There are numerous factors that can alter the success or failure of an action. Even if we have a real chance to do it, doing something is not the same as doing it well: our willingness to do it affects motivation and achievement, degree or even perception of the task or situation.

We are not talking about something that is either A or B, but there are many types of attitudes , because that is what we are talking about, what they can have about it.

What are attitudes?

Before starting to evaluate different types of attitudes, it is necessary to consider what we can consider an attitude in itself.

In this sense, it receives the name of attitude to the effect of the set of beliefs and values relatively stable throughout the time in the disposition or tendency to act in certain way or to undertake some type of action. It is about a determining aspect when carrying out an action and the type of emotion that this activity or way of interacting before a specific situation or stimulus generates .

An attitude can be more or less generalised, and can refer to a wide range or even a specific type of stimulus (this is the case for example with ethnic or racial prejudices).

The attitude towards the world arises from the interaction between biological and hereditary factors (just like aptitudes or personality traits, some of which are favoured by the genetics of each subject) and environmental factors such as the subject’s lifelong learning.

They can also be actively modified by training or simply by exposure to the topic that generates the attitude, for example by associating the activity in question with positive or negative reinforcements based on experience.

Attitude functions

The presence of a certain attitude has four basic functions, as Katz proposed in 1960.

In the first place they have a utilitarian or instrumental function, in the sense that they allow to undertake and approach the fulfillment of the goals of those who have them.

Another of its functions is that of knowledge, since they allow both to process and even to selectively perceive the information available in the environment.

The third of the basic functions of attitudes is that of the expression of values, allowing the beliefs behind one’s actions to be shown.

Finally, and linked to the previous one, the function of the defense of the self stands out, linked to the preservation of self-esteem and self-concept by allowing self-affirmation and self-justification of one’s acts.

Types of attitudes

It is possible to find a great variety of types of attitudes , classified according to different criteria and without them being mutually exclusive. Among them we can observe the following.

1. According to their emotional valence

One of the possible ways to classify emotions is through their emotional value, in the sense of how they allow us to value the environment and the situation. We can find the following three types of attitudes.

1.1. Positive attitude

One of the most favourable types of attitude is the positive attitude, through which the situation or exposure to a stimulus is visualised in a way that favours positive and optimistic interpretation regardless of whether difficulties are faced, bringing the subject closer to the stimulation or action and to the search for the achievement of objectives in a healthy , confident and generally disciplined manner. It is usually contagious.

1.2. Negative attitude

Type of attitude that generates a negative and pessimistic view of reality, generally maximizing the aversive experience and giving little value or directly not seeing the positive aspects of the situation. It usually generates an avoidance of action or a complaining behaviour beyond the rational , making it difficult to achieve goals. Like the positive one, it is usually contagious.

1.3. Neutral attitude

We can consider as a neutral attitude the one in which the judgment and the thought is not tinged by an emotionality neither positive nor negative. This is one of the less frequent types of attitude and is usually characteristic of people who pretend to be impartial in their judgments.

2. Classification according to activity orientation

Another type of classification, not at odds with the previous one, refers to the way in which individual provisions generate a concrete approach or orientation towards the idea of carrying out a conduct or activity. In this sense, we can highlight the following.

2.1. Proactive attitude

A type of attitude in which priority is given to action and the autonomous and active search for improvement in the performance of the activity or an autonomous search for the solution of problems that may arise. It is a type of mentality that promotes creativity and the generation of added value , as well as the pursuit of the achievement of present objectives and even looking for new challenges to reach after that. It is highly valued in the labour market.

Reactive attitude

This type of attitude is also linked to the action and implementation of behaviors, but with a more passive and dependent on the established mentality. A reactive person will depend to a great extent on instructions and resources and will have more difficulties to face unforeseen problems, not being autonomous. Predisposes to conformism and non-action if there is nothing to force it.

3. Classification according to motivation to act

Another type of attitude that can be considered arises not so much from how we orient ourselves towards the activity but what motivates us to do so. In this sense we can find the following types of attitudes.

3.1. Interested attitude

This type of attitude implies that what the subject seeks in his action is the achievement of his own individual objectives , not taking into account or valuing in very little the needs of others.

One seeks one’s own benefit, either directly or indirectly, and this may be more or less evident. It can also seek the benefit of others, but it must always bring some kind of personal benefit (even if it is at the level of social consideration). It promotes another type of attitude that we will see later, the manipulative one .

3.2. Selfless/altruistic attitude

The subject with this type of attitude carries out his acts with the purpose of generating a benefit for others or independently of the fact that he may not generate profits or even that he may cause losses. It is unusual, since most actions generate secondary benefits to the subject himself, even at a psychic level.

4. According to the relationship with others

In addition to one’s own goals, attitudes can also be classified according to how one interacts with others.

4.1. Collaborative/integrating attitude

A very useful type of attitude, promotes interaction with others so that everyone can achieve their objectives and reach their shared and individual goals.

4.2. Manipulative attitude

This type of attitude is that of those who voluntarily and consciously use others, objectifying them in order to obtain their own objectives, favour their interests or direct the situation towards a point desired by them.

4.3. Passive attitude

It is a type of attitude derived from a negative vision of reality, in which an absence of initiative and activity is presented , not seeking to approach the action but to avoid it. On a personal level, they may come to subordinate their desires to those of others, being dependent and not defending their rights.

4.4. Aggressive attitude

A way of acting and taking situations in such a way that one defends one’s own rights independently of those of others, even ignoring them or underestimating them if they are contrary to those of one’s own subject.

4.5. Assertive attitude

A type of attitude in which the subject defends his own opinions and rights consistently, but respecting those of others and being flexible in such a way that the other is respected and space is given for negotiation.

4.6. Permissive attitude

This type of attitude is largely linked to the propensity to be flexible to the maximum extent, allowing and valuing deviations from the norm .

5. According to the type of elements used to evaluate the stimuli

Another type of attitude is linked to our way of processing reality or to the type of aspects used to assess each situation.

5.1. Emotional/emotional attitude

The emotional or emotive attitude is that of those people who tend to base themselves on the emotional and value their own and others’ affections. They tend to be more generous, romantic and affective both in their interactions and when assessing situations (sometimes even contrary to rationality).

5.2. Rational attitude

It is held by people who rely on the use of logic and reason when assessing reality, often ignoring irrational or emotional aspects.

Bibliographic references:

  • Gerd Bohner. 2002. Attitudes and Attitude Change: Social Psychology. Psychology Press.
  • Icek Ajzen. 2005. Attitudes, Personality, and Behavior. McGraw-Hill International.
  • Young, K; J.C. Flügel. “Psychology of attitudes.” Paidós SA.