Topical Summaries of Current Literature: Social Attitudes

Daniel D. Droba
Chicago, Illinois

In a general review of attitudes and motives by Bain (6)[1] 261 references were included and classified into four sections as follows: attitude theory, theory and technique of measurement, overt behavior attitudes, case study methods and attitudes, and verbal attitudes or opinions. Sherman (74) divided his review, appended by 88 references, into four parts: definitions, theories of measurements, methods, and results. House (37, 38) presented a summary of the definitions of attitude as found in the sociological literature. Karpf (40) gave us a brief summary of the attitude theories of Faris, Thomas, and Mead.

With respect to the measurement of attitudes, Thomas and Thomas (82) gave a sketch of a testing program for attitudes. Symonds (78) gave a summary of the "attitude questionnaires" and has appended 31 references. Vetter (89) reviewed 38 references on political and social opinions. Droba (26) reviewed six methods for measuring attitudes based on 125 references. Likert (48) gave a description of a technique refining the methods of absolute and relative ranking and has appended 43 references.

In the opinion of Znaniecki (104) changes in attitudes take place whenever the community goes into a voluntary crisis passing through four stages in a definite succession. The so-called "mob-mind" is explained by Lorden (51) in saying simply that the mob expresses attitudes that are conventionally concealed. For Thomas (80) attitude is one of the main factors in social change.

Warren (90) and Allport (2) belong among the believers in the organic theory of attitudes. The behavior theory of attitudes is

( 514) represented by Bain (5) and Symonds (77). However, by far the largest number of writers appear to suggest that they adhere to the mentalistic theory. Thus Faris (29, 30, 31) believes that attitude is a tendency or predisposition to action. To quote, he says (30) that "the attitude is in part the residual effect of the act, but it remains as a predisposition to certain forms of subsequent activity." For Bogardus (18) "an attitude is a tendency to act toward or against something in the environment which becomes thereby a positive or negative value." In the opinion of Young (100, 101) an attitude is a set or a tendency to action or an anticipatory behavior. Znaniecki (103) seems to have substituted the term "social tendency" for the term "attitude."

Some writers seem to think of attitudes in terms of "behavior patterns." Thus Park and Burgess (65) wrote "the clearest way to think of attitude is as behavior pattern or unit of behavior." According to Bernard (9) "attitudes are for the most part acquired behavior patterns having been built up out of our experiences in characteristic situations." Wolfe (96) is another writer who belongs here, and perhaps Markey (54) can also be classified here since he is talking about attitudes as "behavior integrations."

Thomas, the pioneer writer in this field, began to air his view in the first decade of this century (79), but his full exposition of attitudes appeared in the second decade (83). He wrote, together with Znaniecki, that an attitude is "a process of individual consciousness which determines real or possible activity of the individual in the social world."

Other writers used a varied terminology in describing attitudes. Lumley (52) talks about "susceptibility to certain kinds of stimuli and readiness to respond"; North (62) labels attitude as "the dynamic element in human activity, the motive for activity"; and Thorndike (84) used the terms of "dispositions, pre-adjustments, or sets." For Tuttle (88) an attitude is "some element of worth, of interest, of desire" and for Dewey (25) it is a "latent, potential, subdued, non-patent form of habit." Finally, an interesting and important contribution to the attitude theory was made by Cantril (22). His experimental findings seem to indicate that an attitude is a general rather than a specific tendency.

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In the literature on the types of attitudes Burnham (21) has used such terms as "affective, childish, and helpful attitudes." Bogardus (16) reported an extensive study of racialism or attitudes toward the races. Among the races were included Negroes, Mexicans, Filipinos, Chinese, and other immigrant groups. In his methodological book (14) he has taken some of his samples from studies on racialism. Miller (56) has described the attitude of the East toward the English and compared it with the attitude toward the French. Watson (9r) has devised a test of fair-mindedness consisting of six parts. Lasker (44) wrote a book on the types, development, teaching, and modification of race attitudes in children. Minard (58) made a study of race attitudes of 1,352 Iowa children, and racialism is one of the twelve international attitudes studied by Neumann (61).

Besides the above studies of racialism in general, there are studies limited to attitudes toward specific racial groups. A comparison of the attitudes toward the Negro with attitudes toward the immigrant was made by Miller (57). A study of white attitudes toward the Negroes as represented by 17 white daily newspapers was reported by Gist (33). In the same article he included the results of a study of Negro attitudes toward the whites as indicated by 10 Negro weeklies. Fifteen educated Negroes were interviewed by Alexander (1) regarding Negro opinion about "Amos and Andy."

Peterson and Thurstone (67) gave a test to 133 high-school students in a small community before and after seeing a moving picture about the Germans. Attitudes of the Mexican immigrants toward America at the time of their arrival and several years later, and the attitudes of Americans toward the Mexicans were investigated by Bogardus (17).

There is a great variety of political attitudes as indicated by Lasswell (45). Rice (71) has given us an extensive quantitative treatment of political attitudes including the statistical distribution and variation of political attitudes. The existence of types in political attitudes was discovered by Allport (3) who also found that political attitudes are general rather than specific. Vetter (89) gave a test to 210 undergraduates to measure social and political attitudes of college students. Moore and Garrison (59) made a study of reactionary, conservative, liberal, and radical attitudes with respect to

( 516) 36 different issues, while Harris, Remmers, and Ellison (35) investigated liberalism in relation to such factors as intelligence, religion, political affiliation, and education.

Page (63) reported a study of attitudes toward war among nineteen thousand clergymen. Porter (68) made a study of student opinion on war in various institutions throughout the country. Eight different questions on war were asked by Baumgarten (7) of 700 Polish boys and girls during the German occupation of Poland. In the opinion of Droba (27) attitudes toward war are the fundamental causes of war. This might be corroborated by a finding of his (28) that a positive relation exists between political parties and war attitudes. The educational value of military training in American universities and colleges was studied by Bishop (12) for the Department of Interior. A census taken at the Student Volunteer Quadrennial at Buffalo on the disarmament question was reported by Braden (19).

Among studies of other political attitudes should be mentioned those of Lockhart (49, 50) who made an investigation of children's attitudes toward laws and compared them with those of lawyers, college graduates, and civic-club members. An examination of votes at over 14,000 local-option elections on the liquor question in Massachusetts, Arkansas, and Michigan over a long period of years was reported by Wooddy and Stouffer (97).

With respect to economic attitudes, four studies were included in our review. Atkins and Lasswell (4) made a study of attitudes of groups such as the coal miners, the steel workers, farmers, and the clothing workers, and Zimmerman (102) investigated farmers' attitudes toward co-operative marketing. An attempt to study the factors affecting the attitudes of a group of women factory workers was made by Kornhauser and Sharp (42). Hart (36) examined 663 articles in eleven American magazines (1929-32) in order to discover changes in opinions about business prosperity.

In a theoretical discussion about occupational attitudes Bogardus (15) stated that the process of occupational attitude resolves into a series of stages: a priori, reflective, synthetic, interdependent, and a posteriori stage. In an earlier study (13) he gave a description of an occupational egocentrism. Smith (75) maintained that the differ-

( 517) -ence between the urban and the rural groups can be stated in terms of occupational attitudes arising from the occupational conditions.

A study of attitudes of clients toward the social case workers was reported by Queen (69). Finally, McKenzie (55) found that occupational participation in British Malaya, Hawaii, and Alaska is a question of attitudes and conditions.

Educational attitudes were studied very extensively by Katz and Allport (41) who subjected practically the whole student body at the Syracuse University to a very thorough testing program. Various attitude schedules were used in order to discover an adjustment between the organized methods of higher education and the human factors involved. Wickman (93) measured the attitudes of teachers toward undesirable forms of children's behavior such as stealing, cheating, lying, and unnecessary tardiness. Thrasher (85) attempted to study the attitudes of superior boys in the midst of influences coming from the family, the immigrants, and the American community. Among other attitudes, the attitudes of prisoners, policemen, and superior adults toward education were studied by Lewerenz (47). In a preliminary experiment on the compulsory class attendance a study of the effect of group discussion on the opinions of the members of the group was made by Jenness (39).

In a theoretical discussion of regional attitudes, Bernard (8) pointed out that the difference between the farmers and the city dwellers lies in their judgments and attitudes which they have built out of experience and training. Steiner (76) described and illustrated the changes from conservatism to liberalism in the rural community which are largely due to industrialism and modern communication. Rice (73) has examined a discussion of Williams on the development of rural attitudes.

Daly (24) maintained that a woman wants to be a man because she envies man's greater social freedom and the absence in man of the disgusting elements. Watson and Green (92) sought to discover the extent to which 231 students would anticipate some of the experimental findings about opinions on sex questions. Carpenter (23) concluded that in addition to the economic factor attitudes will determine whether a family will buy a home or not. Glueck (34) gave an analysis of parental attitudes regarding problems such as the

( 518) nature and the technique of parenthood and the nature of childhood.

An example of a study of religious attitudes is that of Trout (87) whose conclusions were largely based on autobiographical and biographical accounts. Conservatism vs. radicalism or an attitude toward social change was investigated by Wolfe (96) who gave us an extensive theoretical discussion in this field. In an earlier study (95) he advocated that the motivation of radicalism takes place through one of three possible processes of readjustment: repression, substitution and transference, and re-enforcement.

Among the general treatments of attitudes might be mentioned that of Bernard (9) who gave us a discussion of such topics as the nature of attitudes, the classification of attitudes, attitude types such as intellectual, emotional, imitative, and permanent attitudes. In his paper in the Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences (10) he analyzed the nature, function, types, and measurement of attitudes, and their relation to public opinion. Folsom (32) identified social psychology with attitudes. He devoted one chapter especially to the study of social and cultural attitudes differentiated on the basis of changeability and uniformity throughout a cultural area.

Krueger and Reckless (43) in two chapters discussed the nature of attitudes including such questions as the definition, types, and relation to other phenomena. The characteristics of attitudes were discussed by Park (64) who maintained that an attitude includes an orientation of the organism to the world of objects about it, a certain amount of tension even when it is latent, uniformity in direction and variation in intensity, and the fact that an attitude is rooted in experience. Williams (94) wrote that motives result from inherited traits that become adapted to life in the group in accordance with group attitudes and ideas. Young (99) gave us an analysis of the types of attitudes and of the relation of attitudes to other phenomena such as the object, the occupations, and the opinions. In a later publication (100) he took up the problems of the nature of attitudes, of the changes of attitudes, the types, and their relation to opinions, habits, emotions, and other functions.

Literature on specific problems of attitudes is as follows. Lasswell (46) pointed out that measurement should be understood in the light of our fundamental conceptions of public opinion such as the

( 519) extent, direction, intensity, effect, and the formative factors in public opinion. Thurstone (86) tried to convince his readers that attitudes can be measured. He described the construction of an attitude scale by the use of the method of equal appearing intervals. Rice (72) has a discussion on a method proposed by Thurstone. Murphy and Murphy (60) made a distinction between a sociological approach to attitudes and a psychological study of attitudes and discussed some of the applications of the measurement technique. Lundberg (53) analyzed some of the methods of studying attitudes such as the life-history documents, the oral interview, and the rating scales.

Thomas in one of his publications (80) made a very brief reference to attitudes, but he stated that the problem of society is to produce the right attitudes in its members. Burgess (20) observed that conflicts between family and community standards lead to conflicts between parents and children. This indicates how the family is influenced by the community of which it is a part, and the family in turn is exerting its influence on personal attitudes.

The relation of attitudes to the redirection of behavior was treated by Bernard (11). Faris (30) discussed the relation of attitudes to behavior, repudiating the behavioristic theory of Bain. In a later publication (31) he pointed out that attitudes are general and do not lead to any specific acts. Attitudes will not predict what a man will do in a crisis. According to Reuter (70) the importance of attitude lies in the fact that it determines the behavior of the person and provides the mechanism of social control.

The last problem under review here is the relation of attitudes to personality change. Murphy and Murphy (60) introduced a brief discussion of the methods for producing changes in attitudes. Park and Miller (66) dealt with changes in attitudes relating to dress and manners and the deeper changes regarding such values as religion and the Americans. Finally, Young (98) gave an interesting discussion of the rôle that attitudes play in the balance and imbalance of personality.


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  1. Figures in parentheses refer to the Bibliography at the end of the article.

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