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Attitude Functions

Betty H. La France


The functional approach to →  attitudes specifies that people hold attitudes because those attitudes serve a purpose. Functions address the psychological motivations why individuals hold their attitudes. Initial theorizing about attitude functions assumed that an attitude served a primary function (→  Functional Analysis ). Shavitt (1990) demonstrated that although certain attitude objects (e.g., air conditioners) lend themselves to one primary function, other attitude objects (e.g., American flag) are more likely to be served by multiple attitude functions. Understanding why an attitude forms offers an insight into the process of attitude change. Although several functions have been identified, the conceptualizations scholars offer are similar to the functions established by Smith et al. (1956) , Katz (1960) , and Herek (1987) . Smith et al. (1956) defined three attitude functions. The object appraisal function is conceptualized as attitudes that form as immediate evaluations of attitude objects. The purpose of this evaluation is to quickly categorize an object, so it may be acted upon as part of the categorical group to which it belongs. The social adjustment function reflects the ability of attitudes to promote or maintain relationships with desired others or to highlight differences with disliked others. Externalization , the third function, occurs when an ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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