increase our belief in him and validity in what he says? He who inspires faith and validity of ideas faces great success whereas the contrary is doom. [b] Trustworthiness does he stand to gain by his persuasive attempts to change the attitude of others?

Another most important factor influencing attitude change is the communication itself. The communication has two components. [a] the fear threat appeal – in Christian ethics, the fear threat appeal of hell does not efficaciously influence attitude change, but more often than not the appeal leads one to develop neurosis and hypocrisy. [b] The least fear threat or the minimum appeal is the most efficacious, most effective and long lasting appeal to influence attitude change.

 A theory of attitude change which has received the most attention comes from Leon Festinger, the theory of cognitive dissonance. The arguments of the psychologists are very coherent.

[a] the individual; attitudes are usually consistent with each other and one behaves in accordance with them.

[b] The inconsistencies that occur from time to time create a state of cognitive dissonance. A person believes that excessive smoking and alcoholism are harmful to his health, and yet continues with the obnoxious indulgence that brings dissonance.

[c] Aronson states the theory in these words, “a dissonant relationship is one that involves inconsistency between the individuals self –concept and cognition about his behavior.

[d] The experience of dissonance is unpleasant for the individual and one is therefore motivated to reduce or avoid the dissonance.

[e] Men and women are well informed that “abuse of drugs kill” the crucial question remains, how then does an individual manage reduction of dissonance and achieving of consonance? The realization of equilibrium demands a resolute decision, commitment and will power to give up the practice of indulging in drug abuse.

Behavior is influenced by one’s attitudes or in other words, behavior is the reflection of one’s attitudes. Behaviour and attitudes have a reciprocal interrelationship. The two psychologists, Sperling and Martin concur in asserting that if we know a person’s attitudes we will be able to predict how he will behave in a particular situation.

Every individual has a role to play in the society. The role has relationship of teacher –students, physician –patients, policeman-civilians, warder –prisoners “ad infinitum”. The role has behavioral expectations. We need therefore to examine our consciences and evaluate critically how we relate with others. In this examination of conscience, this is a crucial question to be asked; are my behavioral expectations pre-destined to bring love and happiness to others? Policemen are globally known for their notoriety in corruption and extra-judicial killings.

Prejudice is an extreme and usually negative attitude which is directed to a particular individual or group of persons. Discrimination is a behavioural expression of prejudice.  A discriminates person in the community is denied some rights which are given to others. Prejudice involves stereotyped views and attributes which are used to justify discrimination.


A number of theories and explanations have been formulated by psychologists in pursuant of pointing out the possible reasons why some individuals tend to show more prejudice than others. These are:-

[a] Hostility displacement theory. A person in higher authority blocks a goal directed activity of his subordinate. The end result experienced by the victim of circumstances is a frustration that leads to aggression and hostility. Suppressed and unable to retaliate an attack, the hostility is displaced and redirected to a less powerful individual or group of person’s. The warder who is frustrated by his senior will redirect his aggression and hostility to the prisoners.

[b] Authoritarian personality theory. A father exercises a rigid discipline on his son and gives affecting only as a means of approval of his behavior. The submission and dominance of the son and the father are two extremes that remain virtually unnoticed. However, the obnoxious experience remains eternally etched in the subconsiousness mind of the son.

 Insubordination makes the son unable to express his hostility to the father; as a result, the son develops repressive mechanisms for disguising his hostility and controlling his impulses. In his later days of the adulthood, the son develops a rigid authoritarian attitude towards others that is expressed in the form of prejudice.

[c] Ethnocentric theory. Ethnocentrism has two sub-divisions, namely: in-group over evaluation and out-group rejection. The in-group people have a tendency to believe that their ethnic group is central, superior and dominant. The ethnocentric people judge the outsiders-

relatively to their own ethos, The tendency of the in-group is essentially  egoistic over evaluation and treating the out-group with   rejection, contempt ,bias, and prejudice.

The presence of other people has an influence and often alter the behavior of an individual. This behavior impact is group pressure on conformity. The essence of conformity is yielding to pressure group.

Attitudes  prejudices and group behavior are central issues in human behavior.



My reference

  • Psychology by A. Sperling  phD.  and K. Martin .Msc
  • Heinman Publishers.