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The ABC Model of Attitudes: Affect, Behavior &
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Courses / Social Science / Psychology 104: Social Psychology / Attitudes and Persuasion / The ABC Model of Attitudes:
Affect, Behavior & Cognition
Video Quiz Transcript
Taught by
Erin Long-Crowell
The snake is an attitude object eliciting fear in some
individuals
Show Timeline
Attitudes are an important topic of study for social
psychologists. In this lesson, we define attitudes and discuss
their three components as illustrated by the ABC Model:
affective, behavioral and cognitive.
Attitudes And The ABC Model
Do you believe that God exists? What's your opinion on politics? What are your favorite pizza toppings?
These questions may be seemingly unrelated, but it's likely you have strong opinions about all three of
these topics. Developing opinions and forming likes and dislikes about everything around us is part of our
daily lives. These attitudes affect the way we live and the choices we make.
Attitudes can be defined as evaluations of ideas,
events, objects, or people. Attitudes are generally
positive or negative, but they can also be
uncertain at times. For example, sometimes we
have mixed feelings about a particular issue or
person. Regardless, attitudes are an important
topic of study for social psychologists because
they help determine what we do - what we eat,
how we vote, what we do with our free time, and
so on.
Every attitude has three components that are represented in what is called the ABC model of attitudes:
A for affective, B for behavioral, and C for cognitive. Although every attitude has these three components,
any particular attitude can be based on one component more than another.
In other words, each component can also be the answer to the question: where does an attitude come
from? There are affectively-based attitudes, behaviorally-based attitudes, and cognitively-based attitudes.
Let's take a closer look at some examples.
Affective Component
First, the affective component refers to the emotional reaction one has toward an attitude object. Think of
someone - we'll name her Alice - who has ophidiophobia (a phobia of snakes). A snake is an attitude
object. Whenever Alice is exposed to a snake - whether she sees one or thinks about one - she feels
extreme anxiety and fear. This is only one component of this specific attitude, though; we will discuss the
other two components a little later in this lesson.
Now, an attitude that is stemmed from or originally created by an emotion is called an affectively-based
attitude. Attitudes about hot-button issues - such as politics, sex, and religion - tend to be affectively-
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Implicit vs. Explicit Attitudes: Definition,
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Political attitudes are typically affectively-based
Attitudes based on facts, such as computer speed,
are cognitively-based
based, as they usually come from a person's values. This type of attitude is used to express and validate
our moral belief or value systems.
Behavioral Component
The next component of an attitude is the
behavioral component, and it refers to the way
one behaves when exposed to an attitude object.
Think about Alice and her snake phobia again. We
already identified the affective component of her
attitude towards snakes - fear and anxiety. How do
you think she behaves when it comes to snakes?
Most likely, she avoids them whenever possible. If
she does see one, she probably screams or cries.
This behavior is the second component of that
particular attitude.
As for attitudes that are rooted in behavior, think again about the question: where does an attitude come
from? Sometimes, we are unsure of our feelings about a particular topic. Imagine a friend asks if you like
hummus. Since you don't regularly eat hummus and can't immediately recall what it tastes like, you think
back about the times that you have eaten it. You remember that you normally eat all of the hummus you
are given, so conclude that you must like it (or at least, that you don't dislike it). Because your attitude is
determined by observing your own behavior, this is an example of a behaviorally-based attitude.
Cognitive Component
The third and final component of an attitude is the cognitive component, and it refers to the thoughts and
beliefs one has about an attitude object. We've already determined that Alice avoids snakes and is
scared when she is exposed to them. But, what does she think about snakes? It's likely she believes that
all snakes are dangerous and gross. Beyond the physical and emotional reactions of her phobia, there is
also this cognitive component of her attitude.
An attitude that is constructed primarily through
facts instead of emotions or observations of our
behavior is a cognitively-based attitude. For
example, what is your attitude towards your
computer? It's likely based on facts and figures,
such as how fast it is and what programs you
have installed. Although this may result in an
emotion (such as frustration), your attitude isn't
based on emotion - it's based on your thoughts of
the properties of the object.
Lesson Summary
In summary, attitudes can be defined as evaluations of ideas, events, objects, or people. They are an
important topic of study for social psychologists because they affect the way we live and the choices we
make. Every attitude has three components that are represented in what is called the ABC model of
attitudes: A for affective, B for behavioral, and C for cognitive.
The affective component refers to the emotional reaction one has toward an attitude object. For
example, 'I feel scared when I think about or see a snake.' The behavioral component refers to the way
one behaves when exposed to an attitude object. For example, 'I avoid snakes and scream if I see one.'
The cognitive component refers to the thoughts and beliefs one has about an attitude object. For
example, 'I think snakes are gross and dangerous.'
Although every attitude has these three components, any particular attitude can be based more on one
component than another. In other words, each can also be the answer to the question: where does an
attitude come from? An affectively-based attitude stems from one's emotions and values. A
behaviorally-based attitude stems from one's observations of one's own behavior. A cognitively-based
attitude stems from one's thoughts about the properties of an object.
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CHAPTERS IN PSYCHOLOGY 104: SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY
1. Introduction to Social Psychology (7
lessons)
2. Research Methods and Ethics (8
lessons)
3. Social Cognition & Perception (8
lessons)
4. The Self in a Social Context (11 lessons)
5. Attitudes and Persuasion (8 lessons)
6. Group Decisions (10 lessons)
7. Attraction & Close Relationships (10
lessons)
8. Stereotypes, Prejudice, &
Discrimination (12 lessons)
9. Applied Social Psychology (15 lessons)
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