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Essays About Attitude: Top 5 Examples Plus Prompts

Your attitude and demeanor affect all aspects of your life. We have found an inspiring list of essays about attitude to help you choose your own angle.

Attitude refers to a person’s way of thinking about something that affects their behavior. One can say that the proper attitude is vital to leading a fruitful life, whatever that might be for specific individuals. A “good” attitude and a positive outlook can better ascertain success, while a “bad” attitude predisposes a person to fail.

One’s attitude is founded upon knowledge, beliefs, and feelings and reflected in behavior. However, it is also shaped by your experiences.

If you want to write an essay about attitude, here are 5 essay examples and 5 prompts we have prepared to make the process easier for you. 

For help with your essays, check out our round-up of the best essay checkers .

1. Attitude changes everything – it can change your life by Kate Darbyshire Evans

2. 6 ways to banish negative thoughts by emily co, 3. our life is a reflection of our attitude. by iqra shehzadi, 4. watch your attitude: your students are counting on you by amber chandler, 5. how to develop a positive attitude in the workplace by jennifer post, 5 writing prompts on essays about attitude, 1. why is a good attitude so important, 2. how can you change your attitude for the better, 3. is a bad attitude really as detrimental as it is said to be, 4. how has your attitude affected your life, 5. does attitude reflect character.

“Attitude changes everything. Change your attitude, and you can change your life. You cannot always control what happens to you in life but you can always control how you respond to the challenges or difficult situations you encounter. The attitude you approach anything with is entirely your choice. The way you choose to respond mirrors your attitude and so by changing your attitude you can change your perspective and change your life.”

Evans talks about how genuinely present one’s attitude is in the different aspects of their life. It can, quite literally, “change your life.” Regardless of your challenges, Evans believes that a positive attitude can help you steady your course and maintain a good life. She also gives readers tips on developing a good attitude and a more positive outlook on life, including being more grateful, not taking life too seriously, and stepping out of your comfort zone. 

“It’s easy to become jaded when life gets tough, but don’t get caught up in negative thoughts because it may hinder your progress. Seeing the world as a glass half empty may lead you to give up easier and not try as hard because you may think that it’s pointless to even make an attempt.”  

In this short essay, Co lists down a few ways in which we can maintain a positive attitude by keeping negative thoughts out of our minds. These include keeping a gratitude journal, keeping good company, being around animals, and looking for new hobbies. Co believes these activities help promote positivity so that we are not as affected when life gets challenging. You might also be interested in these essays about discipline .

“Our mind has sufficient bandwidth to focus on one thought at a time. All you must do is keep it attentive on inspiring thoughts until you achieve your goal or establish a new habit. After adopting a positive attitude, I have noticed amazing changes all around. I also have noticed a major boost in my confidence and I feel more capable of taking on new projects and challenges which might have formerly been outside my comfort zone.”

Shehzadi reflects on the importance of a positive attitude. She briefly goes over its benefits, like increased confidence and reduced stress. To develop a better attitude, surround yourself with positive people. From there, you can practice kindness, patience, and tolerance. As our attitude reflects itself in how we live, a positive attitude leads to a more productive life. Training your mind to be positive is an excellent investment for your well-being, both mentally and physically. 

“It’s human nature to express ourselves, sure, but I think adults underestimate the impact our ‘attitudes’ have on our own children and students. As we deal with the new variants, head back to school and face another uncertain school year, our attitudes are going to shape the experiences of our students. Why not make a concerted, intentional effort to be the one place where your students can let their guard down and take a break from the attitudes that are everywhere?”

Chandler, an educator, discusses the importance of the right attitude in an environment with kids and the importance of setting a good example. She believes that an authentic, positive attitude helps students thrive, but she also stresses the importance of empathy. To her, the ideal attitude is positive, practical, humble, and empathetic. She wants adults to be more mindful of their attitude, especially in front of kids- they may have certain mannerisms or habits that children will quickly pick up on.

“Not everyone is going to be positive all the time. That’s an unrealistic idea. But even when people are down and at their most negative, there are things one can do to deal with those emotions and actions around the office to keep them from impacting others. Even if it’s just one co-worker causing an issue, take matters into your own hands for your own happiness at work.”

Post’s essay elaborates on the importance of having an attitude suited to your work. Like in Co’s essay, Post discusses certain things we can do to improve our attitude and make us more productive in the workplace. Most significantly, she says that simply saying “yes” more can help develop a better attitude. Even if we cannot always be positive, Post wants us to maximize the positivity in every situation, to look at it from a “glass half full” perspective.

Everyone talks about how the proper attitude helps you go far in life, but how does this work? In your essay, you can explore what makes attitude so vital. You can find examples where people have improved their attitude and attribute it to real-life benefits such as happiness or success. You can also check out these essays about character .

Many people often talk about fixing their attitude and getting out of bad habits. You can use the sample essays to decide which methods you can adopt to improve your attitude. Keep your selection short, simple, and meaningful. Do you think they could be successfully applied to anyone?

Would you say that a good attitude is as important as people say it is? And does a bad attitude indeed dictates one’s fortune or misfortune? Based on research and your own beliefs, decide on your position and provide evidence to support your argument.

Write about something as simple as the effects of your attitude on your life. How does your outlook on life affect you? Do you feel that your attitude is helping you live your life well? Do you think there is anything that you can change to optimize your daily life? Try and provide examples of when a different attitude may have produced a different outcome in a scenario.

Essays about attitude: Does attitude reflect character?

Often people are told they have a bad attitude and are misjudged for it. However, is their attitude a true reflection of their character or simply masking a hidden agenda? Think of examples when people may be misjudged by their attitude, or perhaps their behavior was misconstrued, and discuss how difficult it is to remedy this after the event. There are numerous examples of this in literature that you can reference. If you cannot think of a real-life example pick one from an appropriate piece and discuss the character’s attitude, and others’ perceptions of them.

Tip: If writing an essay sounds like a lot of work, simplify it. Write a simple 5 paragraph essay instead.

essay attitude meaning

Martin is an avid writer specializing in editing and proofreading. He also enjoys literary analysis and writing about food and travel.

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essay attitude meaning

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Attitude is the mental state of individuals, which tends to act or respond or is ready to respond for or against objects, situations, etc. with which their vested feelings or effect, interest, liking, desire and so on are directly or indirectly linked or associated.During the course of development the person acquires tendencies to respond to objects. These learned cognitive mechanisms are called attitudes.

Attitude is an enduring evaluation—positive or negative—of people, objects, and ideas. Thus, attitudes are evaluative statements or judgments concerning objects, people, or events. Attitude has three components—cognition, affection, and behaviour of people. A particular attitude of a person can be based on one component or the other.

Cognitive-based attitude is primarily based on beliefs and properties of an attitudinal object. Cognitive component of an attitude is the opinion or belief segment of an attitude. Cognitive dissonance theory helps us to trace any incompatibility between two or more attitudes or between behaviour and attitudes.

Affection-based attitude stems from people’s feelings (e.g., attitudes towards political candidates). Affective component is the emotion or feeling segment of an attitude. Behaviour-based attitude is based on the self-perception of one’s own behaviour when the initial attitude is weak or ambiguous.

Behavioural component of an attitude is an intention to behave in a certain way towards someone or something. The affection-behaviour (A- B) relationship acts as moderating variables (i.e., importance, specificity, accessibility, social pressures, and direct experience). The self-perception theory uses attitudes after the event, to make sense out of an action taken. For organizational behaviour, the people’s attitude is especially significant, as job satisfaction, job involvement, and organizational commitment largely stem from an individual employee’s attitude.

Job satisfaction refers to the general attitude of employees towards their job. Job involvement helps in psychological identification of people with their job, while organizational commitment is the degree to which an employee identifies with a particular organization and its goals, and wishes to maintain membership in the organization. In an organization, people seek consistency among their attitudes and seek to reconcile with divergent attitudes in order to appear rational and consistent.

An attitudinal change in a person takes place with change in the behaviour. The cognitive dissonance theory facilitates change of attitude through behavioural reinforcement. Persuasive communication and focus on a particular issue facilitate such change of attitude.

Haviland et al. proposed the Yale Attitude Change Model, which suggests study of conditions under which people are most likely to change their attitudes. (The Yale Attitude Change Model focuses on effectiveness of persuasive communication, which depends on the credibility and attractiveness of the speakers.)

These conditions are source of communication (i.e., credible speaker), nature of communication, and the nature of audience, etc. Communication between a doctor and a patient on a medical issue (communication source), communication that does not intend to influence people (nature of communication), and persuasive communication to distract an audience within the age group of 18-25 are likely to yield better results in attitudinal changes.

Elaboration-likelihood model (Petty and Cacioppo 1981), on the other hand, shows that people change their attitudes in two ways—concept (central route to persuasion) and conditions for central route to persuasion (motivation). Central route to persuasion motivates people to pay attention to the facts in a communicated message. When facts are logical and compelling, attitudinal changes take place promptly.

Therefore, the contents of the messages are especially important. On the contrary, when facts are not compelling, people get swayed only by peripheral cues such as mood, emotion, attractiveness of the speaker, etc. Such peripheral cues may facilitate to enhance motivation but not the attitudinal changes. The conditions for central route to persuasion are reinforcing motivation by focusing on personal relevance so that people can pay attention to the arguments.

Emotion’s influence on attitude changes depends on the routes to persuasion. Emotion or mood manipulation is only effective for peripheral route to persuasion. People pay more attention to a speech when the argument is strong and effective in changing their attitudes. People in a sad mood take the central route to persuasion, while in a happy mood they take the peripheral route to persuasion.

Therefore, attitudinal changes take place when people take the central route to persuasion, such as fear, greatness of harm, etc., which give better results in inducing attitudinal changes. Therefore, managers should use the central route to persuasion, duly inducing the arousal of fear and combining it with a persuasive and appealing message.

In managing organizational behaviour, like personality and emotional intelligence, an individual employee also differs in terms of attitude. Eagly and Chaiken (1993) defined attitude as ‘a psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favour or dis-favour’. Yet, from another perspective, attitude is defined as the way we reflect our values. For example, innate value systems of employees may make them optimistic, always looking at the brighter side and working smartly to get a positive outcome.

They not only nurture such value-laden attitudes in their own behaviour but also view others from the same perspective. The concept of attitude has a rich history (Fleming 1967). Once used to describe the spatial orientation of physical objects such as statues, the concept has evolved to refer to a person’s mental and neural state of readiness (Allport 1935).

The function of attitudes is to guide the formation of behavioural intentions. Attitude formation and change is viewed as a process of deliberative evaluation and belief updating. Attitudes are thought to impact behaviour indirectly via behavioural intentions.

Definition and Concepts :

Attitude is the mental state of individuals, which tends to act or respond or is ready to respond for or against objects, situations, etc. with which their vested feelings or effect, interest, liking, desire and so on are directly or indirectly linked or associated. During the course of development the person acquires tendencies to respond to objects. These learned cognitive mechanisms are called attitudes. Changes in knowledge are followed by the change in attitudes.

Attitudes are different from knowledge in the sense that attitudes are emotion-laden. Knowledge reinforces attitudes and reinforced attitudes in the long run reinforce individual and group behaviour. Hence, attitude is neither behaviour nor cause of behaviour but it relates to an intervening pre­disposition or a frame of reference that influences the behaviour of an individual.

When the interest, feeling, etc. of individuals are not connected in any way with the object or situation, their responses (towards the said object or situation) will then constitute their opinions and not their attitudes. In many research works, especially by CIPD, UK, employee attitudes and commitments were found to be strongly associated with business perfor­mance, and managers saw employee voice as contributing to performance via better employee contributions and productivity gains.

The informal cli­mate of involvement and consultation appears to be more strongly associated with employee satisfaction and commitment than the collective machinery for negotiation and consultation. Mechanisms in use for employee voice in­clude two-way communications, project teams, and joint consultation, but there is a growing interest in the electronic media, attitude surveys, and part­nership schemes.

The major constraints on employee voice are lack of skills and enthusiasm by managers and employees. The psychological contract model, validated by successive employee attitude surveys, suggests that HR practices strongly affect the way people feel about their work.

Employees’ trust in the organization, their sense of being fairly treated, and the extent to which they believe their employer has delivered on the implicit deal between them affects their attitudes towards job satisfaction, commitment, work-life balance, and the state of employee relations. Attitude essentially stems from three underlying components: the cognitive component, affective component, and behavioural component.

Social psychologists differentiate between these attitudinal components as under:

1. Cognitive component of an attitude is the opinion or belief segment of an attitude. Attitudinal responses of people, which stem from cognitive component, mainly reflect expression of beliefs (e.g., expectancy-value judgments) and nonverbal reactions.

2. Affective component is the emotion or feeling segment of an attitude, and it manifests in verbal expressions of feelings and physiological changes in the organism (e.g., increase of arousal).

3. Behavioural component of an attitude is an intention to behave in a cer­tain way towards someone or something. It is reflected through behavioural intentions and actions.

Attitude theory and research deals with the structure, function, formation, and change of attitudes, and is also concerned with the relationship between attitudes and behaviour. For example, the model of reasoned action (Fishbein and Ajzen 1975) provides a comprehensive approach to all of these aspects.

In this model, the internal structure of an attitude is described in terms of beliefs (expectations), which relate the attitude object (a behavioural alternative) to evaluated attributes. The function of attitudes is to guide the formation of behavioural intentions.

Attitude formation and change is viewed as a process of deliberative evaluation and belief updating. Attitudes are thought to impact behaviour indirectly via behavioural intentions. More recent approaches, however, assume that a deliberative calculation of expectancy and values is not a necessary condition for either intention formation or attitude formation and change.

According to a study conducted by Zajonc in 1980, there is ample evidence to suggest that liking of an attitude object can be enhanced simply by increasing its presentation frequency. Furthermore, attitudes, if they are frequently activated from memory, tend to become activated automatically in the presence of the attitude object and then directly impact behavioural decisions (Fazio 1990).

Related Articles:

  • Attitude and Social Cognition (FAQ)
  • Attitude: Nature, Components and Formation

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What Is Attitude? Definition, Usage, and Literary Examples

Attitude definition.

Attitude  (ADD-ih-tood) is the way someone thinks or feels about something, which is usually apparent in their behavior. In literature, attitude refers to the way an author or character thinks or feels about the subject. It’s expressed through the author’s word choice, chosen  point of view ,  tone ,  voice , and  sentence  structure.

Different Types of Attitude

Most forms of attitude fall into two categories: objective and subjective.

Objective attitude focuses on facts instead of emotions. An objective text will usually consist of longer sentences, higher-level vocabulary, fewer descriptive words, and statistics or evidence to back the claim. They’re often written in third-person point of view, which distances the writer from the subject.

Subjective attitude focuses on emotions. The text is more personal, and there’s more descriptive language. Its tone is more casual, so pieces with subjective attitudes often employ  vernacular ,  colloquialisms , and slang. These works are more likely to be written in first person.

Consider these short passages:

  • “Disneyland is one of the most popular theme park destinations in the world. Thousands of customers purchase annual passes, which saves them money and allows them to visit the park frequently and enjoy the attractions.”
  • “I think Disneyland is overdone. Yeah, lots of people like it, but it doesn’t live up to the hype. Practically everyone I know has an annual pass, but I think it’s a waste of time to go there every week just to go on the same rides.”

The second example has a subjective attitude about Disneyland, evident through the first-person point of view, descriptive words, and casual tone. Readers can clearly tell what the writer thinks about the subject, whereas the first example states facts without providing an opinion on the theme park.

Attitude vs. Perspective

Perspective  is how characters feel and understand what’s happening in the story based on their unique experiences. A work’s perspective helps determine its attitude. For example, if a single mom was being fired from her job, the perspective on the event would depend on who’s telling it—the mom or her boss. If the mom is the narrator, her perspective will be based on elements like how many children she has, how quickly she can find another job, and whether she has a strong support system to help her in the interim. As such, her attitude will likely be subjective and colored with shock or worry. The boss, on the other hand, may have a more objective attitude on the matter; if his decision comes from the company’s need to lay off a certain number of employees, his perspective is focused on the company’s well-being, not the employees’.

Why Writers Use Attitude

Every piece of writing has an attitude. A textbook or scientific research paper will most likely have objective attitudes because they’re communicating facts and data. This gives the reader confidence that they’re getting reliable, unbiased information.

In fiction, attitude has a different purpose. It helps the reader understand how the author or characters feel. Without attitude, the reader would be lost and unable to determine the significance of the story’s events. Because of this, attitude is similar to tone, as both help the reader figure out how they should feel about the story.

Examples of Attitude in Literature

1. Maya Angelou,  Still I Rise

This  poem , in the final section of Angelou’s book,  And Still I Rise , is a testament to the African American life experience and the need to rise above tragedy:

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Words like  broken ,  teardrops ,  soulful cries ,  cut , and  kill  suggest sorrow and defeat, but the final line, “But still, like air, I’ll rise” changes the poem’s whole attitude. By saying that, in spite of all the hardship, she will rise above it all, Angelou gives the poem a positive attitude built on confidence and optimism.

2. Laurie R. King,  The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

A young girl names Mary Russell happens upon the retired Sherlock Holmes on a hillside. To showcase her wit and perspective, Mary tells him her opinion on bees: 

From what I know of them they are mindless creatures, little more than a tool for putting fruit on trees. The females do all the work; the males do…well, they do little. […] Bees are great workers, it is true, but does not the production of each bee’s total lifetime amount to a single dessert-spoonful of honey? Each hive puts up with having hundreds of thousands of bees stolen regularly, to be spread on toast and formed into candles, instead of declaring war or going on strike as any sensible, self-respecting race would do. A bit too close to the human race for my taste .

Though this passage has signs of an objective attitude, like the complex syntax and factual data, Mary clearly gives her opinion with words like  mindless  and  self-respecting . Readers learn that she’s intelligent, a feminist, and believes the human race is malleable and overall unintelligent. So, ultimately, her attitude is subjective, conveyed by her disgusted, haughty tone.

Further Resources on Attitude

Story in Literary Fiction  provides questions authors must ask themselves to determine their attitude (as well as the characters’ attitudes) about the story.

Daniel Droba’s “ The Nature of Attitude ” explores the sociological and psychological implications of attitude.

Related Terms

  • Perspective

essay attitude meaning

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6.1 Purpose, Audience, Tone, and Content

Learning objectives.

  • Identify the four common academic purposes.
  • Identify audience, tone, and content.
  • Apply purpose, audience, tone, and content to a specific assignment.

Imagine reading one long block of text, with each idea blurring into the next. Even if you are reading a thrilling novel or an interesting news article, you will likely lose interest in what the author has to say very quickly. During the writing process, it is helpful to position yourself as a reader. Ask yourself whether you can focus easily on each point you make. One technique that effective writers use is to begin a fresh paragraph for each new idea they introduce.

Paragraphs separate ideas into logical, manageable chunks. One paragraph focuses on only one main idea and presents coherent sentences to support that one point. Because all the sentences in one paragraph support the same point, a paragraph may stand on its own. To create longer assignments and to discuss more than one point, writers group together paragraphs.

Three elements shape the content of each paragraph:

  • Purpose . The reason the writer composes the paragraph.
  • Tone . The attitude the writer conveys about the paragraph’s subject.
  • Audience . The individual or group whom the writer intends to address.

Figure 6.1 Purpose, Audience, Tone, and Content Triangle

Purpose, Audience, Tone, and Content Triangle

The assignment’s purpose, audience, and tone dictate what the paragraph covers and how it will support one main point. This section covers how purpose, audience, and tone affect reading and writing paragraphs.

Identifying Common Academic Purposes

The purpose for a piece of writing identifies the reason you write a particular document. Basically, the purpose of a piece of writing answers the question “Why?” For example, why write a play? To entertain a packed theater. Why write instructions to the babysitter? To inform him or her of your schedule and rules. Why write a letter to your congressman? To persuade him to address your community’s needs.

In academic settings, the reasons for writing fulfill four main purposes: to summarize, to analyze, to synthesize, and to evaluate. You will encounter these four purposes not only as you read for your classes but also as you read for work or pleasure. Because reading and writing work together, your writing skills will improve as you read. To learn more about reading in the writing process, see Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” .

Eventually, your instructors will ask you to complete assignments specifically designed to meet one of the four purposes. As you will see, the purpose for writing will guide you through each part of the paper, helping you make decisions about content and style. For now, identifying these purposes by reading paragraphs will prepare you to write individual paragraphs and to build longer assignments.

Summary Paragraphs

A summary shrinks a large amount of information into only the essentials. You probably summarize events, books, and movies daily. Think about the last blockbuster movie you saw or the last novel you read. Chances are, at some point in a casual conversation with a friend, coworker, or classmate, you compressed all the action in a two-hour film or in a two-hundred-page book into a brief description of the major plot movements. While in conversation, you probably described the major highlights, or the main points in just a few sentences, using your own vocabulary and manner of speaking.

Similarly, a summary paragraph condenses a long piece of writing into a smaller paragraph by extracting only the vital information. A summary uses only the writer’s own words. Like the summary’s purpose in daily conversation, the purpose of an academic summary paragraph is to maintain all the essential information from a longer document. Although shorter than the original piece of writing, a summary should still communicate all the key points and key support. In other words, summary paragraphs should be succinct and to the point.

A mock paper with three paragraphs

A summary of the report should present all the main points and supporting details in brief. Read the following summary of the report written by a student:

The mock paper continued

Notice how the summary retains the key points made by the writers of the original report but omits most of the statistical data. Summaries need not contain all the specific facts and figures in the original document; they provide only an overview of the essential information.

Analysis Paragraphs

An analysis separates complex materials in their different parts and studies how the parts relate to one another. The analysis of simple table salt, for example, would require a deconstruction of its parts—the elements sodium (Na) and chloride (Cl). Then, scientists would study how the two elements interact to create the compound NaCl, or sodium chloride, which is also called simple table salt.

Analysis is not limited to the sciences, of course. An analysis paragraph in academic writing fulfills the same purpose. Instead of deconstructing compounds, academic analysis paragraphs typically deconstruct documents. An analysis takes apart a primary source (an essay, a book, an article, etc.) point by point. It communicates the main points of the document by examining individual points and identifying how the points relate to one another.

Take a look at a student’s analysis of the journal report.

Take a look at a student's analysis of the journal report

Notice how the analysis does not simply repeat information from the original report, but considers how the points within the report relate to one another. By doing this, the student uncovers a discrepancy between the points that are backed up by statistics and those that require additional information. Analyzing a document involves a close examination of each of the individual parts and how they work together.

Synthesis Paragraphs

A synthesis combines two or more items to create an entirely new item. Consider the electronic musical instrument aptly named the synthesizer. It looks like a simple keyboard but displays a dashboard of switches, buttons, and levers. With the flip of a few switches, a musician may combine the distinct sounds of a piano, a flute, or a guitar—or any other combination of instruments—to create a new sound. The purpose of the synthesizer is to blend together the notes from individual instruments to form new, unique notes.

The purpose of an academic synthesis is to blend individual documents into a new document. An academic synthesis paragraph considers the main points from one or more pieces of writing and links the main points together to create a new point, one not replicated in either document.

Take a look at a student’s synthesis of several sources about underage drinking.

A student's synthesis of several sources about underage drinking

Notice how the synthesis paragraphs consider each source and use information from each to create a new thesis. A good synthesis does not repeat information; the writer uses a variety of sources to create a new idea.

Evaluation Paragraphs

An evaluation judges the value of something and determines its worth. Evaluations in everyday experiences are often not only dictated by set standards but also influenced by opinion and prior knowledge. For example, at work, a supervisor may complete an employee evaluation by judging his subordinate’s performance based on the company’s goals. If the company focuses on improving communication, the supervisor will rate the employee’s customer service according to a standard scale. However, the evaluation still depends on the supervisor’s opinion and prior experience with the employee. The purpose of the evaluation is to determine how well the employee performs at his or her job.

An academic evaluation communicates your opinion, and its justifications, about a document or a topic of discussion. Evaluations are influenced by your reading of the document, your prior knowledge, and your prior experience with the topic or issue. Because an evaluation incorporates your point of view and reasons for your point of view, it typically requires more critical thinking and a combination of summary, analysis, and synthesis skills. Thus evaluation paragraphs often follow summary, analysis, and synthesis paragraphs. Read a student’s evaluation paragraph.

A student's evaluation paragraph

Notice how the paragraph incorporates the student’s personal judgment within the evaluation. Evaluating a document requires prior knowledge that is often based on additional research.

When reviewing directions for assignments, look for the verbs summarize , analyze , synthesize , or evaluate . Instructors often use these words to clearly indicate the assignment’s purpose. These words will cue you on how to complete the assignment because you will know its exact purpose.

Read the following paragraphs about four films and then identify the purpose of each paragraph.

  • This film could easily have been cut down to less than two hours. By the final scene, I noticed that most of my fellow moviegoers were snoozing in their seats and were barely paying attention to what was happening on screen. Although the director sticks diligently to the book, he tries too hard to cram in all the action, which is just too ambitious for such a detail-oriented story. If you want my advice, read the book and give the movie a miss.
  • During the opening scene, we learn that the character Laura is adopted and that she has spent the past three years desperately trying to track down her real parents. Having exhausted all the usual options—adoption agencies, online searches, family trees, and so on—she is on the verge of giving up when she meets a stranger on a bus. The chance encounter leads to a complicated chain of events that ultimately result in Laura getting her lifelong wish. But is it really what she wants? Throughout the rest of the film, Laura discovers that sometimes the past is best left where it belongs.
  • To create the feeling of being gripped in a vice, the director, May Lee, uses a variety of elements to gradually increase the tension. The creepy, haunting melody that subtly enhances the earlier scenes becomes ever more insistent, rising to a disturbing crescendo toward the end of the movie. The desperation of the actors, combined with the claustrophobic atmosphere and tight camera angles create a realistic firestorm, from which there is little hope of escape. Walking out of the theater at the end feels like staggering out of a Roman dungeon.
  • The scene in which Campbell and his fellow prisoners assist the guards in shutting down the riot immediately strikes the viewer as unrealistic. Based on the recent reports on prison riots in both Detroit and California, it seems highly unlikely that a posse of hardened criminals will intentionally help their captors at the risk of inciting future revenge from other inmates. Instead, both news reports and psychological studies indicate that prisoners who do not actively participate in a riot will go back to their cells and avoid conflict altogether. Examples of this lack of attention to detail occur throughout the film, making it almost unbearable to watch.

Collaboration

Share with a classmate and compare your answers.

Writing at Work

Thinking about the purpose of writing a report in the workplace can help focus and structure the document. A summary should provide colleagues with a factual overview of your findings without going into too much specific detail. In contrast, an evaluation should include your personal opinion, along with supporting evidence, research, or examples to back it up. Listen for words such as summarize , analyze , synthesize , or evaluate when your boss asks you to complete a report to help determine a purpose for writing.

Consider the essay most recently assigned to you. Identify the most effective academic purpose for the assignment.

My assignment: ____________________________________________

My purpose: ____________________________________________

Identifying the Audience

Imagine you must give a presentation to a group of executives in an office. Weeks before the big day, you spend time creating and rehearsing the presentation. You must make important, careful decisions not only about the content but also about your delivery. Will the presentation require technology to project figures and charts? Should the presentation define important words, or will the executives already know the terms? Should you wear your suit and dress shirt? The answers to these questions will help you develop an appropriate relationship with your audience, making them more receptive to your message.

Now imagine you must explain the same business concepts from your presentation to a group of high school students. Those important questions you previously answered may now require different answers. The figures and charts may be too sophisticated, and the terms will certainly require definitions. You may even reconsider your outfit and sport a more casual look. Because the audience has shifted, your presentation and delivery will shift as well to create a new relationship with the new audience.

In these two situations, the audience—the individuals who will watch and listen to the presentation—plays a role in the development of presentation. As you prepare the presentation, you visualize the audience to anticipate their expectations and reactions. What you imagine affects the information you choose to present and how you will present it. Then, during the presentation, you meet the audience in person and discover immediately how well you perform.

Although the audience for writing assignments—your readers—may not appear in person, they play an equally vital role. Even in everyday writing activities, you identify your readers’ characteristics, interests, and expectations before making decisions about what you write. In fact, thinking about audience has become so common that you may not even detect the audience-driven decisions.

For example, you update your status on a social networking site with the awareness of who will digitally follow the post. If you want to brag about a good grade, you may write the post to please family members. If you want to describe a funny moment, you may write with your friends’ senses of humor in mind. Even at work, you send e-mails with an awareness of an unintended receiver who could intercept the message.

In other words, being aware of “invisible” readers is a skill you most likely already possess and one you rely on every day. Consider the following paragraphs. Which one would the author send to her parents? Which one would she send to her best friend?

Last Saturday, I volunteered at a local hospital. The visit was fun and rewarding. I even learned how to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR. Unfortunately, I think caught a cold from one of the patients. This week, I will rest in bed and drink plenty of clear fluids. I hope I am well by next Saturday to volunteer again.

OMG! You won’t believe this! My advisor forced me to do my community service hours at this hospital all weekend! We learned CPR but we did it on dummies, not even real peeps. And some kid sneezed on me and got me sick! I was so bored and sniffling all weekend; I hope I don’t have to go back next week. I def do NOT want to miss the basketball tournament!

Most likely, you matched each paragraph to its intended audience with little hesitation. Because each paragraph reveals the author’s relationship with her intended readers, you can identify the audience fairly quickly. When writing your own paragraphs, you must engage with your audience to build an appropriate relationship given your subject. Imagining your readers during each stage of the writing process will help you make decisions about your writing. Ultimately, the people you visualize will affect what and how you write.

While giving a speech, you may articulate an inspiring or critical message, but if you left your hair a mess and laced up mismatched shoes, your audience would not take you seriously. They may be too distracted by your appearance to listen to your words.

Similarly, grammar and sentence structure serve as the appearance of a piece of writing. Polishing your work using correct grammar will impress your readers and allow them to focus on what you have to say.

Because focusing on audience will enhance your writing, your process, and your finished product, you must consider the specific traits of your audience members. Use your imagination to anticipate the readers’ demographics, education, prior knowledge, and expectations.

  • Demographics. These measure important data about a group of people, such as their age range, their ethnicity, their religious beliefs, or their gender. Certain topics and assignments will require these kinds of considerations about your audience. For other topics and assignments, these measurements may not influence your writing in the end. Regardless, it is important to consider demographics when you begin to think about your purpose for writing.
  • Education. Education considers the audience’s level of schooling. If audience members have earned a doctorate degree, for example, you may need to elevate your style and use more formal language. Or, if audience members are still in college, you could write in a more relaxed style. An audience member’s major or emphasis may also dictate your writing.
  • Prior knowledge. This refers to what the audience already knows about your topic. If your readers have studied certain topics, they may already know some terms and concepts related to the topic. You may decide whether to define terms and explain concepts based on your audience’s prior knowledge. Although you cannot peer inside the brains of your readers to discover their knowledge, you can make reasonable assumptions. For instance, a nursing major would presumably know more about health-related topics than a business major would.
  • Expectations. These indicate what readers will look for while reading your assignment. Readers may expect consistencies in the assignment’s appearance, such as correct grammar and traditional formatting like double-spaced lines and legible font. Readers may also have content-based expectations given the assignment’s purpose and organization. In an essay titled “The Economics of Enlightenment: The Effects of Rising Tuition,” for example, audience members may expect to read about the economic repercussions of college tuition costs.

On your own sheet of paper, generate a list of characteristics under each category for each audience. This list will help you later when you read about tone and content.

1. Your classmates

  • Demographics ____________________________________________
  • Education ____________________________________________
  • Prior knowledge ____________________________________________
  • Expectations ____________________________________________

2. Your instructor

3. The head of your academic department

4. Now think about your next writing assignment. Identify the purpose (you may use the same purpose listed in Note 6.12 “Exercise 2” ), and then identify the audience. Create a list of characteristics under each category.

My audience: ____________________________________________

Please share with a classmate and compare your answers.

Keep in mind that as your topic shifts in the writing process, your audience may also shift. For more information about the writing process, see Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” .

Also, remember that decisions about style depend on audience, purpose, and content. Identifying your audience’s demographics, education, prior knowledge, and expectations will affect how you write, but purpose and content play an equally important role. The next subsection covers how to select an appropriate tone to match the audience and purpose.

Selecting an Appropriate Tone

Tone identifies a speaker’s attitude toward a subject or another person. You may pick up a person’s tone of voice fairly easily in conversation. A friend who tells you about her weekend may speak excitedly about a fun skiing trip. An instructor who means business may speak in a low, slow voice to emphasize her serious mood. Or, a coworker who needs to let off some steam after a long meeting may crack a sarcastic joke.

Just as speakers transmit emotion through voice, writers can transmit through writing a range of attitudes, from excited and humorous to somber and critical. These emotions create connections among the audience, the author, and the subject, ultimately building a relationship between the audience and the text. To stimulate these connections, writers intimate their attitudes and feelings with useful devices, such as sentence structure, word choice, punctuation, and formal or informal language. Keep in mind that the writer’s attitude should always appropriately match the audience and the purpose.

Read the following paragraph and consider the writer’s tone. How would you describe the writer’s attitude toward wildlife conservation?

Many species of plants and animals are disappearing right before our eyes. If we don’t act fast, it might be too late to save them. Human activities, including pollution, deforestation, hunting, and overpopulation, are devastating the natural environment. Without our help, many species will not survive long enough for our children to see them in the wild. Take the tiger, for example. Today, tigers occupy just 7 percent of their historical range, and many local populations are already extinct. Hunted for their beautiful pelt and other body parts, the tiger population has plummeted from one hundred thousand in 1920 to just a few thousand. Contact your local wildlife conservation society today to find out how you can stop this terrible destruction.

Think about the assignment and purpose you selected in Note 6.12 “Exercise 2” , and the audience you selected in Note 6.16 “Exercise 3” . Now, identify the tone you would use in the assignment.

My tone: ____________________________________________

Choosing Appropriate, Interesting Content

Content refers to all the written substance in a document. After selecting an audience and a purpose, you must choose what information will make it to the page. Content may consist of examples, statistics, facts, anecdotes, testimonies, and observations, but no matter the type, the information must be appropriate and interesting for the audience and purpose. An essay written for third graders that summarizes the legislative process, for example, would have to contain succinct and simple content.

Content is also shaped by tone. When the tone matches the content, the audience will be more engaged, and you will build a stronger relationship with your readers. Consider that audience of third graders. You would choose simple content that the audience will easily understand, and you would express that content through an enthusiastic tone. The same considerations apply to all audiences and purposes.

Match the content in the box to the appropriate audience and purpose. On your own sheet of paper, write the correct letter next to the number.

  • Whereas economist Holmes contends that the financial crisis is far from over, the presidential advisor Jones points out that it is vital to catch the first wave of opportunity to increase market share. We can use elements of both experts’ visions. Let me explain how.
  • In 2000, foreign money flowed into the United States, contributing to easy credit conditions. People bought larger houses than they could afford, eventually defaulting on their loans as interest rates rose.
  • The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, known by most of us as the humungous government bailout, caused mixed reactions. Although supported by many political leaders, the statute provoked outrage among grassroots groups. In their opinion, the government was actually rewarding banks for their appalling behavior.

Audience: An instructor

Purpose: To analyze the reasons behind the 2007 financial crisis

Content: ____________________________________________

Audience: Classmates

Purpose: To summarize the effects of the $700 billion government bailout

Audience: An employer

Purpose: To synthesize two articles on preparing businesses for economic recovery

Using the assignment, purpose, audience, and tone from Note 6.18 “Exercise 4” , generate a list of content ideas. Remember that content consists of examples, statistics, facts, anecdotes, testimonies, and observations.

My content ideas: ____________________________________________

Key Takeaways

  • Paragraphs separate ideas into logical, manageable chunks of information.
  • The content of each paragraph and document is shaped by purpose, audience, and tone.
  • The four common academic purposes are to summarize, to analyze, to synthesize, and to evaluate.
  • Identifying the audience’s demographics, education, prior knowledge, and expectations will affect how and what you write.
  • Devices such as sentence structure, word choice, punctuation, and formal or informal language communicate tone and create a relationship between the writer and his or her audience.
  • Content may consist of examples, statistics, facts, anecdotes, testimonies, and observations. All content must be appropriate and interesting for the audience, purpose and tone.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

essay attitude meaning

Tone Definition

What is tone? Here’s a quick and simple definition:

The tone of a piece of writing is its general character or attitude, which might be cheerful or depressive, sarcastic or sincere, comical or mournful, praising or critical, and so on. For instance, an editorial in a newspaper that described its subject as "not even having the guts to do the job himself," has a tone that is both informal and critical.

Some additional key details about tone:

  • All pieces of writing, even letters and official documents, have a tone. A neutral, official tone is still a tone.
  • The tone of a piece of writing may change over the course of a text to produce different effects.
  • Tone and mood are not the same. Tone has to do with the attitude of the author or the person speaking, whereas mood is how the work makes the reader feel.
  • The author's intentions, emotions, and personal ideas about the theme or subject matter often reveal themselves in the piece's tone.

How to Pronounce Tone

Here's how to pronounce tone:  tohn

Tone Explained

It is always possible to describe the way that a writer uses language. Therefore, every piece of writing has a tone. Even when a writer's aim is to use completely neutral language—as is often the case in scientific papers or investigative journalism—the language still sounds a certain way, whether it's "scientific," "journalistic," "formal," "professional," or even "mechanical." The way a writer makes use of tone can tell you a lot about the writer's attitude or relationship toward their subject matter and what they are trying to say about it, as well as the effect they are trying to create for their reader.

Here's just a partial list of words that are commonly used to talk about tone, with examples of the types of writing they might be used to describe:

  • A particularly stirring campaign speech
  • The Declaration of Independence
  • Maya Angelou's famous poem, "Still I Rise"
  • A sappy love poem
  • An over-the-top television sermon
  • A wordy letter of apology
  • A know-it-all at a cocktail party
  • The comments section of almost any YouTube video
  • A speech made by a boastful or proud character
  • A speech at a funeral
  • A murder mystery
  • A novel about someone's struggles with depression
  • An article in the newspaper The Onion
  • A work of  parody  like Don Quixote
  • A  satire , like many skits on SNL
  • A stand-up comedy routine
  • A play like Shakespeare's As You Like It
  • A TV show like Seinfeld or Friends
  • A Dr. Seuss Book
  • A wedding speech
  • A friendly joke
  • An essay you'd write for school
  • A dense work of political theory
  • An article analyzing a political event
  • A letter from the IRS
  • A scientific paper
  • Instructions on how to assemble furniture

The tone of a piece of writing depends on a confluence of different factors, including:

  • The connotation  of the words used: Are they positive or negative? What associations do the words bring to mind?
  • The diction , or word choice: Are there lots of thou's and thine's? Does the writer use slang? Are the words long and technical, or short and childish?
  • The use of figurative language :  Is there a lot of metaphor, hyperbole, or alliteration? Does the language sound lofty and poetic?
  • The mood : How does the language make you feel as the reader? This can reveal a lot about the tone of the piece.

All of these things work together to determine the tone of a piece of writing.

The Difference Between Tone and Mood

The words "tone" and " mood " are often used interchangeably, but the two terms actually have different meanings.

  • Tone is the attitude or general character of a piece of writing and is often related to the attitude of the writer or speaker.
  • Mood refers specifically to the effect a piece of writing has on the reader .  Mood is how a piece of writing makes you feel. 

While tone and mood are distinct literary devices, they are often closely related. For example, it wouldn't be unusual for a poem with a somber tone to also have a somber mood—i.e., to make the reader feel somber as well. And as we explained above, a journalist who makes a jab at a politician might be conveying how they feel about their subject (using a critical tone) while also trying to influence their readers to feel similarly—i.e., to create a  mood of anger or outrage.

Tone Examples

Since every text has a tone, there are essentially endless examples of tone. The examples below illustrate different types of tone. 

Tone in U.A. Fanthorpe's "Not my Best Side"

The poem "Not my Best Side" by U.A. Fanthorpe has a lighthearted and ironic   tone. The poem concerns the painting  Saint George and the Dragon  by Paolo Uccello, and pokes fun at the way the various characters are portrayed in the painting—the dragon, the maiden, and the knight who is supposedly rescuing her. Fanthorpe creates a contrast between her modern, colloquial way of speaking and the medieval subject matter of her poem. Using colloquial words like "sexy" and phrases like "if you know what I mean," Fanthorpe creates a lighthearted, conversational tone. But this conversational tone also has the effect of imbuing the poem with a tone of  irony  because it is used to describe the unlikely scenario of a maiden falling in love with a dragon.

It's hard for a girl to be sure if She wants to be rescued. I mean, I quite Took to the dragon. It's nice to be Liked, if you know what I mean. He was So nicely physical, with his claws And lovely green skin, and that sexy tail

Tone in Milton's "Lycidas"

The poem "Lycidas" by John Milton has a mournful   tone. The poem was inspired by the untimely death of Milton's friend, who drowned. To express his grief, and set the sorrowful and mournful tone, Milton uses words and phrases with negative  connotations , like, "watery bier" (or "tomb"), "parching wind" and "melodious tear."

For Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime, Young lycidas, and hath not left his peer. Who would not sing for Lycidas? he knew Himself to sing, and build the lofty rhyme He must not float upon his watery bier Unwept, and welter to the parching wind, Without the meed of some melodious tear.

Tone in Flaubert's  Madame Bovary

In many passages in Gustave Flaubert's  Madame Bovary , Flaubert's own cynicism about romance shines through the third-person narration to imbue the work with a tone of cynicism. Bored by her husband and desperate for a passionate love affair like the sort she reads about in romance novels, Emma Bovary gets involved with a notorious womanizer. Flaubert highlights Emma's foolishness for falling for such an obvious hack, who sees her as no different from any other mistress:

Emma was just like any other mistress; and the charm of novelty, falling down slowly like a dress, exposed only the eternal monotony of passion, always the same forms and the same language. He did not distinguish, this man of such great expertise, the differences of sentiment beneath the sameness of their expression.

Flaubert sets the cynical tone in part by describing, using figurative language , how the charm of novelty, for Madame Bovary's lover, fell down "slowly like a dress," suggesting that what she experiences as romance, her lover experiences only as an extended prelude to sex.

What's the Function of Tone in Literature?

First and foremost, tone clues readers into the essence and the purpose of what they're reading. It wouldn't make sense to use a wordy, poetic tone to write a simple set of directions, just like it wouldn't make sense to use a dry, unfeeling tone when writing a love poem. Rather, writers set the tone of their work to match not only the content of their writing, but also to suit the purpose they intend for it to serve, whether that is to convey information clearly, to make people laugh, to lavish praises on someone, or something else. Additionally, tone can serve the following purposes:

  • For example, a biography of Bill Clinton might have a critical tone if the author has critical views of the former president and what he stood for, or it might have an admiring tone if the author was a staunch Clinton supporter.
  • If a writer wants their readers to feel upset, he or she might use words with certain connotations to create a gloomy tone.
  • Likewise, if a writer wants to create an informal tone, he or she might make use of colloquialisms , slang terms, and everyday language to make the reader feel like their familiar or their equal.

Simply put, establishing the tone of a work is important because it helps writers show readers what the work is trying to accomplish, and what attitude the work takes toward its own subject matter.

Other Helpful Tone Resources

  • Wikipedia Page on Tone in Literature : A helpful overview of tone and its usage.
  • A Definition of Tone : A definition of tone that includes a short overview of the difference between tone and mood.
  • List of Poetic Tones : A handy chart listing a slew of tones commonly found in poetry, and all other types of literature.

The printed PDF version of the LitCharts literary term guide on Tone

  • PDFs for all 136 Lit Terms we cover
  • Downloads of 1867 LitCharts Lit Guides
  • Teacher Editions for every Lit Guide
  • Explanations and citation info for 39,238 quotes across 1867 books
  • Downloadable (PDF) line-by-line translations of every Shakespeare play
  • Colloquialism
  • Connotation
  • Figurative Language
  • Personification
  • Round Character
  • Blank Verse
  • Flat Character
  • Common Meter
  • Internal Rhyme
  • Climax (Plot)

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72 Attitudes and Persuasion

[latexpage]

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Define attitude
  • Describe how people’s attitudes are internally changed through cognitive dissonance
  • Explain how people’s attitudes are externally changed through persuasion
  • Describe the peripheral and central routes to persuasion

Social psychologists have documented how the power of the situation can influence our behaviors. Now we turn to how the power of the situation can influence our attitudes and beliefs. Attitude is our evaluation of a person, an idea, or an object. We have attitudes for many things ranging from products that we might pick up in the supermarket to people around the world to political policies. Typically, attitudes are favorable or unfavorable: positive or negative (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993). And, they have three components: an affective component (feelings), a behavioral component (the effect of the attitude on behavior), and a cognitive component (belief and knowledge) (Rosenberg & Hovland, 1960).

For example, you may hold a positive attitude toward recycling. This attitude should result in positive feelings toward recycling (such as “It makes me feel good to recycle” or “I enjoy knowing that I make a small difference in reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills”). Certainly, this attitude should be reflected in our behavior: You actually recycle as often as you can. Finally, this attitude will be reflected in favorable thoughts (for example, “Recycling is good for the environment” or “Recycling is the responsible thing to do”).

Our attitudes and beliefs are not only influenced by external forces, but also by internal influences that we control. Like our behavior, our attitudes and thoughts are not always changed by situational pressures, but they can be consciously changed by our own free will. In this section we discuss the conditions under which we would want to change our own attitudes and beliefs.

WHAT IS COGNITIVE DISSONANCE?

Social psychologists have documented that feeling good about ourselves and maintaining positive self-esteem is a powerful motivator of human behavior (Tavris & Aronson, 2008). In the United States, members of the predominant culture typically think very highly of themselves and view themselves as good people who are above average on many desirable traits (Ehrlinger, Gilovich, & Ross, 2005). Often, our behavior, attitudes, and beliefs are affected when we experience a threat to our self-esteem or positive self-image. Psychologist Leon Festinger (1957) defined cognitive dissonance as psychological discomfort arising from holding two or more inconsistent attitudes, behaviors, or cognitions (thoughts, beliefs, or opinions). Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance states that when we experience a conflict in our behaviors, attitudes, or beliefs that runs counter to our positive self-perceptions, we experience psychological discomfort (dissonance). For example, if you believe smoking is bad for your health but you continue to smoke, you experience conflict between your belief and behavior ( [link] ).

A diagram shows the process of cognitive dissonance. Two disparate statements (“I am a smoker” and “Smoking is bad for your health”) are joined as an example of cognitive dissonance. A flow diagram joins them in a process labeled, “Remove dissonance tension,” with two resulting flows. The first flow path shows the warning on a pack of cigarettes with a checkmark imposed over the image that is labeled, “Smoking is bad for your health.” The path then shows a photograph of an arm with a nicotine patch that is labeled, “I quit smoking.” The second flow path shows the warning on a pack of cigarettes with an X imposed over the image and is labeled, “Research is inconclusive,” then shows a photograph of a person smoking labeled, “I am still a smoker.”

Later research documented that only conflicting cognitions that threaten individuals’ positive self-image cause dissonance (Greenwald & Ronis, 1978). Additional research found that dissonance is not only psychologically uncomfortable but also can cause physiological arousal (Croyle & Cooper, 1983) and activate regions of the brain important in emotions and cognitive functioning (van Veen, Krug, Schooler, & Carter, 2009). When we experience cognitive dissonance, we are motivated to decrease it because it is psychologically, physically, and mentally uncomfortable. We can reduce cognitive dissonance by bringing our cognitions, attitudes, and behaviors in line—that is, making them harmonious. This can be done in different ways, such as:

  • changing our discrepant behavior (e.g., stop smoking),
  • changing our cognitions through rationalization or denial (e.g., telling ourselves that health risks can be reduced by smoking filtered cigarettes),
  • adding a new cognition (e.g., “Smoking suppresses my appetite so I don’t become overweight, which is good for my health.”).

A classic example of cognitive dissonance is John, a 20-year-old who enlists in the military. During boot camp he is awakened at 5:00 a.m., is chronically sleep deprived, yelled at, covered in sand flea bites, physically bruised and battered, and mentally exhausted ( [link] ). It gets worse. Recruits that make it to week 11 of boot camp have to do 54 hours of continuous training.

A photograph shows a person doing pushups while a military leader stands over the person; other people are doing jumping jacks in the background.

Not surprisingly, John is miserable. No one likes to be miserable. In this type of situation, people can change their beliefs, their attitudes, or their behaviors. The last option, a change of behaviors, is not available to John. He has signed on to the military for four years, and he cannot legally leave.

If John keeps thinking about how miserable he is, it is going to be a very long four years. He will be in a constant state of cognitive dissonance. As an alternative to this misery, John can change his beliefs or attitudes. He can tell himself, “I am becoming stronger, healthier, and sharper. I am learning discipline and how to defend myself and my country. What I am doing is really important.” If this is his belief, he will realize that he is becoming stronger through his challenges. He then will feel better and not experience cognitive dissonance, which is an uncomfortable state.

The Effect of Initiation

The military example demonstrates the observation that a difficult initiation into a group influences us to like the group more , due to the justification of effort. We do not want to have wasted time and effort to join a group that we eventually leave. A classic experiment by Aronson and Mills (1959) demonstrated this justification of effort effect. College students volunteered to join a campus group that would meet regularly to discuss the psychology of sex. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: no initiation, an easy initiation, and a difficult initiation into the group. After participating in the first discussion, which was deliberately made very boring, participants rated how much they liked the group. Participants who underwent a difficult initiation process to join the group rated the group more favorably than did participants with an easy initiation or no initiation ( [link] ).

A bar graph has an x-axis labeled, “Difficulty of initiation” and a y-axis labeled, “Relative magnitude of liking a group.” The liking of the group is low to moderate for the groups whose difficulty of initiation was “none” or “easy,” but high for the group whose difficulty of initiation was “difficult.”

Similar effects can be seen in a more recent study of how student effort affects course evaluations. Heckert, Latier, Ringwald-Burton, and Drazen (2006) surveyed 463 undergraduates enrolled in courses at a midwestern university about the amount of effort that their courses required of them. In addition, the students were also asked to evaluate various aspects of the course. Given what you’ve just read, it will come as no surprise that those courses that were associated with the highest level of effort were evaluated as being more valuable than those that did not. Furthermore, students indicated that they learned more in courses that required more effort, regardless of the grades that they received in those courses (Heckert et al., 2006).

Besides the classic military example and group initiation, can you think of other examples of cognitive dissonance ? Here is one: Marco and Maria live in Fairfield County, Connecticut, which is one of the wealthiest areas in the United States and has a very high cost of living. Marco telecommutes from home and Maria does not work outside of the home. They rent a very small house for more than $3000 a month. Maria shops at consignment stores for clothes and economizes where she can. They complain that they never have any money and that they cannot buy anything new. When asked why they do not move to a less expensive location, since Marco telecommutes, they respond that Fairfield County is beautiful, they love the beaches, and they feel comfortable there. How does the theory of cognitive dissonance apply to Marco and Maria’s choices?

In the previous section we discussed that the motivation to reduce cognitive dissonance leads us to change our attitudes, behaviors, and/or cognitions to make them consonant. Persuasion is the process of changing our attitude toward something based on some kind of communication. Much of the persuasion we experience comes from outside forces. How do people convince others to change their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors ( [link] )? What communications do you receive that attempt to persuade you to change your attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors?

A photograph shows the back of a car that is covered in numerous bumper stickers.

A subfield of social psychology studies persuasion and social influence, providing us with a plethora of information on how humans can be persuaded by others.

Yale Attitude Change Approach

The topic of persuasion has been one of the most extensively researched areas in social psychology (Fiske et al., 2010). During the Second World War, Carl Hovland extensively researched persuasion for the U.S. Army. After the war, Hovland continued his exploration of persuasion at Yale University. Out of this work came a model called the Yale attitude change approach , which describes the conditions under which people tend to change their attitudes. Hovland demonstrated that certain features of the source of a persuasive message, the content of the message, and the characteristics of the audience will influence the persuasiveness of a message (Hovland, Janis, & Kelley, 1953).

Features of the source of the persuasive message include the credibility of the speaker (Hovland & Weiss, 1951) and the physical attractiveness of the speaker (Eagly & Chaiken, 1975; Petty, Wegener, & Fabrigar, 1997). Thus, speakers who are credible, or have expertise on the topic, and who are deemed as trustworthy are more persuasive than less credible speakers. Similarly, more attractive speakers are more persuasive than less attractive speakers. The use of famous actors and athletes to advertise products on television and in print relies on this principle. The immediate and long term impact of the persuasion also depends, however, on the credibility of the messenger (Kumkale & Albarracín, 2004).

Features of the message itself that affect persuasion include subtlety (the quality of being important, but not obvious) (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986; Walster & Festinger, 1962); sidedness (that is, having more than one side) (Crowley & Hoyer, 1994; Igou & Bless, 2003; Lumsdaine & Janis, 1953); timing (Haugtvedt & Wegener, 1994; Miller & Campbell, 1959), and whether both sides are presented. Messages that are more subtle are more persuasive than direct messages. Arguments that occur first, such as in a debate, are more influential if messages are given back-to-back. However, if there is a delay after the first message, and before the audience needs to make a decision, the last message presented will tend to be more persuasive (Miller & Campbell, 1959).

Features of the audience that affect persuasion are attention (Albarracín & Wyer, 2001; Festinger & Maccoby, 1964), intelligence, self-esteem (Rhodes & Wood, 1992), and age (Krosnick & Alwin, 1989). In order to be persuaded, audience members must be paying attention. People with lower intelligence are more easily persuaded than people with higher intelligence; whereas people with moderate self-esteem are more easily persuaded than people with higher or lower self-esteem (Rhodes & Wood, 1992). Finally, younger adults aged 18–25 are more persuadable than older adults.

Elaboration Likelihood Model

An especially popular model that describes the dynamics of persuasion is the elaboration likelihood model of persuasion (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986). The elaboration likelihood model considers the variables of the attitude change approach—that is, features of the source of the persuasive message, contents of the message, and characteristics of the audience are used to determine when attitude change will occur. According to the elaboration likelihood model of persuasion, there are two main routes that play a role in delivering a persuasive message: central and peripheral ( [link] ).

A diagram shows two routes of persuasion. A box on the left is labeled “persuasive message” and arrows from the box separate into two routes: the central and peripheral routes, each with boxes describing the characteristics of the audience, processing, and persuasion. The audience is “motivated, analytical” in the central route, and “not motivated, not analytical” in the peripheral route. Processing in the central route is “high effort; evaluate message” and in the peripheral route is “low effort; persuaded by cues outside of message.” Persuasion in the central route is “lasting change in attitude” and in the peripheral route is “temporary change in attitude.”

The central route is logic driven and uses data and facts to convince people of an argument’s worthiness. For example, a car company seeking to persuade you to purchase their model will emphasize the car’s safety features and fuel economy. This is a direct route to persuasion that focuses on the quality of the information. In order for the central route of persuasion to be effective in changing attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors, the argument must be strong and, if successful, will result in lasting attitude change.

The central route to persuasion works best when the target of persuasion, or the audience, is analytical and willing to engage in processing of the information. From an advertiser’s perspective, what products would be best sold using the central route to persuasion? What audience would most likely be influenced to buy the product? One example is buying a computer. It is likely, for example, that small business owners might be especially influenced by the focus on the computer’s quality and features such as processing speed and memory capacity.

The peripheral route is an indirect route that uses peripheral cues to associate positivity with the message (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986). Instead of focusing on the facts and a product’s quality, the peripheral route relies on association with positive characteristics such as positive emotions and celebrity endorsement. For example, having a popular athlete advertise athletic shoes is a common method used to encourage young adults to purchase the shoes. This route to attitude change does not require much effort or information processing. This method of persuasion may promote positivity toward the message or product, but it typically results in less permanent attitude or behavior change. The audience does not need to be analytical or motivated to process the message. In fact, a peripheral route to persuasion may not even be noticed by the audience, for example in the strategy of product placement. Product placement refers to putting a product with a clear brand name or brand identity in a TV show or movie to promote the product (Gupta & Lord, 1998). For example, one season of the reality series American Idol prominently showed the panel of judges drinking out of cups that displayed the Coca-Cola logo. What other products would be best sold using the peripheral route to persuasion? Another example is clothing: A retailer may focus on celebrities that are wearing the same style of clothing.

Foot-in-the-door Technique

Researchers have tested many persuasion strategies that are effective in selling products and changing people’s attitude, ideas, and behaviors. One effective strategy is the foot-in-the-door technique (Cialdini, 2001; Pliner, Hart, Kohl, & Saari, 1974). Using the foot-in-the-door technique , the persuader gets a person to agree to bestow a small favor or to buy a small item, only to later request a larger favor or purchase of a bigger item. The foot-in-the-door technique was demonstrated in a study by Freedman and Fraser (1966) in which participants who agreed to post small sign in their yard or sign a petition were more likely to agree to put a large sign in their yard than people who declined the first request ( [link] ). Research on this technique also illustrates the principle of consistency (Cialdini, 2001): Our past behavior often directs our future behavior, and we have a desire to maintain consistency once we have a committed to a behavior.

Photograph A shows a campaign button. Photograph B shows a yard filled with numerous signs.

A common application of foot-in-the-door is when teens ask their parents for a small permission (for example, extending curfew by a half hour) and then asking them for something larger. Having granted the smaller request increases the likelihood that parents will acquiesce with the later, larger request.

How would a store owner use the foot-in-the-door technique to sell you an expensive product? For example, say that you are buying the latest model smartphone, and the salesperson suggests you purchase the best data plan. You agree to this. The salesperson then suggests a bigger purchase—the three-year extended warranty. After agreeing to the smaller request, you are more likely to also agree to the larger request. You may have encountered this if you have bought a car. When salespeople realize that a buyer intends to purchase a certain model, they might try to get the customer to pay for many or most available options on the car.

Attitudes are our evaluations or feelings toward a person, idea, or object and typically are positive or negative. Our attitudes and beliefs are influenced not only by external forces, but also by internal influences that we control. An internal form of attitude change is cognitive dissonance or the tension we experience when our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are in conflict. In order to reduce dissonance, individuals can change their behavior, attitudes, or cognitions, or add a new cognition. External forces of persuasion include advertising; the features of advertising that influence our behaviors include the source, message, and audience. There are two primary routes to persuasion. The central route to persuasion uses facts and information to persuade potential consumers. The peripheral route uses positive association with cues such as beauty, fame, and positive emotions.

Review Questions

Attitudes describe our ________ of people, objects, and ideas.

  • evaluations

Cognitive dissonance causes discomfort because it disrupts our sense of ________.

  • unpredictability
  • consistency

In order for the central route to persuasion to be effective, the audience must be ________ and ________.

  • analytical; motivated
  • attentive; happy
  • intelligent; unemotional
  • gullible; distracted

Examples of cues used in peripheral route persuasion include all of the following except ________.

  • celebrity endorsement
  • positive emotions
  • attractive models
  • factual information

Critical Thinking Questions

Give an example (one not used in class or your text) of cognitive dissonance and how an individual might resolve this.

One example is choosing which college to attend—the public school close to home or the Ivy League school out of state. Since both schools are desirable, the student is likely to experience cognitive dissonance in making this decision. In order to justify choosing the public school close to home, the student could change her cognition about Ivy League school, asserting that it is too expensive and the quality of education at the public school is just as good. She could change her attitude toward the Ivy League school and determine that the students there are too stuffy and wouldn’t make good classmates.

Imagine that you work for an advertising agency, and you’ve been tasked with developing an advertising campaign to increase sales of Bliss Soda. How would you develop an advertisement for this product that uses a central route of persuasion? How would you develop an ad using a peripheral route of persuasion?

Although potential answers will vary, advertisements using the central route of persuasion might involve a doctor listing logical reasons for drinking this product. For example, the doctor might cite research suggesting that the soda is better than alternatives because of its reduced calorie content, lack of adverse health consequences, etc. An advertisement using a peripheral route of persuasion might show very attractive people consuming the product while spending time on a beautiful, sunny beach.

Personal Application Questions

Cognitive dissonance often arises after making an important decision, called post-decision dissonance (or in popular terms, buyer’s remorse). Describe a recent decision you made that caused dissonance and describe how you resolved it.

Describe a time when you or someone you know used the foot-in-the-door technique to gain someone’s compliance.

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The Beginner's Guide to Writing an Essay | Steps & Examples

An academic essay is a focused piece of writing that develops an idea or argument using evidence, analysis, and interpretation.

There are many types of essays you might write as a student. The content and length of an essay depends on your level, subject of study, and course requirements. However, most essays at university level are argumentative — they aim to persuade the reader of a particular position or perspective on a topic.

The essay writing process consists of three main stages:

  • Preparation: Decide on your topic, do your research, and create an essay outline.
  • Writing : Set out your argument in the introduction, develop it with evidence in the main body, and wrap it up with a conclusion.
  • Revision:  Check your essay on the content, organization, grammar, spelling, and formatting of your essay.

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Table of contents

Essay writing process, preparation for writing an essay, writing the introduction, writing the main body, writing the conclusion, essay checklist, lecture slides, frequently asked questions about writing an essay.

The writing process of preparation, writing, and revisions applies to every essay or paper, but the time and effort spent on each stage depends on the type of essay .

For example, if you’ve been assigned a five-paragraph expository essay for a high school class, you’ll probably spend the most time on the writing stage; for a college-level argumentative essay , on the other hand, you’ll need to spend more time researching your topic and developing an original argument before you start writing.

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essay attitude meaning

Before you start writing, you should make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to say and how you’re going to say it. There are a few key steps you can follow to make sure you’re prepared:

  • Understand your assignment: What is the goal of this essay? What is the length and deadline of the assignment? Is there anything you need to clarify with your teacher or professor?
  • Define a topic: If you’re allowed to choose your own topic , try to pick something that you already know a bit about and that will hold your interest.
  • Do your research: Read  primary and secondary sources and take notes to help you work out your position and angle on the topic. You’ll use these as evidence for your points.
  • Come up with a thesis:  The thesis is the central point or argument that you want to make. A clear thesis is essential for a focused essay—you should keep referring back to it as you write.
  • Create an outline: Map out the rough structure of your essay in an outline . This makes it easier to start writing and keeps you on track as you go.

Once you’ve got a clear idea of what you want to discuss, in what order, and what evidence you’ll use, you’re ready to start writing.

The introduction sets the tone for your essay. It should grab the reader’s interest and inform them of what to expect. The introduction generally comprises 10–20% of the text.

1. Hook your reader

The first sentence of the introduction should pique your reader’s interest and curiosity. This sentence is sometimes called the hook. It might be an intriguing question, a surprising fact, or a bold statement emphasizing the relevance of the topic.

Let’s say we’re writing an essay about the development of Braille (the raised-dot reading and writing system used by visually impaired people). Our hook can make a strong statement about the topic:

The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability.

2. Provide background on your topic

Next, it’s important to give context that will help your reader understand your argument. This might involve providing background information, giving an overview of important academic work or debates on the topic, and explaining difficult terms. Don’t provide too much detail in the introduction—you can elaborate in the body of your essay.

3. Present the thesis statement

Next, you should formulate your thesis statement— the central argument you’re going to make. The thesis statement provides focus and signals your position on the topic. It is usually one or two sentences long. The thesis statement for our essay on Braille could look like this:

As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness.

4. Map the structure

In longer essays, you can end the introduction by briefly describing what will be covered in each part of the essay. This guides the reader through your structure and gives a preview of how your argument will develop.

The invention of Braille marked a major turning point in the history of disability. The writing system of raised dots used by blind and visually impaired people was developed by Louis Braille in nineteenth-century France. In a society that did not value disabled people in general, blindness was particularly stigmatized, and lack of access to reading and writing was a significant barrier to social participation. The idea of tactile reading was not entirely new, but existing methods based on sighted systems were difficult to learn and use. As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness. This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people’s social and cultural lives.

Write your essay introduction

The body of your essay is where you make arguments supporting your thesis, provide evidence, and develop your ideas. Its purpose is to present, interpret, and analyze the information and sources you have gathered to support your argument.

Length of the body text

The length of the body depends on the type of essay. On average, the body comprises 60–80% of your essay. For a high school essay, this could be just three paragraphs, but for a graduate school essay of 6,000 words, the body could take up 8–10 pages.

Paragraph structure

To give your essay a clear structure , it is important to organize it into paragraphs . Each paragraph should be centered around one main point or idea.

That idea is introduced in a  topic sentence . The topic sentence should generally lead on from the previous paragraph and introduce the point to be made in this paragraph. Transition words can be used to create clear connections between sentences.

After the topic sentence, present evidence such as data, examples, or quotes from relevant sources. Be sure to interpret and explain the evidence, and show how it helps develop your overall argument.

Lack of access to reading and writing put blind people at a serious disadvantage in nineteenth-century society. Text was one of the primary methods through which people engaged with culture, communicated with others, and accessed information; without a well-developed reading system that did not rely on sight, blind people were excluded from social participation (Weygand, 2009). While disabled people in general suffered from discrimination, blindness was widely viewed as the worst disability, and it was commonly believed that blind people were incapable of pursuing a profession or improving themselves through culture (Weygand, 2009). This demonstrates the importance of reading and writing to social status at the time: without access to text, it was considered impossible to fully participate in society. Blind people were excluded from the sighted world, but also entirely dependent on sighted people for information and education.

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The conclusion is the final paragraph of an essay. It should generally take up no more than 10–15% of the text . A strong essay conclusion :

  • Returns to your thesis
  • Ties together your main points
  • Shows why your argument matters

A great conclusion should finish with a memorable or impactful sentence that leaves the reader with a strong final impression.

What not to include in a conclusion

To make your essay’s conclusion as strong as possible, there are a few things you should avoid. The most common mistakes are:

  • Including new arguments or evidence
  • Undermining your arguments (e.g. “This is just one approach of many”)
  • Using concluding phrases like “To sum up…” or “In conclusion…”

Braille paved the way for dramatic cultural changes in the way blind people were treated and the opportunities available to them. Louis Braille’s innovation was to reimagine existing reading systems from a blind perspective, and the success of this invention required sighted teachers to adapt to their students’ reality instead of the other way around. In this sense, Braille helped drive broader social changes in the status of blindness. New accessibility tools provide practical advantages to those who need them, but they can also change the perspectives and attitudes of those who do not.

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Checklist: Essay

My essay follows the requirements of the assignment (topic and length ).

My introduction sparks the reader’s interest and provides any necessary background information on the topic.

My introduction contains a thesis statement that states the focus and position of the essay.

I use paragraphs to structure the essay.

I use topic sentences to introduce each paragraph.

Each paragraph has a single focus and a clear connection to the thesis statement.

I make clear transitions between paragraphs and ideas.

My conclusion doesn’t just repeat my points, but draws connections between arguments.

I don’t introduce new arguments or evidence in the conclusion.

I have given an in-text citation for every quote or piece of information I got from another source.

I have included a reference page at the end of my essay, listing full details of all my sources.

My citations and references are correctly formatted according to the required citation style .

My essay has an interesting and informative title.

I have followed all formatting guidelines (e.g. font, page numbers, line spacing).

Your essay meets all the most important requirements. Our editors can give it a final check to help you submit with confidence.

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An essay is a focused piece of writing that explains, argues, describes, or narrates.

In high school, you may have to write many different types of essays to develop your writing skills.

Academic essays at college level are usually argumentative : you develop a clear thesis about your topic and make a case for your position using evidence, analysis and interpretation.

The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.

The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.

Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:

  • An opening hook to catch the reader’s attention.
  • Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
  • A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.

The length of each part depends on the length and complexity of your essay .

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

  • It gives your writing direction and focus.
  • It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

A topic sentence is a sentence that expresses the main point of a paragraph . Everything else in the paragraph should relate to the topic sentence.

At college level, you must properly cite your sources in all essays , research papers , and other academic texts (except exams and in-class exercises).

Add a citation whenever you quote , paraphrase , or summarize information or ideas from a source. You should also give full source details in a bibliography or reference list at the end of your text.

The exact format of your citations depends on which citation style you are instructed to use. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago .

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  • Is there a way, other than retiring, to get out of the Supreme Court (such as being dismissed)?
  • When did the pocket veto start?
  • Who would serve as the new president if both the president and vice president resigned?
  • What was the difference in history between the Middle Ages (Medieval Times) and the Renaissance?
  • What's a Congressional Page and how do you become one?
  • Differences Between Public Universities and Private Schools
  • Entering College Without a Major in Mind
  • Figure Out Your College Preference
  • Freshman Dorm Life: Choosing a Roommate
  • Gain an Edge with Community Service
  • Apply to College Online
  • Approach AP Essay Questions with Ease
  • Choose the Right Dorm
  • Choosing a College: The Importance of the Campus Tour
  • Choosing Between a Large or Small College
  • Get a Clue about Community College
  • The College Admissions Interview
  • Get College Info from People around You
  • Getting Into College: Letters of Recommendation
  • Getting the Most from Your High School Guidance Counselor
  • Going to College When You Have a Disability
  • How College Applications Are Reviewed to Determine Acceptance
  • How Many Colleges Should You Apply To?
  • Keep Track of Test Time: Exam Calendar
  • Know What Colleges Are Looking For
  • Know Which Exam's Right for You
  • Pack Your Bags for SAT* Exam Day
  • Plan Wisely for Campus Visits
  • Planning High School Summers with an Eye toward College Admissions
  • Prepare for the Revised SAT*
  • Put Together a College Admission Timeline
  • Read the Right Stuff for the AP* English Literature Exam
  • Save Yourself from Senioritis
  • Start Earning College Credit Early
  • Student Diversity as an Important Factor in Considering Colleges
  • Taking a Year Off between High School and College
  • Take the Right High School Classes to Get into College
  • Technology and the College Application Process
  • Understanding Subject Tests and College Admissions
  • Understanding Your Academic Average and Class Rank
  • Weighing One College's Degree Program against Another
  • Write a College Admissions Essay
  • What Are College Early Action Admissions Plans?
  • What Are College Early Decision and Regular Decision Admissions Plans?
  • What Are College Rolling Admissions Plans?
  • Where Can I Find Info to Compare Colleges?
  • Find Out about Federal Student Aid
  • Filling Out the FAFSA
  • Get to Know the CSS Profile Form
  • Getting Financial Aid Information at School
  • How to Consolidate Private Student Loans
  • Avoid Negotiating with Financial Aid Offers
  • Avoid Scholarship Scams
  • Borrow for College without Going Bust
  • Building a Budget after College with a Financial Diary
  • Consider the Federal Work-Study Program
  • Considering a PLUS Loan
  • Deal with the FAFSA
  • Dealing with Private Student Loans during Financial Hardship
  • Debunking Some Common Myths about Financial Aid
  • How to Gather Information on Your Private Student Loans
  • The Differences between Scholarship and Student Loan Payouts
  • The Federal Pell Grant System
  • Loan Forgiveness of Your Student Loans
  • Negotiating Rent on an Apartment
  • Organize Student Loans with a Private Loans Chart
  • Overpaying on Student Loans for Quicker Payoff
  • Places You Might Not Think to Look for Scholarships
  • Put "Sticker Price" in Perspective
  • Student Loan Deferments and Forbearance
  • Try to Sweeten Your Financial Aid Package
  • Transfer Private Student Loan Debt to Low-Rate Credit Cards
  • Understanding Repayment Periods on Private Student Loans
  • What Happens If You Miss a Student Loan Payment?
  • After the Rush: Pledging a Sorority
  • Avoid Alcohol and Drug Temptations
  • Back to School Considerations for Adult Learners
  • College Professors Appreciate Good Behavior
  • Consider Studying Abroad
  • Deal with the Roommate Experience
  • Decide if the Greek Life Is for You
  • Decide on a Major
  • Find Yourself a Used Car for College
  • Fit Sleep into Student Life
  • Freshman Year Extracurricular Goals
  • Get By on a Limited Cash Flow
  • Get Creative for Summer after College Freshman Year
  • Get the Hang of the Add/Drop Process
  • Get with the Program: Internships, Work-Study, and Service Learning
  • How to Evaluate Campus Life during a College Visit
  • Job Shadow to Explore Careers
  • Key In to Effective Study Habits
  • Maintain Your Mental Health
  • Make the Most of Taking Lecture Notes
  • Pack Up for College
  • Prepare for College Instructor/Student Expectations
  • Put Together a Bibliography or Works Cited
  • Research on the Internet
  • Rule Out Academic Dishonesty
  • Say No to Dating College Friends' Siblings or Exes
  • Student Teaching: Test Drive Your Career in Education
  • Taking a Gamble: Gaming on Campus
  • Transferring from Community College to Four-Year Institution
  • Understand Types of Research Material
  • What to Expect from Sorority Rush
  • Work at a Part-Time Job
  • Write a Top-Notch Research Paper
  • Why do some critics want the 22nd Amendment repealed?
  • What is guerrilla warfare?
  • Years ago I learned that our national highway system has built-in runways for emergency landing strips. Is this still true?
  • What newspapers did Frederick Douglass write for?
  • I know that the days of the week are all named after Norse or Roman gods or the sun and moon, but I can't figure out what Tuesday is named for. Do you know?
  • Can you give me a brief history of Prussia?
  • Who were the Ottomans?
  • Who discovered oxygen?
  • What have been the major Israel and Arab conflicts since World War II?
  • 1What does the cormorant (bird) symbolize in mythology?
  • How did Peter I of Russia come to power?
  • What can you tell me about Kwanzaa?
  • What is the Alma-Ata declaration?
  • I've heard that in some countries, everyone has to sign up for the military between high school and college. Is that true?
  • How were women treated in Ancient Rome?
  • What is the history and meaning of Turkey's flag?
  • How are justices to the US Supreme Court elected Is this a good or a bad thing
  • How did ounce come to be abbreviated as oz.?
  • Why did Cromwell dissolve the first Protectorate parliament?
  • Why does The Great Depression end when the United States enters World War II?
  • What place did the underworld have in Egyptian mythology?
  • Can you explain Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in words that a teen can understand?
  • Who was the most famous mathematician?
  • Where did Christopher Columbus land when he reached the Americas?
  • Who had control of more states during the American Civil War, the North or the South?
  • How did Zeus become ruler of the Greek gods?
  • Why does Santa Claus have so many names — Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, and Kris Kringle?
  • What is antidisestablishmentarianism?
  • What is Leningrad known as today?
  • Who were the leading figures in the Classical period of music?
  • Why didn't the Pope allow Henry VIII a divorce, and who was Catherine of Aragon's relative who came and held siege?
  • Who wrote, A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still"?"
  • Was the Spanish Armada large, and did its crews have notable sailing skill?
  • What was the cause of the War of Spanish Succession?
  • What is the song Yankee Doodle Dandy" really about?"
  • What's the story of the Roanoke colony?
  • How does history reflect what people were thinking at the time?
  • My teacher says there's more than one kind of history. How can that be?
  • What were the turning points in World War II?
  • We just started studying Spanish exploration in North America. What makes it so important today?
  • What was it like for women in the 1920s?
  • Have Americans always been big on sports?
  • Who invented baseball?
  • What did American Indians have to give up for pioneers?
  • How did imperialism spread around the world?
  • How did Imperialism in India come about?
  • What's the big deal about Manifest Destiny?
  • How did the Tet Offensive affect public opinion about the Vietnam War?
  • Why did Christian Lous Lange deserve the Nobel Peace Prize in 1921?
  • Where do the four suits in a deck of cards originate? What do they represent?
  • What was the Roe v. Wade trial?
  • Who is Constantine?
  • I need to know some info on the Monroe Doctrine. I have looked everywhere but I still can't find any information. Can you PLEASE help?
  • Where did the chair originate from? I was sitting on one the other day and it said Made in China," but where did it first come from?"
  • What kind of cash crops did they grow in the South in early America?
  • Everyone talks about how enlightened the Mayans were, but what did they really do?
  • What caused the fall of the Roman Empire? Did Christianity play a role?
  • What was the reason for the downfall of the Russian Empire in 1917?
  • What prompted slavery? Why were the Africans chosen for enslavement?
  • How did World War I start and end?
  • What is The Palestinian Conflict?
  • I don't really understand the French Revolution. What started it, and what stopped it?
  • What was the doctor's diagnosis of Helen Keller when she was a baby?
  • What is the Trail of Tears?
  • When speaking about Native Americans, what is the difference between an Indian tribe and an Indian Nation?
  • What happened during the Boston Massacre?
  • What was sectionalism in America before the Civil War?
  • How did the U.S. attempt to avoid involvement in World War II?
  • What is Ronald Reagan's Tear down this wall" speech about?"
  • Can you describe the United States policy of containment and show an example of an event when the policy was used and why?
  • How many countries are there in the world?
  • What did Columbus do besides sail to the New World?
  • My history teacher said that if your religious denomination isn't Catholic, than you are a Protestant. Is she right?
  • Do you think that Mormons are Christians? What is the full name of the Mormon Church?
  • What principles of the Belmont Report were violated in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study?
  • What is the size of Europe in square miles?
  • The United States was given the right to establish naval bases in the British West Indies during World War II by the British Government in exchange for what?
  • How were the Crusades a turning point in Western history?
  • 10 Things You Need to Know about College (but Probably Don’t)
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  • What does impertinent mean (from The American )?
  • I know that the verb pluck means to pull out or pull at, but what's the definition when used as a noun?
  • Which novels would you recommend to 15-year-olds on the theme of places and forms of power?
  • In The Pearl, why didn't John Steinbeck give the pearl buyers identifying names?
  • In the play, The Crucible , why would Arthur Miller include the Note on Historical Accuracy?
  • What is perfidy (from Sister Carrie, by Theodore Dreiser)?
  • Is being pedantic a good or bad thing?
  • Is a termagant a type of seabird?
  • What is ichor (from The Iliad )?
  • In The Hunger Games, why did Cinna choose to be the designer for District 12?
  • Is a rivulet really a river, only smaller?
  • Charles Dickens has this person called the beadle" in lots of his books. Is that like a nickname for a man with buggy eyes or something?"
  • In Brave New World, why are family words like father and mother viewed as obscene?
  • What is the main tenet of stoicism?
  • What's the meaning of obsequious (from Theodore Dreiser's urban novel Sister Carrie )?
  • Where are the Antipodes (from Much Ado about Nothing )?
  • What is a truckle bed (from Romeo and Juliet )?
  • What does truculent (from Great Expectations ) mean?
  • If someone inculcates you, should you feel insulted?
  • What does the phrase Ethiop words" mean in Shakespeare's As You Like It ?"
  • I was chatting with a neighbor who said I was quite garrulous . Nice or mean?
  • What does laconic mean?
  • At a restaurant famous for its rude servers, a waitress told me to lump it" when I asked for another napkin. Can you tell me about that phrase?"
  • What does urbane (from Daisy Miller ) mean?
  • I thought necro had something to do with being dead. So, what's a necromancer ? Sounds creepy.
  • In The House of Mirth, this guy named Gus Trenor is eating a jellied plover." Is that some kind of doughnut?"
  • What are some well-known novels whose titles are quotations from Shakespeare?
  • In Orwell's 1984, what does the opening sentence suggest about the book?
  • Understanding the literary genre Magical Realism
  • What's a prig?
  • I asked my granddad if he liked his new apartment and he said, It's all hunky-dory, kiddo." What did he mean?"
  • What does mephitic (from Man and Superman ) mean?
  • I hate finding typos in books. Here's one I've seen several times: jalousies instead of jealousies.
  • On the second week of my summer job at a bookstore, my boss handed me an envelope with what she called my emoluments. Looked like a paycheck to me, though.
  • In To Kill a Mockingbird, what are some examples of the characters having courage?
  • What's cud? I was once told to stop chewing my cud and get back to work.
  • What can you tell me about the word patois from The Awakening ?
  • What are thews (from Ivanhoe )?
  • What does pot-shop (from The Pickwick Papers ) mean?
  • Are all dowagers women?
  • If someone is the titular head of a political party, does it mean they have all the power?
  • The word flummox confuses me. What does it mean?
  • Somebody told me I looked pasty. Does that mean I've eaten too many sweets?
  • I started taking private bassoon lessons. When I arrived at my teacher’s house, he told me to wait in the anteroom. I wasn’t sure where to go.
  • Is anomalous the same as anonymous ?
  • I know that a fathom is a unit of measure used by sailors, but how long is a fathom?
  • What is a joss (from Victory, by Joseph Conrad)?
  • What does eschew (from The Pickwick Papers ) mean?
  • What does excrescence (from The Call of the Wild ) mean?
  • What does the word covert mean?
  • In Shakespeare's Sonnet 125, what is an oblation ?
  • In Moby-Dick , what does vitiate mean?
  • In War and Peace , what does bane mean?
  • In Jane Eyre , what are chilblains ?
  • Does mendacious refer to something that is fixable (mendable)?
  • Is kickshawses one of those weird words that Shakespeare coined? What does it mean?
  • You say in CliffsNotes that In Cold Blood was Truman Capote's undoing. How?
  • What is renege , in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra ?
  • What is maxim ? I think it's a female name but I'm not sure.
  • Last Valentine's Day, this guy I barely know gave me a rose and said something about ardent love. What does ardent mean?
  • In Act I, Scene 1, of King Lear, what does benison mean?
  • What kind of literature is a picaresque novel?
  • What does culpable mean?
  • What's a cenotaph ? Every Veterans Day, I hear about the Queen of England laying a wreath at the Cenotaph in London.
  • What does gallimaufry mean in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ? My vocabulary is pretty good, but that one has me stumped!
  • What does it mean to genuflect ?
  • Someone told me I was looking wistful. What is wistful ?
  • In David Copperfield, what does superannuated mean?
  • Does the word syllogism have something to do with biology?
  • I see the word benefactor a lot in my reading assignments. Is that somebody who benefits from something?
  • I found a funny word in The Glass Castle. Where did skedaddle come from and what does it mean?
  • Does sinuous mean something like full of sin"? I saw the word in The Devil in the White City ."
  • In Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, what is the meaning of the word propaganda ?
  • What are characteristics of Modernist literature, fiction in particular?
  • What does my brother mean when he says he's too ensconced in his studies to look for a girlfriend?
  • My grandpa complained about a bunch of politicians making what he called chin music . Did he mean they were in a loud band?
  • What is melodrama?
  • In Dracula, what's a missal ?
  • In the terms abject poverty and abject misery, what does abject mean?
  • In Moby-Dick, what does craven mean?
  • What does cicatrize mean?
  • What is a noisome smell" in Tolstoy's War and Peace ?"
  • What is an apostasy, from the George Bernard Shaw play, Man and Superman ?
  • In Jane Eyre, what's syncope ?
  • I just read Dracula. What's the forcemeat in Jonathan Harker's journal?
  • Can the word stern mean more than one thing?
  • Where is Yoknapatawpha county?
  • What does smouch mean?
  • I'm supposed to write a comparison of Hektor and Achilles from Homer's The Iliad, but I don't know where to start.
  • How do you pronounce quay ? And what does it mean, anyway?
  • What are some examples of paradox in the novel Frankenstein ?
  • In Ivanhoe, what does mammock mean?
  • What does rummage mean?
  • Is a mummer some type of religious person?
  • Some guy I don't like told his friend I was acting all demure. What does that mean?
  • When I complained about our cafeteria food, my biology teacher told me he wished they'd serve agarics. Was he talking about some kind of dessert?
  • Where did the name Of Mice and Men come from?
  • What genre would you consider the book, The Outsiders ?
  • In Fahrenheit 451, why would a society make being a pedestrian a crime?
  • What does the phrase, a worn-out man of fashion" mean from Jane Eyre ?"
  • Is sagacity a medical condition?
  • My teacher told me I was being obdurate. Was that a compliment?
  • What motives inspired Iago to plot revenge against Othello?
  • Who was the first king of Rome?
  • What does enervate mean?
  • What is a parvenu ? I saw the word in William Makepeace Thackeray's book Vanity Fair.
  • Is salubrity somehow related to being famous?
  • Do capers have something to do with cops?
  • What's the difference between a soliloquy and a monologue?
  • In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce uses the word pandybat . What's a pandybat?
  • Does the word inexorable have something to do with driving demons out of a person?
  • Do people who prognosticate have some sort of special power?
  • What is a hegemony, from James Joyce's Ulysses ?
  • What are fallow fields ? I'm a city gal who heard the term at a 4-H fair and just read it in Anna Karenina.
  • What's the difference between parody and satire?
  • Lord of the Flies uses the word inimical. What does it mean?
  • What does dreadnaught mean, as it’s used in Bleak House?
  • I saw vertiginous in Madame Bovary. What does mean the word mean?
  • What does overweening mean, in Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes?
  • Can you hear a dirge anyplace but a funeral?
  • Does imperturbable refer to something you can't break through?
  • What are the seven ages of man?
  • What is a chimera , in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë?
  • What's dross ?
  • What is an injunction ?
  • For school I had to make a Napoleon hat, which called for a cockade. What is that?
  • If someone studies assiduously, does it mean they're working really hard or really slowly?
  • Define mood as it relates to a work of fiction. Distinguish mood from effect.
  • My sister calls me the Princess of Prevarication." What's prevarication ?"
  • What's turpitude, as in moral turpitude"?"
  • What's the definition of tenebrous ?
  • This biography I'm reading about Queen Victoria says that she refused to remove the hatchment she had for her husband Prince Albert. What does that word mean?
  • What does sine qua non mean?
  • What's lugubrious mean?
  • What's impugn mean, from Ivanhoe?
  • What does postprandial mean?
  • I love reading fashion magazines and occasionally come across the word atelier. What is that?
  • What does King Lear mean when he says that ingratitude is a marble-hearted fiend"?"
  • What is celerity , from Ivanhoe ?
  • In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein , what are disquisitions ?
  • What's shrive ? My neighbor said she's been unshriven for years, but I think her skin looks quite shriveled.
  • What's a dobbin ?
  • What's polemic ? Over winter break, my uncle told me I was polemic and asked if I was on the debate team at school.
  • I came across a list of homonyms: mu, moo, moue . I know mu is Greek for the letter m , and moo is the sound cows make, but what's a moue ?
  • What does trow mean?
  • In Far from the Madding Crowd , what does cavil mean?
  • What does Charles Dickens mean when he says “toadies and humbugs” in his book, Great Expectations ?
  • Where can I find the word naught in The Scarlet Letter ?
  • I found an old diary from the 1800s where the writer describes how he almost died but was saved by a sinapism . What is that?
  • I know what mulch is, but what's mulct ?
  • When our teacher was introducing the next reading assignment, he said we'll be using the unexpurgated version. What did he mean?
  • For some reason, the word dingle sticks in my head after having read Treasure Island years ago. I never did discover what it meant. How about it, Cliff?
  • In Dracula , what's stertorous breathing?
  • What does philippic mean?
  • I'm usually pretty good at guessing what words mean, but have no clue about exigence . What is it?
  • What's doughty ? How do you pronounce it?
  • What's sharecropping? I'm kind of embarrassed to ask, because it's one of those words everyone assumes you know what it means.
  • I'm working on my summer reading list with Kafka's The Trial. The very first sentence uses traduce , and I don't know what that means.
  • What does the cormorant (bird) symbolize in mythology?
  • I saw the word badinage in the book Uncle Tom's Cabin . Do you think that's a typo that really should be bandage ?
  • On a TV modeling contest, a judge said, Her simian walk is unbelievable." Was that a good thing?"
  • What is the definition of adverbiously , from Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities ?
  • In Oliver Twist , Dodger refers to Oliver as flash companion . Can't find a definition of this anywhere. What does it mean?
  • Do elocutionists kill people?
  • For my English homework, I have to write a love poem. I'm only 13 and I haven't had my first love yet. How would I go about writing about feelings that I haven't felt yet?
  • Where on the body would I find my sarcophagus ?
  • What's stolid ? It sounds like someone who's stupid and built solid like a wall.
  • What's a wonton person?
  • In which play did William Shakespeare state that misery loves company?
  • What's comfit ? Is it a different way of saying comfort?
  • Where did the story Frankenstein by Mary Shelley take place?
  • What kind of person would a shallow-pate be?
  • What are myrmidons of Justice" in Great Expectations ?"
  • Faseeshis … no clue on the spelling, but I kind of got yelled at in school today for being that. What did I do?
  • In The Red Badge of Courage , what's an imprecation ?
  • The word portmanteau shows up in a lot of the literature I read for school assignments. It sounds French. What does it mean?
  • I did something really stupid yesterday, and my grandfather told me I was hoist with my own petard." What does that mean? And what's a petard ?"
  • How do you pronounce Cymbeline, one of Shakespeare's early comedies?
  • What's a bourse ? I read it in my finance class.
  • In The House of Mirth, what are oubliettes ?
  • In Tess of the d'Urbervilles, what are thimble-riggers ?
  • In Wuthering Heights , what's a thible ?
  • Which Hemingway story references the running of the bulls" in Spain?"
  • What's a clink? My dad mentioned that his granddad was there for a long time during World War I.
  • If somebody is toady," does it mean they're ugly?"
  • Who said all's fair in love and war" and where?"
  • Why is there so much talk about baseball, especially Joe DiMaggio, in The Old Man and the Sea ?
  • In the movie Failure to Launch , there's a line that goes, Well, she certainly is yar," in reference to a yacht. What's yar ?"
  • What does mangle mean in Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities ?
  • I got detention because a teacher said I was being contumacious . What's that?
  • What are encomiums?
  • What are billets in The Three Musketeers ?
  • In Orwell's 1984 , what is doublethink ?
  • What are orts ? That's a weird word that reminds me of orcs from The Lord of the Rings .
  • What are alliteration and assonance?
  • How is John the Savage's name ironic in Brave New World ?
  • What's quinsy?
  • What is a doppelgänger?
  • What is New Historicism?
  • I found the word unwonted in a book I'm reading. Is that a typo, you think?
  • In Heart of Darkness , what does cipher mean?
  • In the play The Glass Menagerie, would you describe Tom as selfish?
  • What does Kantian mean, from a philosophical perspective?
  • What's a colonnade ? My girlfriend is freaking me out with stories of her dream wedding where she walks down a colonnade. I know this is the least of my problems, but I'm curious.
  • My grandma says she knows how I feel when I knit my brows. Is she crazy?
  • Why is Shakespeare's play titled Julius Caesar , even though he is dead by Act III and plays a relatively small role?
  • I know bier has something to do with dead people, but what is it exactly?
  • My brainy brother owns a Harley and says his girlfriend is the pillion . Is he insulting her or just showing off?
  • I ran across the word mien in a book. Is it a typo?
  • Is a younker a person or a place?
  • Does precipitancy have something to do with the weather?
  • I'm writing a grade 12 comparative essay, and I need a book that I could compare with All Quiet on the Western Front. Any suggestions?
  • A friend says she suffers from ineffable sadness. What's ineffable ?
  • What's a scow ?
  • Is a maelstrom some kind of dangerous weather?
  • What is the meaning of this saying, The cat will mew and dog will have his day"?"
  • What is a paradox ?
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray mentions a panegyric on youth. What does that mean?
  • In Madame Bovary , what's a mairie?
  • In The Kite Runner, what's palliative mean?
  • So what's oligarchy ? In government class, my teacher mentioned that word when we were talking about the Blagojevich scandal in Illinois.
  • Is intrepidity a good thing or a bad thing?
  • My grandmother told me that she thinks grandpa should see an alienist. Does she think he's from another planet or what?
  • Do you have to have licentiousness to get your driver's license?
  • I ran across the word hardihood in something I read the other day. Is it some kind of clothing?
  • I saw mention of haversack in my history book. What does that word mean?
  • I'm guessing the word quadroon is four of something. But what's a roon?
  • I'm trying to understand Shakespeare's play, King Lear . Can you explain these quotes from Act 1, Scene 1?
  • In Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment , what's a samovar ?
  • I came across a music channel that featured tejano," and then I saw the same word when I was reading Bless Me, Ultima. What does it mean?"
  • In The Awakening , there's a term prunella gaiter." I'm guessing that gaiters are a type of covering for your legs, like the gaiters I use on my ski boots to keep snow out. But what the heck is prunella? Is it a purplish color like prunes?"
  • What's sedulous mean?
  • In Chapter 2 of Jane Eyre , what are divers parchments ?
  • A friend of mine said she hopes to get a counterpane for Christmas. What's that?
  • In Wuthering Heights, what does munificent mean?
  • The other day, my dad called my friends a motley crew. Is that his way of saying I should hang out with a different crowd?
  • Why is there an authorship problem with Shakespeare?
  • What is it called when something is out of place in time, like a jet stream in a movie about ancient Rome?
  • In 1984 , does Winston die from a bullet at the end of the book or is he in a dream-state?
  • I saw some old guy in a soldier's uniform selling fake red flowers. He said it was for Veterans Day. What's the connection?
  • I was kind of flirting with this really cute boy when my teacher told me to stop palavering. Did she want me to stop flirting or stop talking?
  • My grandmother says when she was a kid in China, she became Catholic because of the Mary Knows nuns. I tried to look that up on the Internet but couldn't find anything. Can you help?
  • In The Count of Monte Cristo , does cupidity mean love? I'm guessing that because of, you know, Cupid . . . Valentine's Day.
  • My theater teacher called me a name the other day. I don't think it was supposed to be a compliment. What's a somnambulist, anyway?
  • Why was Tartuffe such a jerk?
  • To Kill a Mockingbird has this word fey in it, but I don't know what it means. Does it mean short lived or fleeting?
  • In Pride and Prejudice , what's probity" &mdash
  • I never met my grandma, who my mom says lives in a hovel and wants her to move in with us. Then I saw that word in Frankenstein . What's a hovel? I thought it was like a place that had room service.
  • I have a friend who said something about phantasmagoric. That's not real, is it?
  • Which of the following literary devices is used in these poetic lines by John Milton?
  • In Faulkner's A Rose for Emily," what does noblesse oblige mean?"
  • What is love?
  • What is suggested by the coin image in Book II of A Tale of Two Cities ?
  • Why does Satan rebel against God?
  • I'm reading Candide, by Voltaire, and one of the dudes is an Anabaptist. What's that?
  • What does the poem Summer Sun" by Robert Louis Stevenson really mean?"
  • What did Shakespeare want to say about his beloved in Sonnet 18?
  • In Romeo and Juliet , who was the last person to see Juliet alive?
  • What is the Catechism?
  • What is the overall meaning of the poem Before The Sun," by Charles Mungoshi?"
  • What does ague mean?
  • Is there a reference to venereal disease in Romeo and Juliet ?
  • What is fantasy fiction?
  • What is the exposition in Othello ?
  • Who is the character Susan in Romeo and Juliet ?
  • What is a found poem?
  • What did Alice Walker mean in the essay Beauty"?"
  • Why did Dr. Frankenstein create his monster?
  • What is the name of the surgeon and the English ship he's on in Moby-Dick ?
  • What are the differences between an epic hero and a Romantic hero?
  • In Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, does Gail Wynand commit suicide or only close The Banner at the end of the novel? I'm in a literary dispute over this!
  • What did W.E.B. Du Bois mean when he wrote of second-sight?
  • What is nihilism, and what should I read to get a better understanding of it?
  • What is the difference between an atheist and an agnostic?
  • What are intelligent design and creationism and how are they related?
  • What is misanthropy ?
  • I would like to understand the poem Blight" by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Please help."
  • Can you explain the significance of the question, Which came first, the chicken or the egg?""
  • In Little Lost Robot," by Isaac Asimov, why have some robots been impressioned with only part of the First Law of Robotics?"
  • Can you explain Cartesian Dualism and how Descartes' philosophical endeavors led him to dualism?
  • When reading Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice , what does entailment mean?
  • What does ignominy mean? (From Shelley's Frankenstein )
  • What does pecuniary mean? (From Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities )
  • How do I analyze Kant's philosophy?
  • What is an apostrophe in Macbeth ?
  • Is music a language?
  • Why should literature be studied?
  • In the book The Scarlet Letter , what is a vigil ?
  • The first week of school isn't even over yet and I'm already in trouble — I forgot my textbook at school and can't do my homework! What should I do now?!
  • What are the renaissance features/characteristics in Hamlet ?
  • What is the exact quote in Hamlet about something being wrong in Denmark? Something smells? Something is amiss?
  • What does Utilitarianism mean, from a philosophical perspective?
  • What was the form of English that Shakespeare used?
  • At the beginning of Act V, Scene 2 of Much Ado About Nothing, does Shakespeare insinuate that anything is going on between Margaret and Benedick?
  • What was the "final solution" in the book Night by Elie Wiesel?
  • With the many novels out there, is there a database of some sort that can narrow down your choices to a specific book of interest for pleasure reading? And if not, why hasn't there been?
  • How do you pronounce Houyhnhnms ? (From Swift's Gulliver's Travels )
  • I just took the quiz on The Great Gatsby on this site. How can Jordan Baker be described as a professional golfer? To my knowledge, the LPGA did not form until the mid-1950s. Shouldn't she be referred to as an amateur golfer instead?
  • What are the humanities?
  • If Father, Son, and Holy Ghost aren't names, what is God's name?
  • What classic novels take place in Florida?
  • In which Hemingway short story is the saying, "Children's shoes for sale"?
  • Who is the "lady" that Robert Plant speaks of in the song "Stairway to Heaven"?
  • Was Odysseus the one who planned the Trojan horse, in the Trojan War?
  • How do I get my smart-but-hates-to-read son interested in reading?
  • Poetry gives me problems. How can I figure out what poems are about?
  • How do you analyze a novel?
  • What does it mean to ululate ? (From Golding's Lord of the Flies )
  • Is ambrosia a salad? (From Homer's The Odyssey )
  • What is a harbinger ? (From Shakespeare's Macbeth )
  • What does it mean to be refractory ? (From Dickens' Great Expectations )
  • What is a querulous kid? (From Wharton's Ethan Frome )
  • What does the word runagate mean? (From Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet )
  • What is the word, imprimis ? (From Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew )
  • What does the word alchemy mean? (From Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter )
  • What is an estuary ? (From Conrad's Heart of Darkness )
  • What or who is a scullion ? (From Shakespeare's Hamlet )
  • What is a schism ? (From Swift's Gulliver's Travels )
  • What does it mean to be salubrious ? (From Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights )
  • What is a replication ? (From Shakespeare's Hamlet )
  • What is vicissitude ? (From Hawthorne's The House of Seven Gables )
  • Can you define indolent ? (From Wharton's House of Mirth )
  • What does the word replete mean? (From Shakespeare's Henry V )
  • What are orisons ? (From Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet )
  • What does it mean to be ephemeral ?
  • What does it mean to be placid ? (From Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre )
  • What is a paroxysm ? (From Stoker's Dracula )
  • My English teacher got really mad when I said I was nauseous . Why?
  • What does it mean to be farinaceous ? (From Tolstoy's Anna Karenina )
  • What does dejection mean? (From Shelley's Frankenstein )
  • What is animadversion ? (From Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter )
  • What does it mean to be timorous ? (From Shakespeare's Othello )
  • Someone called me erudite . Is that good?
  • What is a mountebank ? (From Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter )
  • What does incarnadine mean? (From Shakespeare's Macbeth )
  • What does it mean to be puissant? (From Shakespeare's Julius Caesar)
  • What is a purloiner? (From Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities)
  • What does it mean to be affable ? (From Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment )
  • What does it mean to be ostensible ? (From Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court )
  • What does compunction mean? (From Dickens's Bleak House )
  • What is behoveful ? (From Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet )
  • What is a precentor ? (From Golding's Lord of the Flies )
  • What does it mean to be loquacious ? (From Cervantes's Don Quixote )
  • What does imprudence mean? (From Ibsen's A Doll's House )
  • What is a conflagration ? (From Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde )
  • What does it mean to be spurious ? (From James' Daisy Miller )
  • What is a retinue ? (From Swift's Gulliver's Travels )
  • What does the word forsworn mean? (From Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet )
  • What does the word hauteur mean? (From Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby )
  • What are vituperations ? (From Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl )
  • What are ostents ? (From Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice )
  • What is a sockdolager ? (From Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn )
  • What does insuperable mean? (From Shelley's Frankenstein )
  • What is calumny ? (From Shakespeare's Hamlet )
  • What is an augury ? (From Sophocles' Antigone )
  • What does squally mean? (From Dickens' Great Expectations )
  • What does corporal mean? (From Shakespeare's Macbeth )
  • What does it mean to be plausible ? (From Sinclair's The Jungle )
  • What is a dearth ? (From Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre )
  • What does it mean to vacillate ? (From Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest )
  • What does it mean to obtrude someone? (From Dickens's Great Expectations )
  • What is a heterodox ? (From Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter )
  • What is felicity ? (From Austen's Emma )
  • What does it mean to be effacing ? (From Adams's The Education of Henry Adams )
  • What is a repast ? (From Chan Tsao's Dream of the Red Chamber )
  • What does insouciance mean? (From Sinclair's The Jungle )
  • What is a soliloquy ? (From Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn )
  • I was reading The Iliad and there's this word in it: greaves . What's that?
  • What does the word prodigality mean? (From Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby )
  • Is there an easy way to understand The Canterbury Tales ?
  • What does the scarlet letter symbolize?
  • What is the significance of Grendel's cave in Beowulf ?
  • How did Hawthorne show that Hester Prynne was a strong woman in The Scarlet Letter ?
  • What purpose do the three witches serve at the beginning of Macbeth ?
  • What can you tell me about Grendel from Beowulf ?
  • What figurative language does Stephen Crane use in The Red Badge of Courage ?
  • Why is Roger so mean in Lord of the Flies ?
  • How do Gene and Finny mirror each other in A Separate Peace ?
  • The old man and the young wife — what's up with story plots like this?
  • What part does vengeance play in The Odyssey ?
  • What kind of a woman is Penelope in The Odyssey ?
  • Do fate and fortune guide the actions in Macbeth ?
  • How does Frankenstein relate to Paradise Lost ?
  • How has the way people view Othello changed over time?
  • How does Henry change throughout The Red Badge of Courage ?
  • What's so great about Gatsby?
  • How is To Kill a Mockingbird a coming-of-age story?
  • Why did Ophelia commit suicide in Hamlet ?
  • What is the setting of The Scarlet Letter ?
  • What is a slave narrative?
  • What's an anachronism ?
  • Doesn't Raskolnikov contradict himself in Crime and Punishment ?
  • What is the main theme of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ?
  • What does Shakespeare mean by memento mori ?
  • What are inductive and deductive arguments?
  • How does Alice Walker break the rules" of literature with The Color Purple ?"
  • What role does Friar Laurence play in Romeo and Juliet ?
  • Why did Elie Wiesel call his autobiography Night ?
  • How does Shakespeare play with gender roles in Macbeth ?
  • Where did Dickens get the idea to write A Tale of Two Cities ?
  • What's the purpose of the preface to The Scarlet Letter ?
  • What role do women play in A Tale of Two Cities ?
  • Who are the heroes and villains in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?
  • What are the ides of March?
  • Was Kate really a shrew in The Taming of the Shrew ?
  • What role does innocence play in The Catcher in the Rye ?
  • How are Tom and Huck different from each other in Huckleberry Finn ?
  • What is blank verse and how does Shakespeare use it?
  • How do the book and film versions of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest differ?
  • What is a satirical novel?
  • What is the role of censorship in Fahrenheit 451 ?
  • How can I keep myself on track to get through my summer reading list?
  • How does Jim fit into the overall theme of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ?
  • What is a major theme of The Great Gatsby ?
  • How does Shakespeare use light and darkness in Romeo and Juliet ?
  • Who is the narrator in Faulkner's A Rose for Emily"?"
  • In Lord of the Flies , what statement is William Golding making about evil?
  • How is The Catcher in the Rye different from other coming-of-age novels?
  • How does Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird show two sides?
  • Was there supposed to be a nuclear war in The Handmaid's Tale ? I couldn't tell.
  • What is experimental theater"?"
  • Does Jonas die at the end of The Giver ?
  • What is an inciting incident, and how do I find one in Lord of the Flies ?
  • How does King Arthur die?
  • In Julius Caesar , what does this mean: Cowards die many times before their deaths
  • How do you write a paper on comparing a movie with the book?
  • Please explain this Kipling quote: Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.""
  • What is a tragic flaw?
  • What is a motif, and how can I find them in Macbeth ?
  • Why didn't Socrates write any books? After all, he was supposed to be so intelligent and wise.
  • Why are there blanks in place of people's names and places in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice ?
  • Was Othello a king? A prince? He's referred to as My Lord" but I'm not sure of his actual title."
  • I need to download some pictures of Juliet. Where would I find these?
  • Why does Odysseus decide to listen to the Sirens, in The Odyssey , by Homer?
  • What does prose and poetry mean? What's the difference?
  • In The Scarlet Letter, why is the scaffold important and how does it change over the course of the novel?
  • Why does the legend of King Arthur hold such a powerful grip over us?
  • Do you like to read books?
  • What are the metrical features in poetry?
  • What are the riddles that Gollum asked Bilbo in The Hobbit ?
  • Can you tell me what these two quotes from Much Ado About Nothing mean?
  • What is connotation, and how do you find it in a poem?
  • What is a dramatic monologue?
  • What is formal fallacy?
  • In the movie Dead Poets Society, what are some themes and values that are relevant to Transcendentalism. What is Transcendentalism?
  • Why didn't Mina Harker realize she was under Dracula's spell when she witnessed her friend fall prey to him, too? Wasn't it obvious?
  • In The Three Musketeers by Dumas, Cardinal Richelieu is labeled as the villain. How could he be presented as a hero instead?
  • In Romeo and Juliet , what are the different types of irony used? Um, what's irony?
  • What is the main theme in Fahrenheit 451 ?
  • In Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities , what fact in Book the Second: Chapters 1-6, confirms Darnay's release?
  • Why is Invisible Man considered a bildungsroman?
  • In A Doll's House , what risqué item does Nora reveal to Dr. Rank that eventually prompts him to disclose his own secret?
  • What is a definition of short story?
  • What percentage of people are considered geniuses?
  • How do I write and publish my own novel?
  • Do I use the past or present tense to answer this question: What is this poem about?" "
  • A Closer Look at Internships
  • Consider Working for a Nonprofit Organization
  • Create a Top-Quality Cover Letter
  • Deciding Whether to Go for Your MBA
  • Dress the Part for a Job Interview
  • Appropriate Attire: Defining Business Casual
  • Famous Americans Who Started Out in the Military
  • The Benefits of Joining a Professional Organization
  • Five Job Interview Mistakes
  • Getting Good References for Your Job Hunt
  • Lying on Your Resume
  • Make the Most of Days between Jobs
  • Military Career Opportunity: Translators and Interpreters
  • Network Your Way into a Job
  • Prepare for a Job Interview
  • Preparing for Job Interview Questions
  • Putting Your English Degree to Work
  • Putting Your Education Degree to Work
  • Take Advantage of Job and Career Fairs
  • Tips for a Better Resume
  • Understand Negotiable Elements of a Job Offer
  • Visit the College Career Office
  • Write a Resume That Will Get Noticed
  • Write a Thank You Note after an Interview
  • Writing a Follow-Up Letter after Submitting Your Resume
  • Your Military Career: Basics of Officer Candidate School
  • Your Military Career: Requirements for Officer Candidate School
  • Know What to Expect in Graduate School
  • Paying for Graduate School
  • Plan for Graduate Education
  • Tackle the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
  • What Does School Accreditation Mean?
  • Writing Essays for Your Business School Application
  • Apply to Graduate School
  • Basic Requirements for Grad School
  • Choose a Graduate School
  • Decide if Graduate School Is Right for You
  • English Majors: Selecting a Graduate School or Program
  • Getting Letters of Recommendation for Your Business School Application
  • Graduate School Application: Tips, Advice, and Warnings
  • Graduate School: Applying as a Returning Student
  • How to Find a Mentor for Graduate School
  • How to Prepare for Grad School as an Undergrad
  • How Work Experience Affects Your MBA Application
  • Master's Degree in Biology: Choosing a Grad School
  • In what countries does Toyota produce and market cars?
  • How would you use the PDSA cycle in your personal life?
  • I am confused about adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing negative numbers.
  • Who are some famous female mathematicians?
  • Given the set of numbers [7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42], find a subset of these numbers that sums to 100.
  • The speed limit on a certain part of the highway is 65 miles per hour. What is this in feet per minute?
  • What is the sum of the angles of an octagon?
  • In math, what does reciprocal mean?
  • How many grams in an ounce?
  • A number is 20 less than its square. Find all answers.
  • How much is 1,000 thousands?
  • How do I find the angles of an isosceles triangle whose two base angles are equal and whose third angle is 10 less than three times a base angle?
  • Explain with words and an example how any number raised to the zero power is 1?
  • If I had 550 coins in a machine worth $456.25, what would be the denomination of each coin?
  • What three consecutive numbers add up to 417?
  • How many 100,000,000s in 50 billion?
  • Of 100 students asked if they like rock and roll or country music, 7 said they like neither, 90 said they like rock and roll, and 57 said they like country music. How many students like both?
  • What's the formula to convert square feet into square meters?
  • In math, what is the definition of order of operations?
  • What's the difference between digital and analog?
  • What is the square root of 523,457?
  • What are all of the prime numbers?
  • Our teacher told us to look for clues in math word problems. What did she mean?
  • How do I figure out math word problems (without going crazy)?
  • What good is geometry going to do me after I get out of school?
  • I keep forgetting how to add fractions. Can you remind me?
  • My teacher talks about the Greatest Common Factor. What's so great about it?
  • Got any tips on finding percentages of a number?
  • What does associative property mean when you’re talking about adding numbers?
  • How do I use domain and range in functions?
  • How do I change percents to decimals and fractions? How about decimals and fractions to percents?
  • What should I do if my teacher wants me to solve an inequality on a number line?
  • What is a fast and easy way to work word problems?
  • How do you combine numbers and symbols in an algebraic equation?
  • How do I go about rounding off a number?
  • What is the First Derivative Test for Local Extrema?
  • Can you describe a prism for me?
  • How can I double-check my answers to math equations?
  • How do you factor a binomial?
  • I get the words mean , mode , median , and range mixed up in math. What do they all mean?
  • How do you combine like terms in algebra?
  • Can you make it easier for me to understand what makes a number a prime number?
  • Explain probability to me (and how about some examples)?
  • Solving story problems is, well, a problem for me. Can you help?
  • What's inferential statistics all about?
  • Finding percentages confuses me. Do you have any tips to make it simpler?
  • What's a quadratic equation, and how do I solve one?
  • How do you figure out probability?
  • How do you add integers?
  • How do you use factoring in quadratic equations?
  • What are limits in calculus?
  • I've looked everywhere to find the meaning of this word and I can't find it. What's the definition of tesseract ?
  • In geometry, how do you get the perimeters of a square and a rectangle?
  • What is the absolute value of a negative number?
  • A rectangle swimming pool is 24m longer than it is wide and is surrounded by a deck 3m wide. Find the area of the pool if the area of the deck is 324m 2 . Where do I even start to solve this problem?
  • How do you classify numbers, as in rational numbers, integers, whole numbers, natural numbers, and irrational numbers? I am mostly stuck on classifying fractions.
  • How do you convert a fraction to a decimal or change a decimal to a fraction?
  • I am trying to find all solutions to this algebra (factoring) problem, x 3 – 3x 2 – x + 3 = 0, and I keep getting the wrong answer. Please help!
  • Sometimes when I'm doing my pre-calculus homework I need help on some of the problems. Do you know where I can find help on the weekends or whenever?
  • How do you convert metric measurements?
  • I'm curious about converting Celsius to Fahrenheit, or Fahrenheit to Celsius. How do I convert from one to the other?
  • In basic math, the fraction bar shows division. So why does this equation show multiplication instead of division? 9/9 = 1 because 1 x 9 = 9.
  • I'm taking geometry and I'm having problem with the angles and the degree. Is there a way you can help me out?
  • The perimeter of a rectangle is 66m. The width is 9m less than the length. What is the length and width of the rectangle?
  • How many dollars are in 5,000 pesos?
  • How many ounces in a pound?
  • I'm having a hard time remembering percent of change. All I have is P (percent) = amount of change over original amount. Is there a better way of understanding it?
  • How do I figure out tangrams?
  • What are quadrilaterals?
  • What is the least common multiple of 8, 6, and 12?
  • How do you convert decimals to fractions?
  • How did the planet" Pluto get its name? I know it's named after the mythical god of the underworld, but why?"
  • What is the difference between the earth's core and its crust?
  • What does gender really mean?
  • What does plum pudding have to do with physics?
  • What is the functionalist perspective in sociology?
  • What does pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis mean?
  • Why aren't viruses considered living things?
  • Why does your breathing rate increase when you exercise?
  • Everyone says you shouldn't clean your ears with cotton swabs because you could break an eardrum. But if you do break your eardrum, will it grow back?
  • What is a mole?
  • How, and why, is body fat stored?
  • Where on the body do you find ciliated pseudostratified columnar epithelium?
  • Since she was only married for 72 days, does Kim Kardashian have to give back her wedding gifts?
  • In the United States, how can you get buried at sea?
  • What exactly is Salvia divinorum , and is it legal?
  • What is the composition and volume of whole blood?
  • Should I refer to a widow as Mrs., Miss, or Ms.?
  • Is it possible to catch more than one cold at a time?
  • Why does the Earth have more gravitational force than the moon or some other planet?
  • Did humans evolve from monkeys or apes?
  • What is the largest organ in the human body?
  • How did we end up with both Fahrenheit and Celsius scales?
  • What is absolute zero?
  • What is cell theory?
  • How come when humans flatulate, it smells bad?
  • How do I convert mL into µL, and vice versa?
  • What is the most abundant element in the earth's crust?
  • Is global warming man-made?
  • What exactly is wind? And why does it blow?
  • This sounds really disgusting, but I'm curious: Can humans drink animal blood, or any other kind of blood?
  • Why is space exploration important?
  • How is photosynthesis essential to life on earth?
  • What is the highest mountain in New Mexico?
  • What's the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?
  • Who are the unbelievers" referred to in The Koran? What is it that they do not believe?"
  • What is the difference between Sunnis and Shi'ites?
  • What happens when you die?
  • Why is it important to memorize where the 50 states are on a map?
  • What kind of endangered species are there? Can you give me some examples, please?
  • It's impossible to sneeze with your eyes open, so when you drive a car, is it against the law to sneeze?
  • What are tectonic plates?
  • I have boy trouble. I want to ask out my friend, but I am not sure he is going to say yes. Plus, he said he had a girlfriend when we talked during school. Plus, my parents don't want me to date.
  • Why is the sky blue?
  • Do you really shrink at the end of the day and then grow in the morning?
  • What is the difference between matter" and "mass"?"
  • What does "nature versus nurture" mean?
  • What are closed contour lines?
  • What is homeostasis ?
  • What does the periodic table look like?
  • Do you know anything about the law of conservation of energy? Is it really a law?
  • I thought I knew what work means, but my physics teacher defines it differently. What's up with that?
  • How do plants know when to drop their leaves?
  • What's the surface of the moon like?
  • How does the number of neutrons in the nucleus of an atom differentiate it from another atom?
  • How do big rocks wear down over time?
  • What does genetic recombination mean?
  • How has DNA matching really made big difference in finding out who committed a crime?
  • What's the difference between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems?
  • What is incomplete dominance?
  • Can hydrocarbons be considered compounds?
  • Can you explain what molar mass is?
  • Aren't fungi really plants?
  • What information is contained in a chemical equation?
  • What are the endocrine and exocrine systems?
  • How do electrical charges interact?
  • Are there more than three kingdoms of life? I can never remember.
  • What are the characteristics of electrically charged objects?
  • How does anomie theory explain deviant behavior?
  • Why would anybody think there might be life on another planet?
  • What are chemical solutions?
  • Do you know of any way to simplify the overall subject of biochemical genetics?
  • Can a loud noise really shatter glass?
  • How do magnetic fields work?
  • Did Clarence Darrow really call an animal in to testify at the famous monkey trial?
  • What role does the thyroid gland play in the human body?
  • What did Mendel discover about heredity when he was playing around with plants?
  • How many laws of motion did Newton come up with, and what are they?
  • What in the world is constructive and destructive interference?
  • How do viruses do their dirty work?
  • What do bones do, except give us a skeletal structure?
  • Do all viruses look alike?
  • My teacher keeps talking about solubility. What does that mean, anyway?
  • How do positive and negative reinforcement work?
  • How does nondisjunction relate to birth defects?
  • With all the germs in the world today, how come everybody's not sick all the time?
  • What is thermal equilibrium?
  • How are sound waves created?
  • What do taste buds look like — up-close?
  • How often does an eclipse happen?
  • What is the chemical composition of saltwater?
  • I was told to write a 15-sentence answer to this question: When in life do you learn to expect the unexpected? I don't really know of an answer. Can you help me figure it out?
  • My school is having a blood drive and I am considering donating blood. Can you tell me more about the whole process and if it is painful?
  • Where can I download music for free? And if I do, is it illegal?
  • How do I convince my parents to give me ten bucks?
  • How should I deal with being a perfectionist?
  • How do I convince my little brother and sisters to stay out of my room?
  • Can you eat a rooster?
  • How do I work out a problem with a teacher who loses the assignments I turn in and then accuses me of not doing the homework?
  • Could a Tyrannosaurus rex kill King Kong?
  • How would you describe a rainbow to a person who has been blind their ENTIRE life and doesn't understand colors?
  • Will a tattoo inhibit hair growth?
  • When did gays come about?
  • I was wondering if the tilt on the earth's axis is important to animal life on earth. Could you explain?
  • What are the four types of tissue found in the human body?
  • Is there any easy" way to understand the Krebs Cycle?"
  • Why are prostaglandins sometimes called tissue hormones?
  • What is cell death? And what is the difference between apoptosis and necrosis?
  • How do I find the molar mass of the elements on the periodic table?
  • What do the symbols on the Periodic Table mean? For example, Gold-Au, Silver-Ag, Lead-Pb, Potassium-K, Tin-Sn, Iron-Fe, and Mercury-Hg, where did these symbols come from?
  • How is your mind connected to your dreams? Does this have anything to do with psychology?
  • What are the three main functions of the skeletal system?
  • What are the characteristics of a moneran, protist, and fungus?
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  • What is the difference between nuclear fusion and nuclear fission?
  • Does a person have to have the same blood type as his or her brothers and sisters?
  • My teacher said that eating poisonous mushrooms can make you sick or even kill you, but that they're not the only fungus that can. What is she talking about?
  • What is the chemical equation for orange juice?
  • What kind of structures are opposable toes?
  • What is an oral groove?
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  • What does the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) do?
  • What is the angle formed by a horizontal line and a line of sight to a point below?
  • After I take the ASVAB, what is my obligation to the military?
  • If I choose to take the computerized version of the GRE, will I be typing or writing my analytical and issue essays?
  • Are there any MBA programs that don't require the GMAT?
  • Can you use a calculator on the GMAT? What are you allowed to take in with you to the test?
  • Should I keep taking the GMAT until I get a good score?
  • How is the ASVAB scored?
  • I canceled my GMAT score right after I took the test. Now I'm wondering if I did the right thing.
  • What is the ASVAB AFQT?
  • Where can I take the ASVAB?
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  • How is my GMAT score used by grad schools?
  • Is it true that the writing assessment sections of the GMAT are graded by a computer?
  • What kinds of scores are reported on the GRE, and how long will it take for me to get my scores?
  • What do I need to bring with me to the GRE testing center?
  • How are GRE scores used?
  • How do I learn stuff for in-class exams?
  • How do I get ready for a math test?
  • Can I take a calculator to my ACT exam?
  • Do you have any tips for doing well on the AP Chemistry test?
  • What can I expect in the math part of the SAT?
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  • What is the Critical Reasoning section of the SAT like?
  • Is there a fun way to learn SAT vocabulary?
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  • How can I make sure I finish the AP essay question in time?
  • Since I made the soccer team, I don't feel like I have enough time to study. Do you have any study tips so I can use my time better and make sure I don't get kicked off the team for my grades?
  • I'm a huge procrastinator. How can I manage my time effectively to catch up on my assignments?
  • What kind or amount of note-taking is optimal? I get lost while making a notation and miss other parts of the lecture.
  • I study so hard for my tests that I know I know the material, but then I always panic and bomb. How can I reduce my test anxiety?
  • I do really bad on quizzes. I'm okay with tests and homework, but I do horribly on quizzes. What can I do to prepare for quizzes?
  • I've screwed up horribly this semester. I always say I'm going to change my habits, but I always end up getting lazy and doing something else. I want to succeed, but how can I get rid of my own laziness?
  • If you have any music or audio notes playing on tape, CD, or whatever and you fall asleep, is it true that you'll have whatever was played memorized by the time you wake up?
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  • What if I have a really bad memory? When I read a page of a book, I can't go back and remember it.
  • Why do some teachers say light a peppermint candle? I mean, I don't think it helps you concentrate.
  • I really suck at taking multiple choice tests. Do you have any suggestions for not psyching myself out before a big test?
  • Is there a WRONG way to study?
  • Are the math questions on the GMAT extremely difficult and complex?
  • Does it matter whether I take the SAT or ACT in my junior year or my senior year of high school?
  • What does AP mean?
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  • Somebody in my drama club used the word ostentation the other day. What does that mean, anyway?
  • Define paraphrasing.
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  • I find the same typo in a lot of books I read. Shouldn't connexion be connection ?
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  • Should I say, “Can I have a banana?” or “May I have a banana?”
  • Is the proper capitalization Atlantic ocean or Atlantic Ocean ?
  • What does the word supercilious mean?
  • Is grippe something that makes you sick?
  • Does the word elucidation have something to do with drugs?
  • How would you use fervid and fervent in a sentence?
  • How can someone become a good writer?
  • How do you cite CliffsNotes in APA, MLA, and CMS styles?
  • What period in history does histrionics cover?
  • People used to die from consumption. Does that mean they ate too much?
  • Is it ever okay to start a sentence with the word but?
  • What is the longest word in the English language?
  • I'm learning English now, so I gave myself an English name — Vivi." However, an American told me that "Vivi" is not suitable for a name. There are some local reasons. So I want to know if "Vivi" really can't be used as a name."
  • When writing a paper, what do I do to the title of a book? Do I underline it or italicize it?
  • Please look at this sentence: Both Peter and John like soccer. Should it be: Both Peter and John likes soccer.
  • What are the four genders of noun?
  • What is it called when a word is the same both forward and backward?
  • Do swans really sing when they die
  • What does indignation mean?
  • What is a pundit ?
  • What is a cleft sentence
  • What is the difference between narration and first person?
  • Is it grammatically correct to say take some shots"?"
  • My teacher thinks I plagiarized an essay; what should I tell him?
  • Why do some authors use the word an before all words that start with an H? Is this form of writing correct?
  • My school newspaper claimed that I am. is the shortest complete sentence in the English language. Isn't Go. a complete sentence?
  • How did people make up the lb. abbreviation for pounds?
  • Which is correct: "if I was" or "if I were"? And why?
  • How would you use the word antecede in a sentence?
  • Could you please explain the difference between affect and effect ?
  • How do I write a good thesis statement?
  • What do people mean when they talk about information in the public domain?
  • What's the big deal about plagiarism, anyway?
  • Is there a difference between envy and jealousy ?
  • Can you define the words prostate and prostrate ?
  • What does it mean to be threadbare ?
  • Is there a difference between the words ignorant and stupid ?
  • I used the word reoccur in a paper and my teacher said it should have been recur . Can you tell me the difference?
  • What does it mean to be flabbergasted ?
  • When should I write the word lose and when should I write loose ?
  • What does ad infinitum mean? (From Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre )
  • Do loath and loathe have different meanings?
  • I got marked down on a paper for using the word irregardless . Why?
  • What does it mean to be fastidious ? (From Dumas's The Count of Monte Cristo )
  • Do stationary and stationery mean the same thing?
  • How is the word among different than the word between ?
  • What is a hierarchy ?
  • What is the difference between tortuous and torturous ?
  • Can you help me understand the difference between the words censor and censure ?
  • I get farther and further confused. Can you help?
  • I can t keep principal and principle clear Can you help
  • My teacher lowered my grade on a paper because I described a scene as grizzly . I thought that was a word.
  • Are the words gamut and gauntlet interchangeable?
  • When do I write some time instead of sometime and sometimes ?
  • Can you help me figure out when to use the word lay instead of lie ?
  • Can you tell me when to use faze instead of phase ?
  • What is the difference between avenge and revenge ?
  • What is the difference between the words precede and proceed ?
  • How do I fix a run-on sentence?
  • How useful are automatic spell-checkers?
  • Is it okay to begin a sentence with and ?
  • When is it okay to use sentence fragments?
  • What is future perfect tense?
  • Is it okay to split infinitives?
  • Why do people often confuse than and then in writing?
  • When do I use commas with clauses?
  • How do I decide which type of pronoun to use when I have multiple pronouns?
  • What types of words or phrases should I avoid in my writing?
  • What is parallel structure in writing?
  • When should I use apostrophe-S?
  • What is a clause?
  • I have to write an essay, and I'm having a hard time getting started. Do you have any tips?
  • How can I make the most out of my first draft?
  • What should I avoid when writing the conclusion of a research paper?
  • Are can and may interchangeable?
  • What is passive voice?
  • What does it mean to be quixotic ?
  • What are linking verbs?
  • What does it mean to use redundant adverbs?
  • How do I organize a comparison essay?
  • How do I decide between who and whom ?
  • How do you use possessives in front of gerunds?
  • Can I end a sentence with a preposition?
  • How do I decide on the scope of my essay?
  • What are participles?
  • What's the difference between will and shall ?
  • Which adjectives can't be modified with more and most ?
  • What are indirect objects?
  • Should I use his , his or her , or their ?
  • What's the difference between farther and further ?
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  • What exactly is a theme of a story, and how can I recognize it?
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  • What is a dynamic character? What is a static character? How are they different?
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  • What is the author's style" of a book?"
  • What is a one-word sentence called?
  • What word class would the word Novembery fit in to?
  • My instructor wrote on my paper to be careful about using passive voice. What does that mean?
  • Is it grammatically correct to say, She went missing"? What is the rule?"
  • I need information on the social roles of language. How are individuals judged based on their use of language?
  • What is the origin of the word promotion ?
  • What's a preposition?
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  • I have to write an essay for my AP world history class and my teacher said to use direct comparison, but I'm confused on what he means by that. Please Help!
  • I'm reading The Scarlet Letter in my Honors AP English class and my teacher wants us to do a 5 paragraph essay. What's the best way to start the introduction?
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  • I have to write a dialogue that might take place between the speakers of The World Is Not a Pleasant Place to Be" and "Where Have You Gone." What exactly is a dialogue?"
  • What is the literary device of writing exactly as a character speaks, even if words are misspelled and the grammar is non-standard?
  • What are the first-person, second-person, and third-person points of view? Which is used for formal essays?
  • What is a good sentence for the word plinth ?
  • What are footnotes and endnotes? How do I start off a title page?
  • Why can't you be rude or sarcastic in your thesis statement?
  • How do you write a paper, when the topic is yourself? How do you research that kind of thing?
  • What would a raging river be like?

Okay, for example, a story could convey an attitude of humor or sarcasm toward its characters and events, signaling to the reader that the material is to be taken with a grain of salt. Or perhaps an attitude of sincerity and earnestness is created through subtle content and language manipulation, telling the reader to take the story seriously.

Think of how you use tone of voice to convey your real meaning when speaking with a friend. Tone can change the meaning of the declaration "Nice outfit." in many different ways. You can turn it into a compliment, sarcastic remark, or envious comment. It all depends on the way you say it by changing the inflection, your emphasis on certain words, and the vocal range you use. Combine all that with your body language or facial expressions, and you convey your tone.

The same goes for writing — how you present your words changes the tone. Check this out:

Sincere: She rose from her chair when I came in and exclaimed with a smile: "Wow! Nice outfit!"
Sarcastic: She gave me one look and said, with a short laugh, "Yeah, right! Nice outfit!"
Envious: She glanced at me quickly and muttered reluctantly, "Um, yeah . . . nice outfit."
Insulting: She looked at me incredulously and said, "Eww! Nice outfit!"

So those are just a few examples of tone. Others include sad, angry, joyous, playful, ironic, condescending . . . now you think of some!

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Components of Attitude: ABC Model

Saul Mcleod, PhD

Editor-in-Chief for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Saul Mcleod, Ph.D., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years experience of working in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Learn about our Editorial Process

Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc

Associate Editor for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc Psychology of Education

Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.

On This Page:

An attitude is “a relatively enduring organization of beliefs, feelings, and behavioral tendencies towards socially significant objects, groups, events or symbols” (Hogg & Vaughan 2005, p. 150)

“..a psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favor or disfavor.” (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993, p. 1)

ABC Model of Attitude

The ABC Model of Attitudes, also known as the tri-component model, is a framework in psychology that describes 3 components of attitudes (Eagly & Chaiken 1998):

  • A ffective component : this involves a person’s feelings/emotions about the attitude object. For example: “I am scared of spiders.”
  • B ehavioral (or conative) component: the way the attitude we have influenced how we act or behave. For example: “I will avoid spiders and scream if I see one.”
  • C ognitive component involves a person’s belief/knowledge about an attitude object. For example: “I believe spiders are dangerous.”

These three components collectively form an individual’s attitude toward an object, person, issue, or situation.

Affective Component

The affective component of an attitude refers to the emotional reactions or feelings an individual has towards an object, person, issue, or situation.

This component involves feelings or emotional responses like liking, disliking, love, hate, fear, etc.  It is essentially the emotional aspect of an attitude that can influence an individual’s behavior.

For instance, if someone feels positive about exercising, this is an affective response that may make them more likely to engage in physical activity.

Suppose someone has a fear of spiders (the affective component). In that case, they might avoid places where they believe spiders may be present (the behavioral component) due to their belief that all spiders are harmful (the cognitive component).

Behavioral Component

The behavioral component of an attitude refers to how one behaves or acts towards an object, person, issue, or situation based on their attitude.

It involves an individual’s tendency to behave in a certain way toward the attitude object.

For example, suppose a person has a positive attitude toward healthy eating (affective and cognitive components). In that case, the behavioral component of their attitude may be demonstrated by them frequently choosing to eat fruits and vegetables, avoiding fast food, and cooking meals at home.

Cognitive Component

The cognitive component of an attitude refers to the beliefs, thoughts, and attributes that an individual associates with an object, person, issue, or situation. It involves the mental processes of understanding and interpreting information.

For example, suppose a person believes that recycling benefits the environment and effectively conserves natural resources. In that case, this represents the cognitive component of their positive attitude towards recycling.

This cognitive component can influence their feelings about recycling (affective component) and their likelihood of engaging in recycling behaviors (behavioral component).

The knowledge function is intimately tied to the cognitive component of attitudes as it directly influences how we interpret and make sense of our beliefs and perceptions.

Attitude Strength

The strength with which an attitude is held is often a good predictor of behavior. The stronger the attitude, the more likely it should affect behavior. Attitude strength involves:

Importance / personal relevance refers to how significant the attitude is for the person and relates to self-interest, social identification, and value.

If an attitude has a high self-interest for a person (i.e., it is held by a group the person is a member of or would like to be a member of and is related to a person’s values), it is going to be extremely important.

As a consequence, the attitude will have a very strong influence on a person’s behavior. By contrast, an attitude will not be important to a person if it does not relate in any way to their life.

The knowledge aspect of attitude strength covers how much a person knows about the attitude object. People are generally more knowledgeable about topics that interest them and are likely to hold strong attitudes (positive or negative) as a consequence.

Attitudes based on direct experience are more strongly held and influence behavior more than attitudes formed indirectly (for example, through hearsay, reading, or watching television).

Principle of Consistency

One of the underlying assumptions about the link between attitudes and behavior is that of consistency.

This means that we often or usually expect a person’s behavior to be consistent with their attitudes. This is called the principle of consistency.

The principle of consistency reflects the idea that people are rational and attempt to behave rationally at all times and that a person’s behavior should be consistent with their attitude(s).

Whilst this principle may sound, it is clear that people do not always follow it, sometimes behaving in seemingly illogical ways; for example, smoking cigarettes and knowing that smoking causes lung cancer and heart disease.

There is evidence that behavior’s cognitive and affective components do not always match with behavior. This is shown in a study by LaPiere (1934) .

Eagly, A. H. Chaiken. S.(1998). Attitude, structure and function.  Handbook of social psychology , 269-322.

Eagly, A. H., & Chaiken, S. (1993). The psychology of attitudes . Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers.

Hogg, M., & Vaughan, G. (2005). Social Psychology (4th edition) . London: Prentice-Hall.

LaPiere, R. T. (1934). Attitudes vs. Actions. Social Forces , 13, 230-237.

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The Power of Positive Thinking

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

essay attitude meaning

Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments.

essay attitude meaning

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What Is Positive Thinking?

  • Benefits of Positive Thinking

How to Practice Positive Thinking

Potential pitfalls of positive thinking, frequently asked questions.

Do you tend to see the glass as half empty or half full? You have probably heard that question plenty of times. Your answer relates directly to the concept of positive thinking and whether you have a positive or negative outlook on life. Positive thinking plays an important role in positive psychology , a subfield devoted to the study of what makes people happy and fulfilled.

Research has found that positive thinking can aid in stress management and even plays an important role in your overall health and well-being. It can help combat feelings of low self-esteem, improve physical health, and help brighten your overall outlook on life.

This article discusses what positive thinking is and the health benefits of being positive. It also explores some of the strategies you can use to become a more positive thinker.

Positive thinking means approaching life's challenges with a positive outlook. It doesn't mean seeing the world through rose-colored lenses by ignoring or glossing over the negative aspects of life.

Positive thinking does not necessarily mean avoiding difficult situations. Instead, positive thinking means making the most of potential obstacles, trying to see the best in other people, and viewing yourself and your abilities in a positive light.

Some researchers, including positive psychologist Martin Seligman , frame positive thinking in terms of explanatory style. Your explanatory style is how you explain why events happened.

  • Optimistic explanatory style : People with an optimistic explanatory style tend to give themselves credit when good things happen and typically blame outside forces for bad outcomes. They also tend to see negative events as temporary and atypical.
  • Pessimistic explanatory style : People with a pessimistic explanatory style often blame themselves when bad things happen, but fail to give themselves adequate credit for successful outcomes. They also have a tendency to view negative events as expected and lasting. As you can imagine, blaming yourself for events outside of your control or viewing these unfortunate events as a persistent part of your life can have a detrimental impact on your state of mind.

Positive thinkers are more apt to use an optimistic explanatory style, but the way in which people attribute events can also vary depending upon the exact situation. For example, a person who is generally a positive thinker might use a more pessimistic explanatory style in particularly challenging situations, such as at work or at school.

While there are many factors that determine whether a person has a positive outlook, the way that they explain the events of their life, known as their explanatory style, plays an important role.

Positive Psychology vs. Positive Thinking

While the terms "positive thinking" and "positive psychology" are sometimes used interchangeably, it is important to understand that they are not the same thing. Positive thinking is about looking at things from a positive point of view. It is a type of thinking that focuses on maintaining a positive, optimistic attitude. Positive psychology is a branch of psychology that studies the effects of optimism, what causes it, and when it is best utilized.

Health Benefits of Positive Thinking

In recent years, the so-called "power of positive thinking" has gained a great deal of attention thanks to self-help books such as "The Secret." While these pop-psychology books often tout positive thinking or philosophies like the law of attraction as a sort of psychological panacea, empirical research has found that there are many very real health benefits linked to positive thinking and optimistic attitudes.

Positive thinking is linked to a wide range of health benefits, including:

  • Better stress management and coping skills
  • Enhanced psychological health
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Increased physical well-being
  • Longer life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease-related death

One study of 1,558 older adults found that positive thinking could also reduce frailty during old age.

A 2018 study published in the Journal of Aging Research found that having a positive mental attitude was linked to decreased mortality over a 35-year period. People who had a more positive outlook were also more likely to get regular physical exercise, avoid smoking, eat a healthier diet, and get more quality sleep.

Clearly, there are many benefits of positive thinking . But why, exactly, does positive thinking have such a strong impact on physical and mental health ?

One theory is that people who think positively tend to be less affected by stress. Research suggests that having more positive automatic thoughts helps people become more resilient in the face of life's stressful events. People who had high levels of positive thinking were more likely to walk away from stressful life events with a higher sense of the meaningfulness of life.

Another possibility is that people who think positively tend to live healthier lives in general; they may exercise more, follow a more nutritious diet, and avoid unhealthy behaviors.

While you might be more prone to negative thinking, there are strategies that you can use to become a more positive thinker. Practicing these strategies regularly can help you get in the habit of maintaining a more positive outlook on life.

  • Notice your thoughts : Start paying attention to the type of thoughts you have each day. If you notice that many of them are negative, make a conscious effort to reframe how you are thinking in a more positive way.
  • Write in a gratitude journal : Practicing gratitude can have a range of positive benefits and it can help you learn to develop a better outlook. Experiencing grateful thoughts helps people to feel more optimistic.
  • Use positive self-talk : How you talk to yourself can play an important role in shaping your outlook. Studies have shown that shifting to more positive self-talk can have a positive impact on your emotions and how you respond to stress.

While there are many benefits to thinking positively, there are actually times when more realistic thinking is more advantageous. For example, in some situations, negative thinking can actually lead to more accurate decisions and outcomes.

Some research has found that negative thinking and moods can actually help people make better, more accurate judgments.

However, research suggests that realistic optimism might be the ideal. The results of a 2020 study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin revealed that people who have mistaken expectations, whether those expectations are optimistic or pessimistic, tend to fare worse in terms of mental health when compared to realists.  

The authors of the study suggest that the disappointment that optimists experience when their high hopes are not realized can have a negative impact on well-being. This doesn't mean that people should strive to be pessimistic thinkers. since studies indicate that people with a negative outlook tend to fare the worst. Instead, having a generally positive outlook that is focused on realistic expectations may be the best approach. 

In some cases, inappropriately applied positive thinking can cross the line into what is known as toxic positivity . This involves insisting on maintaining a positive mindset no matter how upsetting, dire, or damaging a situation might be. This type of excessive positivity can impede authentic communication and cause people to experience feelings of shame or guilt if they struggle to maintain such an overly positive outlook.

Positive thinking can have pitfalls at times. While it is important to have an overall positive outlook, unrealistically high expectations can lead to disappointment. Being unable to accept any negative emotions, known as toxic positivity, can also have a negative effect on mental well-being.

A Word From Verywell

Even if you are not a natural-born optimist, there are things you can do to learn how to think more positively and become a positive thinker . One of the first steps is to focus on your own inner monologue and to pay attention to your self-talk.

Strategies that can improve your positive thinking include noticing your thoughts and making a conscious effort to shift from negative thoughts to more positive one. Practicing positive self-talk and practicing gratitude can also be helpful ways to start having a more positive outlook.

Positive thinking is important because it can have a beneficial impact on both physical and mental well-being. People who maintain a more positive outlook on life cope better with stress, have better immunity, and have a lower risk of premature death. Positive thinking also helps promote greater feelings of happiness and overall satisfaction with life.

Positive thinking has been shown to help people live healthier, happier lives. When they have a positive outlook, they are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors such as exercising, eating healthy, and getting plenty of rest. Downsides of positive thinking include the risk of forming overly high expectations that result in disappointment and being affected by toxic positivity.

Practicing mindfulness can be a way to build self-awareness and become more conscious of how your negative thoughts affect your moods and behaviors. As you become better at identifying negative thought patterns, you can then take steps to shift into a more positive mindset. Actively replacing negative thoughts with positive ones can help you eventually learn to become a more positive thinker.

Kim ES, Hagan KA, Grodstein F, DeMeo DL, De Vivo I, Kubzansky LD. Optimism and cause-specific mortality: a prospective cohort study . Am J Epidemiol. 2017;185(1):21-29. doi:10.1093/aje/kww182

Seligman M.  Learned Optimism . Random House.

Chang E, Sanna L.  Virtue, Vice, And Personality: The Complexity of Behavior . American Psychological Association.

Johns Hopkins Medicine. The power of positive thinking .

Park N, Peterson C, Szvarca D, Vander Molen RJ, Kim ES, Collon K. Positive psychology and physical health: Research and applications . Am J Lifestyle Med . 2016;10(3):200-206. doi:10.1177/1559827614550277

Gale CR, Mõttus R, Deary IJ, Cooper C, Sayer AA. Personality and risk of frailty: The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing . Ann Behav Med . 2017;51(1):128-136. doi:10.1007/s12160-016-9833-5

Paganini-Hill A, Kawas CH, Corrada MM. Positive mental attitude associated with lower 35-year mortality: The Leisure World Cohort Study .  J Aging Res . 2018;2018:2126368. doi:10.1155/2018/2126368

Boyraz G, Lightsey OR Jr. Can positive thinking help? Positive automatic thoughts as moderators of the stress-meaning relationship . Am J Orthopsychiatry . 2012;82(2):267-77. doi:10.1111/j.1939-0025.2012.01150.x

Kross E, Bruehlman-Senecal E, Park J, et al. Self-talk as a regulatory mechanism: how you do it matters . J Pers Soc Psychol . 2014;106(2):304-24. doi:10.1037/a0035173

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By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

Essay on Attitude: Definition, Formation and Functions

essay attitude meaning

After reading this essay you will learn about Attitude:- 1. Definition of Attitude 2. Formation of Attitude 3. Functions 4. Measuring.

Definition of Attitude:

The concept of “attitude” has been variously defined by social scientists so that there has been a good deal of ambiguity regarding the concept.

But, perhaps, the most acceptable is that of Rokeach: “An attitude is a relatively enduring organization of beliefs around an object or situation predisposing one to respond in some preferential manner.”

This definition of attitude specifies at least five factors or meets five conditions:

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a. An Attitude is Relatively Enduring Over Time:

The concept of attitude is reserved for enduring persistent organizations of predispositions round a central belief. Attitudes are formed by past experiences and are learned responses to particular objects, things or processes.

b. An Attitude is an Organization of Beliefs:

It represents a cluster or syndrome of two or more interrelated beliefs. A belief is any simple proposition, conscious or unconscious inferred from what a person says or does. Each belief has three components: a cognitive component (person’s knowledge), an affective, component (capable of, leads to some action when suitably activated).

c. An Attitude is Organized Bound an Object or a Situation:

An attitude object may be concrete or abstract while an attitude situation is a dynamic event around which a person organizes a set of interrelated beliefs about how to behave.

d. An Attitude is a Set of Interrelated Predisposition to Respond:

A response may be either a verbal expression or a non-verbal behavior, an attitude is an “agenda for action” that is, it specifies the response a person will make to a given object within a given situation.

e. An Attitude Leads to a Preferential Response:

An attitude predisposes one to respond in a preferential manner to individuals or groups who agree with or oppose us with respect to that particular attitude. Many persons tend to use the terms attitude and opinion interchangeably as if there were no distinction between them.

Opinion is the overt expression (verbal or non-verbal) of an attitude which is only internal to the individual. Thus, when we measure opinions, we only infer that they refer to an internal attitude of the individual.

Formation of Attitude :

One of the most important matters to be discussed is how attitudes are formed. More than ever before it is now necessary to know why people hold the views they do. In other words, how their attitudes have been formed? First, let us consider how attitudes arise and where do their origins lie.

One can trace three sources:

a. In the child rearing experience of the first five or six years of life from the parent-child relationship.

b. By association between individuals or the formal and informal groups met with in later life.

c. From unique and isolated experiences or similar experiences repeated throughout life.

But those three sources must be considered within the framework of society and its culture or way of life to which the individual belongs. In the earlier years a parent tries to plant this culture into the child and this process is known as mediated social-cultural influence. Later on, the process becomes self-incubated and this is known as direct social-cultural influence.

Functions of Attitudes :

This is a point that has been subject to a great deal of arguments, and consequently contradictions. One of the main questions asked is this “does an attitude possess drive-producing properties or do motives come from sources other than the attitude itself?”

To answer this question one must develop a more comprehensive formulation of the functions of an attitude. A certain line of thinkers, Lasswell, Formm, Maslow and others believe that attitudes serve mainly irrational, ego- defensive functions.

Another group of thinkers, students of culture and sociology went further to say that attitudes have an adjustive function, meaning by this the adjustment of primitive and modern man to their specific cultures and subcultures.

This gives attitudes positive functions which were formulated by Katz as follows:

a. The Instrumental Adjustive Function:

Involves such values as security, achievement, competence, success and loyalty in group. It is served when people strive to maximize the rewards and to minimize the penalties of their external environment.

b. The Ego-defensive Function:

In which a person protects himself from acknowledging the basic truth about himself or the harsh realities in his external world. It may be reflected in positive values as, honor, chivalry, racial purity or the extensive condemnation of such negative values as lust, intemperance.

c. The Value Expressive Function:

In which the individual derives satisfactions from expressing attitudes appropriate to his personal values and his concept of himself. This function is central to doctrines of ego psychology which stress the importance of self-expression, self- development and self-realization.

d. The Knowledge Function:

Determinants of Attitude Formation, Arousal and Change

Measuring Attitudes :

Attitude measurement is a process whereby one assesses an individual’s response to a set of social objects of situations. This is done by observing a sample of behavior from an attitude universe. Each behavioral element in the attitude universe in the response to a particular situation or object that evokes the response together with a specified set of response categories is called an item.

The set of behavior comprising an attitude is called an attitude universe. There are several methods available for measuring attitudes among them.

a. Judgment Methods:

There are two major aspects of this method.

Firstly, each item is scaled to give its degree of favorableness towards the issue.

Secondly, the respondents must be scored on the basis of their responses to the items.

b. The Method of Summated Ratings:

Techniques similar to techniques used in the mental-testing field. In this method, five categories of responses are provided for each item: strongly disapprove, with scores 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, respectively. An individual’s scale score is the sum of his scores on the items.

c. Scalogram Analysis:

In 1944 Guttmann proposed a nonmetric method for scaling monotone attitude items. In a Guttmann scale, the items have a special cumulative property. For example, a person who responds positively to the third item on the scale is almost sure to have responded positively to the first and second items.

The basic idea of the scalogram is that items can be arranged in an order so that an individual who agrees with, or responds positively to, any particular item also responds positively to all items of lower value order.

The rank order of the items is the scale of items; the scale of persons is very similar, people being arranged in order according to the highest rank order of items checked, which is equivalent to the number of positive responses in a perfect scale.

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Attitude: compilation of essays on attitude | human behaviour | psychology.

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Here is an essay on ‘Attitude’ for class 9, 10, 11 and 12. Find paragraphs, long and short essays on ‘Attitude’ especially written for school and college students.

Essay on Attitude

Essay Contents:

  • Essay on the Ways of Changing Attitude

Essay # 1. Definition of Attitudes:

Attitude has been defined in a number of different ways. Allport (1935) defined an attitude as a “mental and neural state of readiness, organized through experience, exerting a directive or dynamic influence upon the individual’s response to all objects and situations with which it is related.” He looked upon attitude primarily as a set to respond in a particular way.

An attitude is an enduring system that includes a cognitive compo­nent, a feeling component and an action tendency. Attitudes involve an emotional component. This is why when an attitude is formed it becomes resistant to change; it does not generally respond to new facts. An attitude involves beliefs as well as evaluations. The upper caste man has an unfavourable attitude toward a Harijan.

The Indian has an unfavourable attitude toward the Pakistanis or the Chinese. These attitudes involve some knowledge about the other groups (the cogni­tive component), some feelings of dislike (the affective, evolutional component) and a predisposition to avoid, attack etc., (the action component).

A social object is a person, the creation of a person, or a social event. We have attitudes towards individuals and groups, like Gandhi and Indian National Congress or Lohia and the Socialist Party or Annadorai and D.M.K. etc. We have attitudes toward products like Hindustani or Karnatak music, Bharat Natyam or Kathak Dance or motor cars and aeroplanes etc.

There are response consistencies; for example, a person who likes Indira Gandhi will also like Congress R and dislike Congress O or Jan Sangh etc. Thus attitudes give some consistency to our thinking about social objects as well as our feelings towards them. People also tend to act consistently as a result of these consistent beliefs and feelings.

Our attitudes are derived primarily from social influences. From birth, the human being is enmeshed in social institutions which consti­tute his environment in the same sense as the physical world. The home, being the primary social unit, has a great influence on the for­mation of one’s attitudes. This is why later experiences cannot easily alter these attitudes. This is also the reason why attitudes give a con­sistency to our responses to persons, groups, and other social objects.

Essay # 2. Functions of Attitudes:

People have attitudes towards social objects because they:

(a) Help them to organize, simplify and understand the world around them,

(b) Protect their self-esteem, by avoiding unpleasant truths about themselves, and

(c) Allow them to express their fundamental values.

To these three functions must be added a fourth one, that they help them to conform to the group and thus maximize re­wards from the group. Thus attitudes help us to adjust to our environ­ment. Once a social object has been categorized, it is possible to react to it in the manner typical of the group to which we belong. This saves us from a fresh decision and all its difficulties and problems. It helps us to behave in a smooth manner.

Smith et al (1956) have pointed out that one of the functions of attitudes is to provide “externalization” to some inner problems. The man with unresolved inner conflicts and frustrations can direct his hatred towards the out groups. This is one reason why “agitational” approach to social and political problems is more in vogue in India today than the “constitutional” approach.

Even the members of the legislature and the parliament take recourse to agitations whether in favour of prohibition or against cow slaughter. Language problems, border problems, river-water sharing problems and so on have been providing endless opportunities to the political leaders to start agita­tions to overthrow the duly constituted governments.

Katz (1960) discussed four functions that attitudes perform for the personality:

(a) The adjustment function helps to maximize the rewards and minimize the penalties, by agreeing with the majority attitude.

(b) Ego-defensive functions are served by enabling the individual from acknowledging uncomplimentary basic truths about himself; when a person does not get selected for a job he will say that only people with “influence” get jobs these days, though he may himself have asked some legislator or minister to ring up somebody in the selection com­mittee.

(c) Value-expressive functions are involved when the expression of the attitudes gives pleasure to the person since they reveal the values he cherishes as, for example, vegetarianism or prohibition. and

(d) Knowledge functions based on the individual’s need to give struc­ture to his universe, to understand it.

Essay # 3. Major Dimensions of Attitudes:

According to Triandis two major dimensions underlie behaviour toward any kind of attitude object :

(a) Positive vs. negative affect, and

(b) Seeking vs. avoiding contact.

A positive attitude will make a person sacrifice himself to the loved object as in patriotism, for example. A negative attitude may make a person to destroy the government property like the bus or tram or post office. There is seeking contact towards an object with positive affect as in embracing the beloved; there is also seeking contact towards an object with negative affect like in stabbing a person.

Thus, when there is seeking contact with positive affect it is “going toward” and when there is seeking contact with negative affect it is “going against.” When there is avoiding contact with negative affect there is the beha­viour of “going away.”

As an illustration of avoiding contact toward an object with positive affect may be given the behaviour of a person towards one whom he reveres; for example, the youth who is fired by zeal with respect to the “Sarvodaya” movement may develop a great reverence to the Sarvodaya leader, Vinoba Bhave; he has a positive affect towards him, but he would not like to go near him; he may stand at a distance and look at him.

However, most of our behaviour will be along the three types, namely, going toward, going against and going away; the fourth type of avoiding contact with an object with positive affect is rare.

Essay # 4. Formation of Attitudes :

How are attitudes acquired? How do they develop? As noted above the majority of attitudes held by a person are acquired from the mem­bers of the family and from the peer group in early childhood and later. Thus, other people are generally the sources for the formation of attitudes.

Most of our attitudes develop within the group to which we belong. Another source is personal experience; such experiences, however, form a small number; though they are more intense than those formed by association with other people. The most intense, but rare, are the attitudes formed by a “traumatic experience,” like, for example, the shock of being suddenly attacked physically by a member of another communal group.

The cognitive component of attitudes are influenced by the general tendency to categorization. A Muslim meets many Hindus, but he tends to put them all together and simplifies the problem by some such generalization as “All Hindus are unreliable.” Similarly the Hindu who meets many Muslims overlooks all the variations and may gene­ralize “All Muslims are crude.” Such categorizations simplify the situation but they are highly inaccurate because of the simplification.

The affective component of attitudes is characterized by the presence of positive or negative emotion. The affective component is influenced greatly by reinforcement and repetition. The positive attitude towards festivals is due to food, the lights etc., which give rise to pleasure. Similarly the negative attitudes are due to un-pleasure associated with individuals, groups or social events.

The behavioural component of attitudes are greatly influenced by social norms which are ideas held by a group regarding what is correct behaviour and what is not. In the course of socialization children are told by parents about what they should do and what they should not do.

The general basis for negative attitude toward Harijans is the fact that parents prevent children from associating with sweepers, cobblers, etc., who are poor, illiterate and dirty. Why do such norms for beha­viour toward out-groups develop? Triandis and Triandis (1960) have argued that economic conditions place one group in a position of advantage over another group.

In order to maintain this position of advantage negative attitudes are developed towards the group with economic disadvantage so that it can continue to be backward. The norms will continue to operate even when economic considerations are not relevant. The upper caste man, for instance, continues to look upon a person as “untouchable” though he may have superior educa­tion, wealth etc. This is how he tries to maintain his self-esteem.

Among the personality variables which determine the formation of attitudes, the most important is child-training which leads to formation of “authoritarian” personality. Adorno et al (1950) showed that people who had stern and punitive fathers and grew up in families organized along hierarchical lines with a powerful father figure, deve­loped the authoritarian personality.

Such people accept in group autho­rity figures without questioning them, desire powerful leaders, show obedience and respect for authority, approve severe punishment for deviants and admire military men, athletes and financiers. By contrast those low in authoritarianism prefer equalitarian leaders, show warmth and love in interpersonal relations, are tolerant of deviants, admire scientists, artists and social reformers. Thus, those high in authori­tarian scale are highly prejudiced in their outlook while those low in it are tolerant.

Another significant personality variable is “conscience” or inner control. There is a good deal of evidence to show that when the mother is the chief socializer using techniques of discipline like with­drawal of love, the child develops internal controls.

But, when the father is the chief socializer using techniques of discipline like physical punishment, the child has weak internal controls; the child does not learn to control himself. People who learn to use internal controls are more likely to act according to their own standards, while those who are under the influence of external controls are more likely to act according to the norms of their in-group.

Thus, the kind of child training to which different individuals are exposed results in different conceptualizations regarding interpersonal relationships. The more positive conceptualization leads to an out­look that people are good, strong and humanistic; they advocate negotiation etc., to settle disputes. But those who had experience of highly punitive child-training practices are likely to develop negative views of human relations looking upon people as bad and weak and favour settling disputes by violence.

Insecurity is another important personality variable. Sense of in­security makes a person to be intolerant of ambiguity; so he may opt for “right dictatorship” (fascism) or “left dictatorship” (communism). Insecurity may be caused not only by child training, where the parents punish inconsistently and without explanation, but also by loss of status in adult life.

Among the societal variables determining attitudes are membership of groups. A person is not only a member of some groups, he also aspires to belong to other groups, called “reference groups.” A person’s atti­tudes are anchored in his membership and to the reference group.

For example, Jennings and Niemi (1968) found in a nationwide sample in U.S. that 76 per cent of high school seniors favoured the political party which both parents favoured and only 10 per cent had opposite preference. Thus, the fact that on many issues the child is exposed to only one position at home, in the peer group etc., results in his attitudes reflecting it.

But when they are exposed to conflicting opinions, as in the case of those who go to the college, there will be changes in attitude because of the new views being expressed by the teachers and fellow students.

Studies have shown that only about 50 to 60 per cent of the college students agree with the political party preference of their parents as against 76 per cent at the high school level. But there is also the pressure to war cognitive consistency that will be operating during youth and adult periods. As a result only those beliefs and values tend to be accepted which will fit in with the already existing cognitive structure.

Thus, attitude formation begins primarily as a learning process during childhood and adolescence. Once the attitudes are formed, the influence of the principle of cognitive consistency becomes increasingly important.

The individual is no longer primarily passive. He begins to process the new information in terms of what he has already learned. He tends to reject inconsistent information and accept more readily information consistent with his attitude. Thus, well-established atti­tudes tend to be extremely resistant to change, but others may be more amenable to change.

Essay # 5. Measurement of Attitudes:

Measurement of attitude is a highly technical process.

So an attempt is made to give a general indication of the various procedures used to measure attitudes:

1. Self-report Measures:

Typically attitudes are assessed on the basis of a series of carefully constructed, standardised, statements each with an index. The subject is asked to specify whether he “agrees” or “disagrees” with the statement. Usually each statement is assigned a scale value so that a quantitative index of the attitude may be obtained.

When a scale constructed by the Thurstone (1929) method is used, the subject simply selects those items with which he agrees. For example, in the Thurstone scale to measure attitude toward war, the statement “War is glorious” has a scale value of 11.0. “I never think about war and it does not interest me” has a scale value of 5.5. “War is a futile struggle resulting in self-destruction,” has a scale value of 1.4. The attitude score is the median of the scale values of the items with which he agrees.

Another procedure which yields similar results is that developed by Likert (1932). In this method the subject has to indicate his response to a statement on a five-point scale strongly agree, agree, undecided, disagree and strongly disagree; weights of 1. 2, 3, 4 and 5 are given to these responses. The final attitude score is obtained by summing the scores for each statement.

Another technique is the Bogardus (1925) social distance scale where seven statements of varying social intimacy from “would marry” a member of the group to “would not like him to enter my country” are given and the subject is asked up to which degree of intimacy he would like to admit the given social group.

Yet another technique is the “semantic differential technique” deve­loped by Osgood (1957) in which the subject has to indicate on a seven-point scale the quality of the item.

All the various techniques correlate highly with each other; if a person is rated as a highly prejudiced person by one technique, he will be rated in the same way by the other techniques also.

2. Observation of Overt Behaviour:

It has been seen above how La Piere (1934) made a trip around U.S. with a Chinese couple to study the attitude of hoteliers towards Oriental people, on the basis of actual behaviour.

Webb et al (1966) have criticised the heavy dependence of social psychologists on self-reports to measure attitudes. They have suggested a series of measures based on actual behaviour or on records indicating behaviour. For example, the sales records will show the attitude towards food items, or towards the various “soft drinks” like Coca- Cola, Fanta, Limca etc.

Similarly a measure of change in attitude toward “ready-made dresses” could be obtained by analysing the sales records of ready-made dresses and also analysing the number of orders given to tailors to make various types of clothing.

3. Interpretation of Partially Structured Stimuli:

The subject may be shown a photo or a picture and asked to describe the scene. This is a “projective” technique. On this basis of the description or story, the subject’s attitude toward that social object could be studied.

Essay # 6. Relationship between Attitudes and Actual Behaviour:

Lapiere (1934) found no relationship between actual behaviour and the attitude expressed towards a Chinese couple. He travelled with a Chinese couple and they stopped at many hotels and visited many restaurants. They were cordially received, given rooms and all facilities.

Later he wrote to all these hotels and restaurants which they visited and also many others which they had not visited and asked the managers whether they would receive Chinese guests. It was found that 92 per cent of those who replied said that they would not accept the Chinese as guests.

Thus, there was no relation between the actual behaviour and the attitude expressed in reply to a letter. This discre­pancy is due to the difference in the two stimulus situations. When the Chinese guests went with an American, they were cordially received and served. But the letter was a formal request and the response was according to the prevailing norm, not to receive any guests of Oriental origin.

In contrast Kuppuswamy (1954) found that the Andhra college youth were very eager that linguistic provinces should be established in response to a questionnaire given in 1951. Actually by 1954 there were student rioting and adult rioting in Vijayawada and other places and the situation was so severe that Andhra State was formed as the first linguistic state. Here there is a positive relation between the atti­tude expressed and the actual behaviour.

Another illustration may be given. The Shiv Sena movement in Bombay was against the people of the Southern states who had settled down in Bombay. Actually within a short period the attitude mani­fested itself in actual behaviour destroying the properties of the Southerners.

It is well known that there was an identity between the social norm expressed as an attitude and the actual behaviour towards the ex-un­touchables in India. In spite of the campaign carried on by Gandhiji and inspite of Art. 17 abolishing untouchability in 1950, even now negative attitude as well as avoidance behaviour are to be found in the villages of India where 80 per cent of the people live.

On the other hand, one of the great problems India has been facing is in the area of national integration. As far as the expressed attitudes are concerned Indians are highly nationalistic. They will shout “Jai Hind.” They stand in reverence when the national anthem is sung. But in actual behaviour casteism, communalism and linguism prevail. Here behaviour is at variance with the attitude expressed verbally.

It must be recognized that attitudes are neither necessary nor suffi­cient causes of behaviour. They are only “facilitative causes.”

Behaviour is a function of:

(a) Attitudes,

(b) Social norms,

(c) Habits, and

(d) Expec­tations about reinforcement.

When there is consistency between all these four factors, there is consistency between attitudes and behaviour. Sugar (1967) tested this formulation.

He asked college students:

(a) Whether they liked to smoke (affect toward smoking),

(b) Whether their friends approve of smoking (norm),

(c) Whether they usually smoked (habit).

Later on he casually offered them cigarettes. It was found that when all the three predictors were consistent, the behaviour followed; but when the three predictor variables were not consistent the accuracy of prediction dropped.

Thus, the actual behaviour is dependent not on attitude alone but on the other factors like the social norm, habit, etc.

Essay # 7. Some Approaches to the Study of Attitudes:

Broadly there are three approaches to the study of attitude for­mation and change:

1. Conditioning and Reinforcement:

This model is closely associated with Hovland and his coworkers. The basic assumption is that atti­tudes are learnt like other habits. Just as people acquire information and facts, they also acquire feelings and values associated with these facts. The child not only learns that a certain animal is a dog, he also learns to like or dislike dogs. Thus, according to this view the princi­ples and theories derived from studying the learning process can be applied to attitudes also. Attitudes are learnt through association.

Because the grandmother, who is liked, tells stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata during childhood, the Indian child has a positive atti­tude towards these epics. Learning also occurs through reinforcement. The attitude toward Ramayana is reinforced by the reward (pleasure, praise) which visitors to the house express when the child relates the story of Rama.

2. Incentives and Conflicts:

According to this theory a person adopts that attitude which maximizes his gains. This approach is particularly relevant to attitude change. It views the attitude situation in terms of an approach-avoidance conflict. This can be illustrated with the “con­structive programme” developed by Gandhi in order to unify the people of India to obtain independence.

He made the Congress work­ers to accept a number of programmes which were traditionally unacceptable to them. For example, in order to promote a sense of hygiene and also to make people give up their disgust towards scavangers and scavanging, he made the Congress workers to participate in what he called safai programme.

They were made to dig pits for use and cover the refuse with mud so that the latrine is clean and free from smell. Similarly to promote Hindu-Muslim unity he made the Congress workers of all communities not only to live together, eat together, but also to join in the common prayers where texts from the Gita, the Koran, the Bible etc., were recited.

He made the removal of “untouchability” a basic programme and induced the higher caste people to take their food along with the Harijans. All these programmes are really programmes to change the attitude of people towards the various social groups. Gandhi succeeded in changing the attitudes of the Congress workers at that time because of there love and reverence to him and because of their zeal for national liberation.

So the “approach” was more powerful than the “avoidance”; the attitude change took place from disgust to ex-untouchables to a more humanistic outlook. Similarly with respect to other issues also. But the real effects of this were only changes in legislation, that is, change in official norms rather than change in local norms in the small groups in rural and urban areas.

3. Cognitive Consistency:

Cognitive consistency theorists, though they differ considerably among themselves, generally assume that there is a tendency for all people to seek consistency among their cognitions and that this is a major determinant of attitude formation.

According to these theories, when in an individual, there is inconsistency between some beliefs and values and other beliefs and values, he strives to alter them so that they become more consistent with each other. Even if his cognitions are consistent and he is faced with a new cognition that would produce inconsistency, he strives to minimize the inconsistency.

An illustration from current Indian situation will clarify the point. According to prevailing social norms in an agricultural society, people believe that children are the gifts of God, that male children are neces­sary both for secular success in carrying out agricultural operations profitably and for the repayment of the debt to the ancestors (pitr rna); thirdly, there was the fact of large incidence of infant mortality and the short span of life of those who survived.

All these attitudes have now to be changed in view of “population explosion.” Increase in knowledge and large scale application of knowledge in public health has decreased both the infant mortality rate (from about 160 in 1951 to about 80 in 1971) and general mortality rate (from about 30 in 1951 to about 15 in 1971); it has increased the longevity of people from about 27 years in 1951 to about 57 years in 1971.

As a result of steep decreases in death rate without a corresponding decrease in birth rate, the country is faced with great increase in population and conse­quent increase in unemployment, food shortage, etc. Like in the 19th century Europe and America, the educated middle classes living in urban areas are being affected by the increased cost of living and so are trying to change their attitude by accepting the small family norm.

But the national problem remains since 80 per cent of the people continue to live in rural areas and as many are illiterate. Their stan­dard of life is so low that there is no cognitive inconsistency; hence there is no attempt to change their attitudes. Some slight change in their attitude was effected through large scale utilization of “incentive programmes.”

But all these cannot bring about a real decrease in the birth rate if there is no change in social norms in the small groups in rural and urban areas. Here again is an illustration of the change in national norms which have become ineffective without a corresponding change in the norms of the small groups.

It is not necessary to go into the details of various theories of cognitive consistency, like the balance theory, congruity theory and so on in this book.

Some Indian Studies on Attitudes:

There have been studies in attitude measurement and change in the educational, industrial, family planning and other fields.

In the educational field attempts have been made to measure atti­tude of students toward the various school subjects, school activities, vocations etc. Some studies have also been made to study the attitude of teachers and teacher trainees. Attempts have also been made to assess the attitudinal changes effected as a result of training.

In the industrial field many studies have been made to measure the attitude towards the job, the management, the labour unions, etc. Ganguly (1958) set up an action programme including lectures and discussions to orient the attitude of foundary workers towards super­visors, national government, and the job. A marked improvement in the participants’ disposition was reported. Chowdhry (1953) studies the attitude of textile workers and its effect on working efficiency.

Several attempts have been made to construct scales to measure radicalism-conservatism. Rao (1962) using the centroid technique of factor analysis has shown that three bipolar factors are involved in social attitudes. Kundu (1966) has given weightage to attitude compo­nents and put forward a new concept of attitude.

Commenting on the various attempts made so far, Rath (1972) has said, “considering the importance of attitude scale construction, the work done in this regard does not seem to be very adequate; and there are not many well esta­blished and widely accepted standardized scales of attitude available for Indian conditions.”

Kamala Gopal Rao (1968) has put together several studies made to measure attitude toward Family Planning programmes. Most of these attempts have used the questionnaire and interview techniques; some have used scaling techniques. Panda and Kanungo (1964) used the Thurstone and Likert technique to develop scales to measure attitude toward family planning on an all-India basis.

Another significant development is what is known as KAP studies; the aim is to find the relation between knowledge, attitude and prac­tice. The results of large scale studies indicate that while knowledge with respect to family planning programme has been widespread be­cause of the use of mass media and while attitudes are also favourable, only about five per cent actually practice some family planning techni­ques to control birth. These studies clearly show how merely having favourable attitude toward family planning does not guarantee its practice.

Essay # 8. Ways of Changing Attitude:

Attitudes can be changed in a variety of ways. One of the sources of change is by obtaining new information which may come from other people or through the mass media. Such new information may pro­duce changes in the cognitive component of a person’s attitude.

There is a tendency for consistency in the component of any attitude. So when there are changes in the cognitive component there may be changes in the affective and behavioural components also. Attitudes may change through direct experience. A person who is prejudiced against Harijans may meet in a friend’s house a very well informed, intelligent Harijan.

This experience may bring about some dissonance between his cognitions between his expectation and his experience. This may require him to reorganize his thinking about Harijans.

Another way to change the attitudes is by legislation. Because the law prohibits and punishes the practice of untouchability there may be changes in attitudes toward Harijans. This can be seen in cities and big towns where there is hardly any awareness of the caste of the other person. But this is not true in the rural areas where the intimate, small group norm is more powerful than the distant, national norm.

Since a person’s attitudes are anchored in his membership group and reference group, one way to change these attitudes is to modify one or the other. Newcomb’s (1943) classic study showed how college attendance can have a significant effect on one’s attitudes. The study was conducted in a small residential college where there was great scope for interaction between the teachers and the students.

The girls came mostly from wealthy conservative homes. The teachers were extremely liberal in their outlook. As a result of this interaction the attitudes of the girls changed. They became more and more liberal. Newcomb (1963) made a follow-up study on as many girls as he could trace and found that 25 years later, they were conspicuously more liberal than the women of the same age and socio-economic back­ground.

However, it must be realised that there is a great difference in situa­tion; in the laboratory and in the college campus significant changes in attitudes may be possible; but as politicians and other propagandists like the advertisers know, the campaigns conducted through mass media are not so successful in producing changes in attitudes among the masses.

One of the most significant cases of mass change in attitudes in India was in the General Elections in 1970 for the Parliament and in 1971 for State Legislatures. After the split in the Indian National Cong­ress in 1969, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi with her radical programme of Bank Nationalization was able to build up a new image of Congress R.

The whole country was dissatisfied with the continuance of large scale poverty, illiteracy and unemployment after nearly 25 years of independence, even though there was very impressive success in the field of industrialization; this, however, only made a small proportion, probably ten per cent, of the population affluent. 

Further, the 1967 elections, which clearly rejected the Congress and put in several non- Congress parties in power in the States, showed that the “United- Front” Governments made up of parties with different ideologies were making a mess with their squabbles. Finally, the minority commu­nities, particularly the Muslims, the Christians and the Harijans were bewildered with the success in 1967 elections of the Jan Sangh, which, rightly or wrongly, is associated with communalism.

All these forces operated to bring about a landslide victory of the Congress R, in 1970 and 1971. But the basic problems of large-scale poverty, illiteracy and unemployment continue to plague the Indian situation. Unless there is some success in tackling these problems it is difficult to foresee what shape the attitude of people will take in the coming critical years, in spite of the success in Indo-Pakistan War of 1971.

Hovland and Janis (1959) suggested a useful model of attitude change that included many stages and variables.

The following figure illustrates the model in a very simplified form:

There must be a “communicator” who hold a particular position on some issue and is trying to convince others to hold the same position. In order to do this, he produces a “communication” designed to per­suade people to change their views. This communication is presented in a given “situation.”

These three constitute the essential features— the source, the communication and the situation and surroundings. But the communication may not reach the target intact. Probably the communication may not reach the target at all because the lines of communication do not exist.

For example, Kuppuswamy (1971), in his 1961-62 study in Mysore District, found that more than two-thirds of the rural group had not heard of the five-year plans. Secondly, because of previous commitments and personal involvements, the target groups may avoid the communication.

For example, in 1972 when the pro­blem of radical lowering of landholdings to 18 to 10 standard acres of irrigated land or to 54 acres of dry land was under discussion, the landholding groups were totally impervious to the concrete situation where about 20 per cent of rural people are landless and about 75 per cent of the landholding people had less than five acres of dry land.

They were only thinking of their own situation and these were gene­rally absentee landlords, living in cities, following professions or busi­ness. Then there is the factor of surrounding situation; there is the competing propaganda from other sources who are against the given source and the given message and try to impress their point of view on the people.

There is considerable evidence with regard to what is now identified as the “two-step flow of information.” Most people do not read news­papers and do not hear the radio. Only a small fraction in the society read newspapers carefully and hears the significant programmes on the radio. These people tend to be the most influential members of their community or group.

They are called the “opinion leaders,” because they have considerable impact on the attitudes of their asso­ciates. They pass on the information to their friends. By means of this two-step flow of communications, some of the persuasive material does reach the people. Thus, one of the critical points in propaganda and attitude change is to reach these opinion leaders.

We can now briefly apply these principles to the Indian situation. In 1920 when Gandhi launched his non-cooperation programme he was able to get practically the whole nation to support him. Thousands of responsible citizens ‘gave up their professions and joined the move­ment. Tens of thousands of students gave up their studies.

This pheno­menal situation arose because Gandhi, the source of communication, had already demonstrated in 1917 his capacity as a leader and his fearlessness by the four successful campaigns, namely:

(1) Champaran Satyagraha in indigo plantations in north-western corner of Bihar;

(2) Ahmedabad Satyagraha and fast to settle the textile mill labourers’ problems;

(3) The Kaira Satyagraha in Gujarat to suspend the land revenue code due to famine; and

(4) The abolition of indentured labour system.

The convent of his communication was the attainment of self- government through “ahimsa” the abandonment of all kinds of violence and thorough non-cooperation, “a voluntary withdrawal” of all support to the government. He wanted all those who “are holding offices of honour or emolument” to give them up, and also those who belong to the menial services under the government. Then what about the situation? The movement was launched after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and Khilafat agitation and the failure of the British Govern­ment to satisfy the demands for “Home Rule” by accepting the recom­mendation of Montague-Chelmsford reforms which only envisaged the transfer of a few subjects in the states to elected ministers.

Thus the whole country was seething with discontent. What about the target? Gandhi started for the first time a mass movement. So the people were ready to join a movement which gave promise of the overthrow of the alien rulers. The masses are ignorant; they were mobilized through the “two-step” flow of information.

The leaders, who resigned their offices, communicated the message. Thus, not only the 1920 movement, but the other movements launched by Gandhi in 1930 and 1942 were all of the same pattern. He had insight into the needs of the people and could make them sacrifice their all for the attainment of independence.

By contrast, such forces are not in operation either with respect to the Five-Year plans or the community development programme or other national programmes. It is only the Bank Nationalization pro­gramme that had some of these features which could change the attitudes of the people.

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What Are the Beatitudes?

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The beatitudes are "blessed sayings" that come from the opening verses of the famous Sermon on the Mount delivered by Jesus Christ and recorded in Matthew 5:3-12. Here Jesus stated several blessings, each beginning with the phrase, "Blessed are ..." (Similar declarations appear in Jesus' Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6:20-23.) Each saying speaks of a blessing or "divine favor" that will be bestowed on the person who possesses a certain character quality.

Beatitude Meaning

  • The word beatitude comes from the Latin beatitudo , meaning "blessedness."
  • The phrase "blessed are" in each beatitude implies a current state of happiness or well-being. This expression held a powerful meaning of "divine joy and perfect happiness" to the people of Christ's day. In other words, Jesus was saying "divinely happy and fortunate are those who possess these inward qualities." While speaking of a current "blessedness," each pronouncement also promised a future reward.

The beatitudes introduce and set the tone for Jesus' Sermon on the Mount by emphasizing the humble state of humans and the righteousness of God. Each beatitude depicts the ideal heart condition of a citizen of God’s kingdom. In this idyllic state, the believer experiences abundant spiritual blessings.

The Beatitudes in Scripture

The beatitudes are found in Matthew 5:3-12 and paralleled in Luke 6:20–23:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven . Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (NIV)

The Beatitudes: Meaning and Analysis

Many interpretations and teachings have been set forth through the principles conveyed in the beatitudes. Each beatitude is a proverb-like saying packed with meaning and worthy of study. Most scholars agree that the beatitudes give us a picture of the true disciple of God .

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The phrase "poor in spirit" speaks of a spiritual condition of poverty. It describes the person who recognizes his or her need for God. "The kingdom of heaven" refers to people who acknowledge God as King. One who is poor in spirit knows he or she is spiritually bankrupt apart from Jesus Christ.

Paraphrase: "Blessed are those who humbly recognize their need for God, for they will enter into his kingdom."

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

"Those who mourn" speaks of those who express deep sorrow over sin and repent from their sins. The freedom found in forgiveness of sin and the joy of eternal salvation is the comfort of those who repent.

Paraphrase: "Blessed are those who mourn for their sins, for they shall receive forgiveness and life eternal."

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Similar to "the poor," "the meek" are those who submit to God's authority and make him Lord. Revelation 21:7 says God's children will "inherit all things." The meek are also imitators of Jesus Christ who exemplified gentleness and self-control.

Paraphrase: "Blessed are those who submit to God as Lord, for they will inherit everything he possesses."

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

"Hunger" and "thirst" speak of deep need and driving passion. This " righteousness " refers to Jesus Christ. To "be filled" is the satisfaction of our soul's desire.

Paraphrase: "Blessed are those who passionately long for Christ, for he will satisfy their souls."

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

We reap what we sow. Those who demonstrate mercy will receive mercy. Likewise, those who have received great mercy will show great mercy . Mercy is shown through forgiveness, kindness, and compassion toward others.

Paraphrase: "Blessed are those who show mercy through forgiveness, kindness, and compassion, for they will receive mercy."

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

The "pure in heart" are those who have been cleansed from within. This is not outward righteousness that can be seen by men, but inward holiness that only God can see. The Bible says in Hebrews 12:14 that without holiness, no one will see God.

Paraphrase: "Blessed are those who have been purified from the inside out, being made clean and holy, for they will see God."

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

The Bible says we have peace with God through Jesus Christ . Reconciliation through Christ brings restored fellowship (peace) with God. 2 Corinthians 5:19-20 says God entrusts us with this same message of reconciliation to take to others.

Paraphrase: "Blessed are those who have been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ and bring this same message of reconciliation to others. All who have peace with God are his children."

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Just as Jesus faced persecution , so will his followers. Those who endure by faith rather than hide their faith to avoid persecution are genuine followers of Christ.

Paraphrase: "Blessed are those daring enough to openly live for Christ and suffer persecution, for they will receive the kingdom of heaven."

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Liberal attitudes could mean Brits are sleeping with more people than ever

19 February 2024

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Guest Essay

My Mother Got on a Bike. It Changed Her Life.

An illustration of a woman with gray hair wearing a yellow shirt and colorful bike shorts, riding a bicycle. Behind her several figures stand in a cloud of dust.

By Caroline Paul

The author of “Tough Broad: From Boogie Boarding to Wing Walking — How Outdoor Adventure Improves Our Life as We Age.”

When my mother was 62 years old, she dusted off a clunky Cannondale with Mary Poppins handles and joined a bicycling group. She was recovering from heartbreak and had just moved to a new town. She had no background as an outdoor activity enthusiast: She did not camp or hike, had never, say, paddled a kayak. But the bike group was made up of 60-, 70- and 80-year-olds. How hard could it be to tag along?

As I approach the age my mother was then, I notice my peers are increasingly galled by their advancing years. And why not? My friends are simply responding to the very real negative messaging around older women: fading looks, frail bones, cognitive decline, no cultural significance. I overheard one woman discussing plastic surgery and remarking, “Who doesn’t want to turn back time?” It’s hard not to get sucked into that mind-set.

Yet the way we look at our own aging predicts what our future holds, as Becca Levy, a professor of public health at Yale, writes in her recent book, “Breaking the Age Code .” We increase our risk of cardiac events and speed up cognitive decline, studies show, if we believe getting older is a time of suffering and diminution. More important, the opposite is also true: Those of us who view later life as a time of growth and vitality are more likely to stay healthy and to keep senility at bay . We may also end up living a whopping seven and a half years longer . In one instance, Dr. Levy looked at data from a longitudinal study and came to this astonishing conclusion: Mind-set was the most significant factor determining individuals’ longevity.

But all around us, the media, dating apps, our youth-obsessed culture and our own preconceived notions lead to one verdict: Aging stinks. It will be a white-knuckle ride, women are told, through increasing frailty and irrelevance. Affirmations and positive self-talk — skimming the surface of our psyches, outnumbered in the scrum — don’t stand a chance. Dr. Levy’s studies show us that we need to believe fervently in the vitality of our future. But how?

My mother joined that bike group. What was initially a distraction spun into a passion. She became a serious cyclist, the kind of serious who wore brightly colored bike shirts, used Lance Armstrong breathing techniques and planned group rides. I rode my bike with my mother once; believe me, there is nothing more disheartening than being trash-talked by one’s mom as she huffs by you on a hill. Pedaling through her 70s, she explored steep mountain roads and new towns. She entered 100-mile races, changed flats and downed electrolytes on the go.

I was envious of her new life. Except for the Metamucil regimens and early bedtimes, she and her fellow seniors resembled any weekend warrior. But unlike so many people I knew, she and her friends didn’t seem to want to be younger. My mother became more fit, more social and more emotionally expressive than I’d ever seen her.

Turns out, my mother’s cycling habit meant that she was checking many of the boxes — health, novelty, community and purpose — needed to age well. (For others, this might come in the form of a language class, a book club, a commitment to mastering a plank.) Yet when my mother went biking, there was something more: She was embracing attributes like exhilaration, exploration, awe, a little bit of recklessness. This provided the final pillar for healthy and fulfilling aging: Dr. Levy’s positive mind-set.

But how? My mom didn’t live in a bubble; she had not escaped subliminal toxic messaging. It was the bicycling, with its demands for physical vitality, the uncertainty of every ride, the grit on the uphill, the inherent “wheeeeee” aspect of fun on the downhill — all powerful proof of that messaging’s mendacity. As her beliefs were being subverted, her biking adventures also drew surprised and admiring reactions from peers and from those much younger (like her own children). “Wow!” and “Badass!” were the elated responses, which boosted her passion for the sport and her life. (Another thing not expected of older women: passion.)

Consider another study , in which Dr. Levy and her co-authors used computers to display positive subliminal phrases about aging (like “spry,” “capable”) to older participants in several sessions over several weeks. The researchers found these participants performed better on physical tests and ended up with a more favorable perception of aging.

Likewise, my mother’s biking adventures served as their own flashing screen. Every pedal uphill was a subliminal shout that she was strong. Every heart skip on a downhill told her she was brave and fun. Every new route she planned showed she was capable. She was being immersed in implicit feedback that upended what she (and others) had been told one could and could not do or be at this age.

Most older women don’t join bike groups. Instead, we begin to pull back on physical activities, risk taking or novel pursuits. Too dangerous for our failing body and mind, we are told in ways both subliminal and overt, and we believe it. But what if danger is found in failing to pursue exhilaration, exploration and physical vitality?

Unwittingly my mother knew: These attributes don’t imperil us. They protect us.

Activating exhilaration, exploration and physical vitality will be different for each of us. In my quest to understand healthy aging. I met a 93-year-old hiker, a 74-year-old BMX biker, an 80-year-old scuba diver and a slew of boogie boarders in their 60s, 70s and 80s. I walked on the wing of a plane at 3,000 feet in the air. But I also went bird-watching. Adventure, it turns out, is in the eye of the beholder and can be had by almost all of us, despite physical restrictions, financial constraints or limited backcountry know-how.

Over and over, these women told me in different ways: Pick an outdoor activity, one that will electrify and engage, because it will change your life. To those who warn you against such foolishness, remind them of what Joan Captain, a player on one of San Diego’s senior women’s soccer leagues, told a journalist when she was 72: “People say, oh, that’s so dangerous, you know, you should take it easy. And I say, well, you see that couch over there? The couch will kill you.”

My mother stopped cycling only as she approached 80. She had begun to feel unsteady on her bike; she was soon diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. At some point, then, the messaging has some truth. But this isn’t disheartening. This is just one more reason to embrace everything now. I’m sure my mother would still be pedaling if not for this stroke of bad luck. Instead, she gets outside any way she can, often on a walk around her neighborhood. On a recent amble, she waxed nostalgic but not about her youth. “I wish I was 60 again,” she mused, and we slowly continued down the sidewalk.

Caroline Paul’s books include “Tough Broad: From Boogie Boarding to Wing Walking — How Outdoor Adventure Improves Our Lives as We Age” and “The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure.”

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

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