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What is an attitude?

An attitude is what you think about something. They are learned via our interaction with the social environment (experience) and significant others and provide us with a means to express our values about an attitude object in either a positive in a negative way.


Attitude Objects

Attitude Objects
The focus of someone’s attitude is known as an attitude object. This can be a person, object, event or an idea.


Formation of attitudes
-Attitudes are developed by:

-Family influences
-Peer influences



Attitudes are not innate, they are learned



learned and reinforced through interaction with significant others through instruction or social learning (observation, imitation and modelling).


Family Influences

If you experience an activity on a regular basis, you tend to develop positive attitude, especially if access is easy


Peer influences

Massive influence! Negative attitudes amongst peers often leads to non-participation and vice versa


Positive attitudes are formed by:

-Belief in exercise
-Enjoyable experiences in sport
-Being good at a particular sport
-Being excited by the challenge of sport
-Using sport as a stress release
-The influence of others where participation is the norm


Negative attitudes are formed by:

-Not believing in the benefit of exercise
-A bad previous experience
-Lack of ability
-Fear of taking part
-Suffering stress when taking part
-The influence of others where non-participation is the norm
-Poor attitude goes unpunished


Components of attitude
Triadic model

1. Cognitive Component – what someone believes about the attitude object. For example, “I believe that going to the gym is good for me and keeps me fit”.

2. Affective Component – how someone feels about the attitude object – our emotional reactions. For example, if we have experienced satisfaction and enjoyment when performing, we will look forward to repeating the activity.

3. Behavioural Component – what someone actually does about the attitude object. For example, attending practices.


Explain how a performer could show a negative attitude to exercise

Negative attitudes to sport can be shown by not seeing the benefits (cognitive) so you enjoy training a lot less (affective) and so you don't attend the training (behavioural)


Changing attitudes
-What are the two useful strategies?

There are two useful strategies a teacher or coach can use to change a negative attitude towards physical activity into a positive one.
-Persuasive communication
-Cognitive dissonance


Changing attitudes

Persuasive communication

This is simply persuading someone to change his or her attitude. The effectiveness of the persuasion depends on:
-The person doing the persuading
-The quality of the message
-The characteristics of who is being persuaded
-The timing of the message/situation


Persuasive communication
-The person doing the persuading

This person should be an expert and therefore be perceived as having a high status or credibility. This is often a coach or teacher. Professional or Olympic performers with a high status or clean-cut image are often used to focus attention on campaigns to promote sport.


Persuasive communication
-The quality of the message

The message should be correct, make sense and be believable. The information given must be accurate, unambiguous and clear.


Persuasive communication
-The characteristics of who is being persuaded

Those whose attitudes are being influenced should have the emotional, intellectual and educational maturity to understand the message. They should be motivated to change and should not be pushed too hard to change their attitude or they make become defensive and resistant to change.


Persuasive communication
-The timing of the message / situation

The specific timing of the message or the situation it is delivered in should be appropriate to the message being given, this can have a significant impact on how effective the message is on the athlete’s attitude.


Cognitive dissonance

Cognitive dissonance simply means disharmony of the mind. When an attitude is stable, all three components are in consonance (harmony) and the person is comfortable with their attitude.

If a coach or teacher wants to change an attitude, then (s)he must cause cognitive dissonance by changing one (or more) of the components, often the cognitive component. This causes the individual to be uncomfortable with the attitude and the coach or teacher changes the others to create consonance once more.

For example, a rugby player believes that aerobics is not for him – it’s too “girlie”. The coach tells him that some of the fittest males do aerobics to improve stamina. This attack on the player’s beliefs causes cognitive dissonance and a change in attitude, and the rugby player now does aerobics to keep fit.


Once CD has been caused, a coach or teacher can reinforce the new attitude or change more components by:

-Give new information/educate
-Using role models as examples
-Pointing out benefits to health

-Create new emotions /enjoyment /fun
-Attributing success internally

-Give success
-Positive reinforcement
-Allowing easy initial success