What is an Attitude ?

Percival M Symonds
Teachers College, Columbia University.

Educators are more and more using attitudes of one sort or another to refer to the desirable outcomes of education. Seven different meanings to the term attitude may be found in the writings of educators and psychologists. (1) Attitude refers to the great organic drives more familiarly known as purposes or motives. (2) Attitude refers to muscular set or adjustment. (3) Attitude refers to generalized conduct. (4) Attitude refers to neural set or readiness to make certain reactions. (5) Attitude refers to the emotional concomitant of action. (6) Attitude refers to the feeling comitant of action. (7) Attitude refers to certain verbal responses indicating

(201) liking or disliking, acceptance or rejection. None of these refers to conduction units which yield a peculiar type of reaction that may be called an attitude. The conclusion is that attitude is not a term used to refer to a specific kind of reaction but is a name which either duplicates what is already known as habit or skill, or is a term which is used to refer to particular features-the readiness or the affective side-of reaction units. It is suggested that the term attitude be dispensed with and that in defining the objectives of education one should state the particular reactions desired either as habits or skills. Education provided in school is apt to result in verbal response, and this is particularly true in the case of those objectives which educators call attitudes. This is not to be deplored because in social life verbal acceptances or oppositions of an issue are desirable. But one should be on guard against assuming. that verbal reactions carry over into conduct reactions.


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