Perspectives in attitudes and decision making

University dissertation from Stockholm University

Abstract: The general purpose of this thesis was to test the assumption that perspectives (i.e., way of seeing) and attributions (explaining behavior) are related to decision making and to attitudes in a controversial issue. Previous research on perspectives, attributions, attitudes, and decision making and the relationship between these phenomena has found that people make different judgments in decision making and attitudes depending on perspective, e.g. in seeing something from one’s own or someone else’s point of view, or seeing an event differently before and after its occurrence. In Study 1, participants were interviewed about personal decisions. Cognitions as well as emotions, circumstances and actions were found to be present in the decisions. Before and during the decisions, they were usually seen from the decision makers’ own perspective. Seeing oneself from someone else’s perspective after the decision was related to feelings of regret and guilt. Study 2 showed that two opposing groups in the animal experiments controversy saw opponents’ attitudinal behavior as being less guided by external factors, and more guided by internal factors, compared to one’s own group. Both groups could take the opponents’ perspective by being able to estimate opponents’ own and opponent attributions. Less involved participants made more external and less internal attributions for the group’s behavior that shared their own attitude. Study 3 showed that opponent groups as well as less involved participants could estimate the opponent groups’ ratings of beliefs and values. A LISREL-analysis supported a model where beliefs, values, and attributions formed a whole. Aspects supporting animal experiments formed one cluster (researchers’ perspective) and aspects speaking against animal experiments formed another (animal protectors’ perspective). The two perspectives corresponded to a positive or negative attitude towards animal experiments. A main conclusion of this thesis is that people are guided by perspectives that make them focus on aspects that support their favored decision alternative or attitude, but that they also may have the ability to change perspectives, by seeing a decision or attitude from someone else’s point of view.

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