Attitudes are expressions of how much we like or dislike various things. We tend to approach and seek out to be associated with things we like, we avoid, shun or reject things we do not like.
Attitude represents our evaluations and performance towards a wide variety of objects, events, persons, and situations. The defining characteristic of attitudes is that they express evaluations along the lines of liking-disliking, pro-anti, favoring – disfavoring or positive – negative (Petty and Cacippo, 1981). By restricting the term attitude to evaluation, we distinguish attitudes from beliefs or opinions. Attitude includes certain aspects of personality as interests, appreciations and social conduct. Attitudes are learnt, they are adopted. They have aspects as directions, intensity etc. in the following section we will know how attitudes tested.
Attitudes need to be tested because our social life depends on some desirable attitudes. The successes in certain vocations also depends on some attitudes. Attitudes can be tested through various techniques. Various scaling techniques have led to the development of different types of attitude scales which provide quick and convenient measure of attitudes. However, the ‘method of equal appearing intervals’ and ‘method of summative ratings’ have been extensively used in attitude or opinion research. The attitude scales which are developed using these scaling techniques consists of a number of carefully edited and selected items called ‘statements’.
The method of ‘equal – appearing intervals’ was originally developed by Thurstone and Chave. The attitude score of an individual obtained by this method has an absolute interpretation in terms of the psychological continuum of scale value of the statements making up the sale. If this score falls in the middle range of the psychological continuum, the attitude of the individual is described as “neutral”. If it falls towards the favourable end of thecontinuum, it is described as “favourable” and if it falls towards the unfavourable ends, it is described as “unfavourable”.
In the “method” of summated ratings developed by Likert, the item sore is obtained by assigning arbitrary weights of 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 for Strongly Agree (SA), Agree (A), Undecided (U), Disagree (D) and Strongly Disagree (SD) for the statements favouring a point of view. On the other hand, the scoring weights of 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 are used for the respective responses for statements opposing this point of view. An individual’s score on a particular attitude scale is the sum of his rating on all the items.
In addition to the above two scales, there some more techniques, such as, Error Choice Technique, Free Response Tehnique, Paired Comparisons, Opinion Polling or Surveying, diaries, auto-biographic etc. used for testing attitude.
Attitude scales are used to measure the degree of positive or negative feeling associated with any slogan, person, institution, religion, political party etc. Attitude scales are also used in public- opinion surveys in order to make some important and crucial decisions. Educationists, for example, conduct opinion surveys to find out how people feel about educational issues.