The UPSC mains GS -4 paper of Ethics is one of the major components of UPSC syllabus. Attitude plays a very important role in shaping the behaviour and thoughts of a person. It is very important for a civil servant to have a cottect thought process and behaviour. This is very well explained in this article. The candidate should understand this topic clearly to shape his/ her thaoughts and behaviour by having a right attitude. This topic is important to solve th case study questions in the UPSC GS 4 PAPER  OF ETHICS.


  • Relation with Thought and Behavior
  • How can you change one’s attitude (or your attitude)?


We tend to assume that people behave according to their attitudes. However, social psychologists have found that attitudes and actual behavior are not always perfectly aligned.

 Case 1 – Attitude ≠ Behavior

For example, take the case of elections. Plenty of people may support a particular candidate, but they may not take the pain to go out and vote for him, despite their names being there on the electoral roll.

 Case 2 – Behavior ≠ Attitude

Behavioural component (remember the CAB model) is generally the most visible component of our attitude. Here a negative attitude was masked by people to show a positive behavior.

There can also be instances where a negative behavior to co-exist with a positive attitude. This occurs usually when the positive attitude is not strong enough. For example, consider a person with a positive attitude of not to jump queues. However, when he sees everyone around him does the same, he may think he will lose, if not jump queues. Thus he may behave opposite to his original attitude – which we can call as weak positive.

 Case 3 – Attitude = Behavior

Psychologists have found that there would be consistency between attitudes and behavior when:

  • the attitude is strong, and it occupies a central place in the attitude system.
  • the person is aware of her/his attitude.
  • there is very little or no external pressure on the person to behave in a particular way. For example, when there is no group pressure to follow a particular norm.
  • the person’s behavior is not being watched or evaluated by others.
  • the person thinks that the behavior would have a positive consequence, and therefore, intends to engage in that behavior.

 Case 4 – Behaviour = Attitude

People dislike Cognitive Dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is a phenomenon in which a person experiences psychological distress due to conflicting thoughts or beliefs. In order to reduce this tension, people may change their attitudes to reflect their other beliefs or actual behaviors.

This means they prefer their attitude and behavior to be aligned in the same direction. By giving incentives to behave contrary to the attitude, Leon Festinger and James Carlsmith (study in 1954), proved that the first attitude can be changed to suit their external behavior.



Learning Theory of Attitude Change: 

Classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and observational learning can be used to bring about attitude change.

  • Classical conditioning – create positive emotional reactions to an object, person, or event by associating positive feelings with the target object.
  • Operant conditioning – strengthen desirable attitudes and weaken undesirable ones.
  • Observational learning – let people observe the behavior of others so that they change their attitude.

 Elaboration Likelihood Theory of Attitude Change (The theory of persuasion):

This theory of persuasion suggests that people can alter their attitudes in two ways.

  • First, they can be motivated to listen and think about the message, thus leading to an attitude shift.
  • Or, they might be influenced by the characteristics of the speaker, leading to a temporary or surface shift in attitude. Messages that are thought-provoking and that appeal to logic are more likely to lead to permanent changes in attitudes.

 Dissonance Theory of Attitude Change:

As mentioned earlier, people can also change their attitudes when they have conflicting beliefs about a topic (cognitive dissonance). In order to reduce the tension created by these incompatible beliefs, people often shift their attitudes. In the earlier example, the dissonance was created by giving an incentive to change the behavior, and thus attitude was also changed accordingly

By understanding this article you will be able to change your attitude towards life and the IAS exam. IAS Aspirant should be very clear with this topic. before solving the case study problems, you can read more ethics lectures here