The UPSC mains GS -4 paper of Ethics is one of the major components of UPSC syllabus.Human behaviour is often a very complex one. One's Attitude is decided by their personal choices. Its is very important for a personal development specially for an IAS Aspirant as it is not only helpful for the UPSC exam preparation for Ethics subject, it is also important for personal development. So the first thing which we have to understand is the factors which shape a persons attitude. To understand that, read the article below and make notes out of it.


  • Content of Attitude
  • Attitude structure
  • Dimensions of Attitude
  • Attitude - Functions


Carl Jung, one of the founders of psychoanalysis, is of the opinion that the contents of the conscious and unconscious part of the mind are usually different. Accordingly, attitudes are classified as explicit and implicit.

Explicit Attitude (Conscious):

If a person is aware of his attitudes and how they influence his behavior, then those attitudes are explicit. Explicit attitudes are formed consciously.

Implicit Attitude (Sub-Conscious):

If a person is unaware of his attitudes (beliefs) and how they influence his behaviour, then those attitudes are implicit. Implicit attitudes are formed sub-consciously.



How are attitudes formed? Let’s say, for example, you like Honda cars. So you have a positive attitude towards Honda cars. Let us look at how this attitude was formed.

Components of Attitude:

As per experts, three components – learning, emotions, and past behavior – come together, and on the basis of it, we form an attitude.

This multi component model is known as the ABC Model or CAB Model. Let’s see the components of the CAB model.

Cognitive Component:

This involves the person’s learning, knowledge, beliefs, and thoughts about the attitude-object (in our case, Honda cars). For example, if you have learned previously that Honda cars give more than 20 km/litre mileage on petrol – that can create a positive attitude towards the brand.

Affective Component:

This involves a person’s feelings, emotions about the attitude object. For example, if owning a Honda car gives you pleasure and prestige, that will create a positive attitude about the brand.

Behavioural Component(Conative Component):

This involves the past behaviors or experiences regarding the attitude object. For example, if you have previously owned or driven Honda cars and felt comfortable driving the same, that will create a positive attitude towards the brand. People hate cognitive dissonance, and hence try to align the present behavior with past behavior as well.

Thus, in short, to change an attitude you need to touch all components of that attitude i.e. Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioural.


Strength of Attitude

Some attitudes are strong while some attitudes are weak. 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.

For example, consider that Muthu from Tamil Nadu as well as Rahul from Uttar Pradesh like the Tamil Film Actor Rajnikanth. However, the strength of the positive attitude of Muthu may be very high (10/10 if rated on a scale). Rahul, even though likes Rajnikanth, his positive attitude’s strength may not match the strength of the attitude of Muthu (6/10, if rated on a scale).

The very strong attitude of Muthu may get directly expressed in his behavior in the form of hero-worship, intolerance of any negative comments, an extreme expression of emotions etc. However, even though Rahul has a positive attitude towards the Film actor, as his attitude is not as strong as Muthu, he may not exhibit strong behavior as Muthu.

 Accessibility of Attitude

The accessibility of an attitude refers to the ease with which it comes to mind. In general, highly accessible attitudes tend to be stronger.

 Attitude ambivalence

The ambivalence of an attitude refers to the ratio of positive and negative evaluations that make up that attitude. The ambivalence of an attitude increases as the positive and negative evaluations get more and more equal.

The one-dimensional view

It postulates that the positive and negative elements are stored at opposite ends of a single dimension. according to this one-dimensional perspective, the positive and negative elements are at opposite ends of a single dimension, and people tend to experience either end of the dimension or a location in between.

The two-dimensional view 

It postulates that positive and negative elements are stored along two separate dimensions. If this view is correct, then people can possess any combination of positivity or negativity in their attitudes


Knowledge Function

As we discussed in the beginning, attitude is all about what a person likes or dislikes.Knowing a person’s attitude helps us predict their behavior. For example, knowing that a person is religious we can predict they will go to Church. Attitude thus allows us to predict what is likely to happen, and so gives us a sense of control. Attitudes can help us organize and structure our experience. The knowledge function refers to our need for a world which is consistent and relatively stable. In short, attitudes serve the function of providing meaning (knowledge) for life.

 Ego-defensive Function

Not everyone can do everything. This is a truth. However, attitude (like/dislike) can mask this truth to protect your ego. For example, you may not be able to play football like Messi. However, instead of accepting this truth, to protect your self-esteem you can say that you don’t like football, and you are interested only in intellectual activities. Positive attitudes towards ourselves, just like the example above, have a protective function (i.e. an ego-defensive role) in helping us preserve our self-image. Otherwise, we might fall into depression.

Ego Expressive Function (Value Expressive/Self Expressive)

The attitudes we express (what we like or dislike) helps to express who we are, what are our basic values, and what we stand for. This (1) helps communicate who we are and (2) may make us feel good because we have asserted our identity.  Self-expression of attitudes can be non-verbal too. Therefore, our attitudes are part of our identity.

Instrumental Function (Utilitarian)

People develop positive attitudes towards objects associated with rewards, and negative attitudes towards those associated with punishments. For example, as tax-evasion attracts punishments, a person may develop an attitude of integrity towards tax payment. Note: Any attitude that is adopted in a person’s own self-interest is considered to serve a utilitarian function.

Social Acceptance Function (Identity/Adaptive)

If a person holds or expresses socially acceptable attitudes, other people will reward them with approval and social acceptance. For example, decoration of the house during festivals. Adaptive functions help us fit in with a social group. People seek out others who share their attitudes and develop similar attitudes to those they like.





What do you like/ dislike? What is important to you?
Part of person's Personality Part of person's Character
Influnced by persons values Influnced by family Friends, culture, religion


This article is the introduction to basics of Attitude aspect of Ethics Syllabus. To understand more about ethics and read more article click here