The Sociology of Attitude Change
In contrast to psychology, which concentrates on attributes of the individual mind and personality, sociological analysis looks at man in his social setting, arguing that attitudes ‘are shaped by the cultural traditions, social institutions, and group norms of the society in which every individual finds himself’.1 Sociologists draw on the considerable evidence that individuals acquire many of their attitudes and values ready-made from the groups to which they belong. Individual psychological factors may modify or refine these socially acquired attitudes, but the social setting narrows the effective choices which individuals may make. Not all possible courses of action can ever be considered. In any society there will be certain responses accepted as so natural as to be beyond debate, and certain others so unnatural as to be unworthy of serious attention. Thus while the psychologists have been preoccupied with how the individual mind and nervous system respond to stimuli, the sociologists have been more concerned with how the society itself, or organisations within it, and the constraints of class, race, citizenship, religion, profession, etc., limit the range of stimuli and prescribe the possible responses that may be made to them.
KeywordsSocial Setting Liberal Democracy Opinion Control Adult Behaviour Behavioural Norm
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© Terence H. Qualter 1985