Skip to content

The OCR Glossary


Sabine Einwiller

Attitudes are evaluations that persons hold with respect to different kinds of entities, ranging from abstract ideas (e.g., capitalism) to concrete objects (e.g., a specific make of car). In the area of corporate reputation, companies and organizations are the entities, or attitude objects, of focal interest. As attitudes can be strong predictors of behavior, they serve as indicators of whether people support a company, for example, by purchasing its products or shares, or whether they instead support a competitor toward which they hold a more favorable attitude. This entry starts with outlining the attitude concept before discussing attitude formation and the notion of attitudes in the field of corporate reputation.

The Attitude Concept

Alice Eagly and Shelly Chaiken define attitudes as psychological tendencies that are expressed by evaluating a particular entity (the attitude object) with some degree of favor or disfavor. The term psychological tendency indicates that attitudes are internal states that are more or less stable over time. Stability depends on the strength of the attitude to the effect that stronger attitudes are more stable. Above and beyond stability, stronger attitudes profoundly influence attitude-congruent thought and behavior, and they tend to be resistant to counterattitudinal information. Weak attitudes, on the other hand, are volatile, exert only a little influence on behavior, and easily change in response to persuasive communication. Attitude research has identified various characteristics that discriminate strong from weak attitudes: Strong attitudes are more important to the person, are held with greater certainty, and are based on more knowledge than weak attitudes. The element of evaluation is central to the attitude concept. A person’s evaluation of an attitude object can vary from extremely negative to extremely positive, but people can also have conflicting or ambivalent attitudes toward an object. A person may, for example, be strongly in favor of a certain make of car but disapprove of the environmental policy of the company. Ambivalent attitudes have been shown to be rather unstable and relatively poor predictors of behavior. The attitude as an evaluative state with respect to an attitude object leads to an evaluative response, which is an expression of approval or disapproval, attraction or aversion, support or hindrance, or the like.

Attitude Formation

When people evaluate an attitude object favorably, they are likely to associate it with positive attributes, whereas people who evaluate an attitude object unfavorably are likely to associate it with negative attributes. These cognitive associations that people establish between an attitude object and an attribute are termed beliefs. For example, a person may believe that a company causes pollution of the environment and produces harmful products; on the basis of these beliefs, this person holds a negative cognitively based attitude toward the company. Apart from relations of the cognitive type, people can experience feelings and emotions in connection with an attitude object. The affective base of an attitude can range from extremely negative (e.g., anger or fear) to extremely positive (e.g., hope or joy). Individuals may also link representations of their past behavior to the attitude object. Asked about his or her attitude toward a company, a person may remember having purchased its products in the past. From this behavior, the person derives a positive attitude toward the company, even if nothing else is known about the company. In sum, the psychological tendency to evaluate an attitude object may be based on beliefs that characterize the object, on emotional reactions evoked by it, or on a person’s past behaviors and experiences with the attitude object. Finally, it can also be based on some combination of these potential sources of evaluative information.

Attitudes and Corporate Reputation

In the various definitions of corporate reputation, scholars often assign some sort of evaluative tendency to the reputation concept, which is also central to the notion of attitude. For example, corporate reputation has been defined as collective judgments of a corporation, an aggregate assessment, a distribution of opinions, a valuation of a company’s attributes, or an evaluation of a firm. While there is considerable agreement that corporate reputation contains some sort of evaluation, there is discord over whether this evaluation is made by an individual or whether reputations derive from the sharing of individual evaluations. Proponents of the individual view conceptualize reputation as an attitudinal construct that is based on an individual’s cognitive and emotional appraisals of certain elements of an organization. From this viewpoint, reputation is an attitude, and a specific company or organization constitutes the attitude object. Those who champion the notion that reputation is socially shared usually differentiate between the collective reputation and the individual attitude. Here, reputation is said to emerge when multiple but related individual attitudes are socially exchanged, which also creates a certain level of prominence. Individual perceptions and attitudes are often referred to as images*.* In psychological terms, image is called schema, and attitudes are considered a subtype of the more general schema concept that encompasses all aspects of mental representations.

Thus, attitudes are inherent elements of corporate reputation. The favorable outcomes credited to reputation, such as those affecting purchase and investment decisions, job applications, employee commitment, or journalists’ coverage, are to some extent a result of attitudes that are embedded in the reputation construct. Therefore, companies and organizations aim to engender strong attitudes with a unilaterally favorable evaluative tendency in their stakeholders because they hope that they will foster approval and supportive behavior.

Bohner, G., & Wänke, M. (2002). Attitudes and attitude change. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.

Eagly, A., & Chaiken, S. (1993). The psychology of attitudes. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Fazio, R. H. (2003). Attitudes: Foundations, functions, and consequences. In M. A. Hogg & J. Cooper (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of social psychology (pp. 139–160). London: Sage.

Petty, R. E., & Krosnick, J. A. (1995). Attitude strength: Antecedents and consequences. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

See Also

Corporate Associations; Information Processing; Reputation Formation; Stakeholders

See Also

Please select listing to show.