Negative Attitudes Toward School
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Attitudes, whether positive or negative, learned or acquired, have a tremendous effect on the manner in which a person governs his or her life. Attitudes shape our religious beliefs, our racial tolerances, our goal achievement process, and our mental health. No matter the stage in which one is in life, attitudes are an integral part of all that we do, present and future. It is not unreasonable, therefore, to accept the idea that the process of attitude formation, continues throughout one’s life. Although attitude formation is not an age and stage process there are certain fundamental variables associated with attitude formation during early childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. This position paper will focus on, and be limited to, a discussion of the effect of three variables (classical conditioning, instrumental conditioning, observational learning) on the development of negative attitudes of adolescents toward school. The paper will conclude with a directive as to how attitude shaping can be brought about through the same methods but in a positive direction.
When discussing the shaping of attitudes one must always keep in mind that attitudes, regardless of how shaped, can only be developed when there exists a condition and an experience. According to scientists, educators, and psychologists classical conditioning is best defined as a process wherein behavior is learned or changed as a result of being subject to an experience. For example: a person eats because they are hungry. When the hunger pang diminishes the person becomes satisfied. The same scenario can be used for affective behaviors of adolescents, especially negative ones. For example: an adolescent who is repeatedly called stupid by his or her teacher in a math class can possibly develop a hatred for math. In the same situation, but with a different conditioning stratagem the student may have a negative attitude towards math class because of a lack of being able to understand the concepts being presented which results in repeated failure. This particular manner of conditioning is called instrumental or operant conditioning wherein the attitude is emitted rather than elicited . A third manner in which a negative math attitude can be developed is through what is called observational, motivational, or social learning theory. This particular theory can be applied to the present math example in the following manner. The student can develop a negative attitude towards math because his class role model believes that anyone who is good in math must be a geek, and the student does not want to be referred to in such a manner.