Re: attitudes, beliefs & constructs

Devi Jankowicz (
Tue, 7 Apr 98 22:35:22 +0100

Beverly asks,

>twice in the last week I've heard people wrestling with how to fit pcp into
>their frame of reference ask: "How does this relate to attitudes and
>I remember once in a beginner's group Fay got this question. Her answer
>was: 'It's too early yet to answer that question. ask it again later." (or
>such comment). Unfortunately that didn't happen.
>so, can I ask those who are experienced in teaching pcp how they deal with
>this obviously common question.

She's a wise lady is Fay!

When I do get round to it, I suppose I tend to do something like this.
a) tackle attitudes and beliefs separately
b) handle beliefs in the context of superordinate and subordinate
constructs, in which values are somewhere up above there and
behaviourally explicit constructs are down towards the bottom. A few
laddering exercises and perhaps a resistance-to-change exercise to give
people a feel for personal priorities can be useful.
c) handle attitudes by offering them the old social psychological
distinction between habits and attitudes (do I remember it in Krech et
al, was it?). A _habit_ is something person A infers about another person
B when B's behaviour in similar and recurring circumstances is regarded
as pretty regular and predictable by A; and in contrast, an _attitude_ is
something A infers about B when B's behaviour (esp. verbal behaviour) is
consistent (-ish) across different circumstances- in the _observer's_,
A's, search for an equivalent degree of predictability about B.

This approach seems to fit in with what the students will have already
learnt in non pcp-lectures, but allows us to start talking about pcp
notions of how an attitude is something that is negotiated (frequently by
default!) between two people; stereotyping as an agreement amongst a
group of people about their construing of a social object (another dive
back into material familiar from social psychology). On to a bit about
social constructivism at this point. We can also delve into attribution
theory as a search for principles that specify something about the
"circumstances" mentioned above; and so on.

So my reason for delaying would be to establish basic notions like
construct structures, laddering, resistance-to-change, Individuality,
Commonality, and Sociality corrolaries first of all.

I'm very interested to learn how other people respond to this very
interesting question! (I notice that, though he uses the very interesting
notion of using the Self explicitly, which hadn't occured to me, Jim
Mancuso also looks at the issue in terms of a social negotiation: as a
means of getting away from this pernicious notion of attitudes being
posessions that one can _have_!)


Devi Jankowicz