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In this lesson, we will learn what the term ‘attitude’ means and explore the affective component of attitude by observing the feelings of two people who do not eat meat.

Affective Component of Attitude

Attitude is defined as a person’s overall approach regarding events, ideas, people or other items, especially when this approach endures over time.

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A person’s attitude is the result of an evaluation he or she has made about the attitude object.Attitude is made up of three components: affective, feelings and emotions about the attitude object; behavioral, the behavior one exhibits when faced with the object; and cognitive, the thoughts and beliefs one has about the object.In this lesson, we will explore the affective component more closely. The component refers to the emotions, such as anxiety, sorrow, or excitement, that the person has regarding the object. Let’s use an example to understand it better.

Example

Kim, a college student, has been a vegetarian since she was 13 years old. At that time, her father showed her a movie about factory farming. She learned that pigs, cows, and other animals were raised in horrible conditions, only to be slaughtered so humans could eat them. Kim was very upset by the information and images. She became a strong believer in animal rights and vowed never to eat meat again. She finds it difficult to sit beside friends at the dining hall when they eat hamburgers or chicken.

Kim’s friend, Eric, is her same age. He has been a vegetarian since birth, having been part of a family that ate very carefully for health reasons. Avoiding meat in his diet is so natural to him and that he never thinks much about it. He is very used to seeing others eating meat and generally doesn’t mind.On the topic of eating meat, clearly Kim and Eric have similar attitudes. Neither one would agree to do it.

However, the affective component of Kim’s attitude is stronger than Eric’s. She has intense emotions when she sees someone eating a turkey sandwich: she wants to cry, gets angry, and sometimes even chastises the person.Eric, who shares her attitude about not wanting to eat meat, has only vague feelings of disgust when he sees it being eaten. It doesn’t look appetizing to him, but he is not upset.

An affective component of his attitude is present (disgust) but it is not as primary as it is for Kim.

Interplay of Attitude Components

Even though Kim and Eric have similar attitudes toward eating meat, they developed them in different ways. Furthermore, each of their attitudes has a unique interplay of the three components.

Eric’s attitude is mainly behaviorally based, since his lifelong behavior has been to eat a vegetarian diet. He also has feelings of disgust toward eating the meat and is aware of beliefs about the health of a plant-based diet.Kim’s attitude is based mostly on affect. When she observes others eating meat, she re-experiences the painful emotions she first felt when she learned about factory farming. Her no-meat diet is also a behavioral component of her attitude in that it’s her habitual way of approaching food. She also has thoughts and beliefs about animal cruelty based on her knowledge of the way animals are treated in factory farms.

Lesson Summary

Attitude, the approach one has to someone or something, is made up of three components: affective, behavioral, and cognitive. The affective component refers to the feelings or emotions a person has when faced with an attitude object. By exploring the attitudes of two vegetarians, Kim and Eric, we saw how each person experienced the affective component in particular. Kim’s emotions are very strong regarding meat eating. She feels angry and upset and sometimes lashes out.

Eric’s attitude, which has an affective component of mild disgust, is not as driven by feelings as Kim’s is.

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