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Attitudes, Beliefs and Values

Updated on November 18, 2016
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Mohan is a family physician and a postgraduate associate dean working in the UK. He has a keen interest in self-regulated learning.

'The power of Knowledge to organise, select, learn and judge comes from values and beliefs as much as, and probably more than, from information and logic'

— Thomas Davenport and Laurence Prusak (2000) Working Knowledge

Why Attitudes?

All educational theories encompass teaching and assessment of knowledge, skills and attitudes. While we find it easier to define knowledge and skills, definitions of attitudes vary.

Attitudes have been described as a hypothetical construct that represents a person's like or dislike for anything. Attitude is a judgement made on the 'attitude object' ( a person, place, task, event, skill, etc.). These judgements can range from positive, negative or ambivalent.

Attitudes arise from an inner framework of values and beliefs, developed over time. Jung, in his essay on Psychological types, defines attitude as " the readiness of the psyche to act or react in a certain way"1

Attitudes comprise of three components : Emotions, Behaviours and Thoughts. These can also be described as the ABC model : Affective, Behavioural and Cognitive.

The Affective response is one's emotional response to a task or an entity; the Behavioural response is the displayed verbal or behavioural tendency to a task or entity whereas the Cognitive response is the cognitive evaluation of the entity based on internal belief system.

There is considerable overlap in semantics of beliefs, values and attitudes, however these are also distinct constructs as illustrated below.

Beliefs, Values and Attitudes
Beliefs, Values and Attitudes

"It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which,more than anything else, will affect It's successful outcome."

— William James

Beliefs, Values and Attitudes

In our various roles, our beliefs, values and attitudes are constantly interfacing with those of others; our peers, friends, family or learners. We seem to instinctively 'like' those individuals who share our core values and beliefs. It is clear that harmonising our value systems is what makes a successful relationship, be it personal, educational or professional.

Proponents of adult learning state that in order to achieve competence and excellence, one needs to be able to teach and assess not only knowledge and skills but also attitudes . To do this we have to be able to identify core values and belief systems that underpin attitudes2.

Performance improvement can only come through learning the appropriate knowledge, skills and possessing the right value and belief systems that in turn influence our motivation, intention and engagement with a specific task.

Often we may come across individuals who seemingly possess the knowledge and skills to a do a task, but only with a positive attitude towards the task, there will be motivation, engagement and intention to do the task.

The following 'iceberg' shows the relationship between the hidden values and belief systems to expressed attitudes through behaviours. However, there are two factors that directly influence behaviours displayed - one is the attitude that underpins the behaviour, the other is the capability to express the expected behaviour.

It's not what happens to you that determines how far you will go in life ;it is how you handle what happens to you.

— Zig Ziglar

Behaviour vs. Attitudes

One of the key lessons to be learnt from this is that we are at the mercy of expressed behaviours. Both in ourselves and in others we ‘assume’ attitudes based on observed behaviour.

For example someone who regularly arrives late may be considered not very punctual and disorganised. If that someone is then found to care for somebody who is very ill and has to spend a lot of their personal time delivering this care, which then interferes with their prompt arrival to work or lessons, may be viewed with a different perspective.

Our attitudes towards observed behaviour will also tint our judgements. For example if a person arrives shoddily dressed for an interview, we may feel they have not taken the time to smarten up. If the said person believes that it should be the talent and skills that should be recognised and not based on their appearance – this influences their attitude to dressing ‘smart’ and thus influences their behaviour.

Behaviours may also be ‘false’ a person may display false obeisance and ritualistic behaviour when they need a favourable review or they feel they are being observed for performance. This may indicate a certain attitude but the observer needs to delineate the difference between a true attitude and a false behaviour implying an attitude. A person who is constantly fawning and agreeing to everything their superior says may not necessarily be in agreement but may fawn in order to curry favour.

In assessing behaviour, one needs to be aware of capability. There have been situations where certain person may be considered ‘rude’ due to a raised voice or lack of clear idioms and phraseology like saying thank you and please. Yet if the person or persons observed have never received any training to modulate their speech pattern or learn the idioms and phraseology of the language they are communicating in, they may not have the capability to express the right behaviour for the situation. This in turn ay be perceived as a ‘bad attitude’

"Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it."

— Lou Holtz

Values & Behaviours

Feedback on Behaviours

In summary, positive attitudes are needed in an individual to be motivated and engaged in a task. Attitudes arise out of core values and beliefs we hold internally. Beliefs are assumptions and convictions we hold to be true based on past experiences. Values are ideas of worth about things, concepts and people. Behaviours are how these internalised systems are expressed.

The ability to learn and organise knowledge and skills is heavily influenced by these factors. In order to infleunce performance in a learning context or in an organisation ( or even at home!) one needs to be aware of the key differences between these constructs.

Feedback on attitudes will always be perceived as judgemental as it is about others' behaviour filtered through our value systems. It is better therefore to feedback on behaviours. It is even better to determine ideal behaviours for an organisation, a situation or a learning environment and set the scene even before the behaviours are being assessed.This way feedback can be contextualised, can be on behaviour that is observed and factual. This reduces the potential for conflict and low morale.

  • Attitudes are not the same as behaviours
  • Attitudes are a construct of internal beliefs and value systems
  • Observed behaviour are influenced by attitudes, capability or circumstance
  • Caution in assessing attitudes using behaviours as examples
  • Attitudes can be changes by feedback and behaviour management
  • Changing attitudes can also change values and beliefs and vice versa.
  • An understanding of these constructs helps personal and organisational management

In the next related hub, We may discuss behaviour management and influencing behaviour change. Hope this was useful.

Please do leave comments and feedback below. Appreciate your time.


1.Jung, C.G. [1921] (1971). Psychological Types , Collected Works, Volume 6, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01813-8

2.Knowles, M. (1975). Self-Directed Learning. New York: Association Press.

"The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind."

— William James


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    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 19 months ago from UK

      Thank you rozina, mimimeche, Zipperconstantine and Mel- glad you found this helpful and some fruit for thought. appreciate your comments.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 21 months ago from San Diego California

      We certainly bandy about an awful lot of neat words that we can't really define - he has a bad attitude, she has a great attitude, we use it as a label but do we really know what it means? Attitudes are certainly subject to change, I think. I had a coworker that I assumed had a bad attitude toward work because he is frequently injured. Then a couple of weeks ago I got hurt, and now my attitude toward him has changed. I am more tolerant, and less critical. We need to be careful with our attitudes. Great work.

    • ZipperConstantine profile image

      Zipper 2 years ago from United States

      This article is very thought provoking! Thank you!

    • profile image

      mimimeche 2 years ago

      I am most grateful for this hub author. I am looking into researching the impact of value education on behaviour. this article has really broken down some aspects i want to look into with regards to behaviour. thank you very much

    • profile image

      rozina nomali 3 years ago

      very nice and fruitfull is a source of socail awareness also thank you!

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 3 years ago from UK

      Thank you Dr Gaikwad, much appreciate your visit and comment.

    • profile image

      ani 3 years ago

      Its very educative. thump up.....

    • profile image

      Dr. Shshi Gaikwad 3 years ago

      Hi Docmo,

      Hub is a wonderful discovery for me. I came across it accidently but some accidents are fruitful.(positive thinking)!

      Very good article, very useful, thoughts very clearly explained. The iceberg is a ture representation of an individuals mind. (We learn that in Psychology too)

      Would like to be a regular reader.

      Dr. Gaikwad

    • profile image

      Johnk831 3 years ago

      You completed a number of fine points there. I did a search on the theme and found the majority of folks will agree with your blog. ccbkcdfdeeed

    • profile image

      Johne18 3 years ago

      I think this is a real great blog post.Much thanks again. fdgfdafkdkde

    • profile image

      AlllyM2014 4 years ago

      Hi Docmo, great article. thank you. question the iceberg picture, did you create that or do u have a source for it?

    • stuff4kids profile image

      Amanda Littlejohn 5 years ago

      That has opened up my understanding a great deal. You have presented a very detailed, thoughtful and informative piece here that clearly shows the difference and the interactions between attitudes, beliefs and actions.

      You have a very deep understanding of psychology and do a great job of communicating your ideas clearly. Not only in words, as the images you have chosen to explain some of the more complex concepts really help to visualize what you mean.

      I think that this sort of thing should be more widely appreciated in order to develop greater understanding and self and social awareness.

      Thank you,

    • profile image

      delruth 5 years ago

      thanx for this sir... my mind really got crumpled thinking of the distinction between belief and attitude. My student is planing to cinduct a research on "Belief and Attitudes and their effects on performance in math" Its more on perceptional study of students. I don't know what are the statements that describes attitude or belief so that the students can rate whter it affects much, moderately or not at all. Thanx looking forward for your help and bright ideas.

    • profile image

      rex 5 years ago

      what a brilliant article...its so nice to read your article...well done..

    • profile image

      Mujda 5 years ago

      Excellent work, well done.

    • profile image

      Tillsontitan 5 years ago

      " beliefs, values and attitudes", often thought to be one and the same, however, you have more than explained it so it is easy to understand.

      Unfortunately I have just had to install Firefox as my Chrome wasn't working but now I can't get any voting even after logging in. Will try to get back to this hub to make sure I vote it Up and Wonderful!!

    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 5 years ago from Kentucky

      Mohan -

      I can see why this hub is so highly scored. You've taken many of the items taught in secondary institutions and lined it out beautifully for all to understand. Really a tremendous job accomplished!

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 5 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Mohan (Docmo),

      I came back to read and share this brilliant article a second time. Well done, polymath!

    • profile image

      Abdilahi Abdirezack Ali 5 years ago

      this web bage is searchebale knowlage and beter learn education thank you for written

    • Emanate Presence profile image

      Gary R. Smith 5 years ago from the Head to the Heart

      Your iceberg illustration especially caught my attention. I remember attending in the 70s a workshop called 'Adventures in Attitudes' founded by Bob Conklin. Afterwards I wrote an article for the organization magazine and titled it 'It's All in the Attitude.' However, the editor was not as enthusiastic about my approach as I was and it was not published. I was pissed for awhile. Seems my head ideas still needed to be integrated into my response to life. It is all a marvelous evolution, isn't it. May I invite you to visit my website, with symbolic art and a blog post on 'Authenticity and the Art of Life' with an illustration of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs depicted not as the usual triangle but in a golden spiral. How do you feel in general about collaboration? Thank you also for your presence, Docmo.

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 5 years ago from UK

      Nyamache- appreciate your visit and comments. Glad you found this useful.

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 5 years ago from UK

      Keith- that's very kind of you- Thanks friend. The Iceberg reference is something I use a lot in my teachingand lectures.

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 5 years ago from UK

      Nell you are so right - we are at mercy of displayed behaviour and once we see past that we would be able to make a more accurate assessment of the individual. Some - in fact many- people don't and they end of stereotyping! thank you!

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 5 years ago from UK

      Cyndi - thank you ,I am glad this was thought provoking and useful.

    • Nyamache profile image

      Joshua Nyamache 5 years ago from Kenya

      This is a well researched hub. I particularly liked the quotes and your explanation using images and diagrams.

    • profile image

      KDuBarry03 5 years ago

      Docmo, again your intelligence bursts through your words. The Iceberg reference is definitely something unique, easy to remember, and highly creative. Great Job!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

      Fascinating stuff Mohan, this actually brought to mind the behaviour that I noticed when I was working in my last office. If someone started out friendly, happy and a good laugh, even though they may go down hill after that and even start being nasty, people seemed to veer towards the fact that this was ' a good, nice, hilarious person' and so on, and it worked the other way too, if someone was nasty, late, or downright rude to start with, even though they changed or were having a bad day, everyone remembered their first meeting with the person and they were always disliked, strange stuff going on. the one thing I noticed where I was concerned was the fact that they saw me right from the begining as someone who like a laugh, was a bit of a flirt and so on, and even now when I visit the office, they automatically presume that's me, so without realising I change on cue!

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      People are like anything that has layers- well developed, complicated, and mysterious. To a fault, we see a surface behavior and judge a person on that when like you said there's more than meets the eye. This hub definitely helps clear up misconceptions people seem to have about the difference between attitudes and behaviors and what it could really mean. Great hub!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      You're correct - there is so much more than meets-the-eye with people. It's so often hard to understand actions and motivations without knowing someone. Even then, our own perceptions and values color our perspective. Add to that all of our different experiences and personality types - whew! Your narrative here summarizes everything so well.

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 6 years ago from UK

      Thank you, Crazed Novelist- much appreciated. Glad you found this useful.

    • CrazedNovelist profile image

      A.E. Williams 6 years ago from Hampton, GA

      Very good use of the data and I love the chart. You put a lot of work into this and I must say, it paid off. Good work, sir, voted up!

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 6 years ago from UK

      Nithya - much appreciated!

      Rahul -thank you very much for your visit.

      I really need to catch up with both your hubs.

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 6 years ago from UK

      Daisy, this was based on a talk I gave at a national conference- I had to really think this through to make it understandable- firstly to myself and then to an audience of senior educators. IT was a tough call but it worked well. I am delighted that if you search for attitudes, beliefs and values this hub usually comes up in the top 5 on Google. Thank you very much.

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 6 years ago from UK

      Ruchira- Thank you very much- glad you found this useful.

    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 6 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      Wonderfully written and useful!

      Our Attitude certainly reflects the outcome of any work we do

      Great hub

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 6 years ago from Dubai

      Deep thoughts analyzed and explained brilliantly. Interesting and makes me wonder about these three componenets in our daily lives. Voted up.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 6 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Mohan (Docmo),

      Your genius shines through, once again, in your explanation of the three concepts. The use of the Venn diagram crystalizes everything in one's mind.

      Another brilliant article, my friend.

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 6 years ago from United States

      Beautiful hub explaining these 3 adjectives, which are always surrounding us. however, our beliefs and values makes our attitude thus, gotta learn to change them so that we can try to keep our life in balance with our attitude.

      voted up as useful hub and sharing it across

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 7 years ago from UK

      I am surrounded by very educated and experienced people who are also completely unaware of prejudging that prompted me to visit this subject. My discussion around changing attitudes through feedback on behaviour is mostly around educational and training relationships where there is implicit requirement to give and take feedback. On a personal level this has to be handled carefully and may not always be welcome- as you rightly say we need to pick our 'battles' carefully. Thanks Amy!

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Mohan, I found your information regarding assumptive attitudes based on observed behavior personally validating. I worked with someone who had no qualms about passing judgement and "rolling her eyes" everytime I suggested that things are not always "cookie cutter" cliches, particularly regarding the homeless that strolled past my window everyday. I "stifled" myself eventually as I had no interest in changing her opinion, knowing it was a losing battle (an assumption on my part). I was content to believe what I believed with no further conflict from this individual. I've learned to pick my battles carefully. It is good to know that attitudes can be changed through feedback and behavioral management. My assumption on that note is I believe it would be a difficult task as some of the most obstinate attitudes are oppositional to change and the only changes that can occur must be desired and with the realization/acceptance by the individual that change needs to occur. Inspiring, thought provoking and interesting write, Docmo. Thank you!

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 7 years ago from UK

      Thank you LisaMarie, glad it makes sense... appreciate you dropping by!

    • LisaMarie724 profile image

      Lisa Stover 7 years ago from Pittsburgh PA

      I never gave this much thought but your hub is right on the money. It makes sense that your attitude would stem from all these things. Good hub!

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 7 years ago from UK

      Will sure do, BaileyBear. I teach on this subject to Medical Teachers and budding Doctors.

    • profile image

      Baileybear 7 years ago

      That would be great if you could to that, Docmo. It's something I know a little about, but have many other things to write about first. I would like to link how beliefs are formed to my hubs about religious indoctrination.

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 7 years ago from UK

      Thanks. Beliefs and Values are received and responded to subconsciously in the formative years. It can be a very powerful osmosis - kinda like brainwashing- I am going to write a hub in detail about how Beliefs and attitudes are formed and implanted. Glad you are interested.

    • profile image

      Baileybear 7 years ago

      good job. Beliefs, thinking and emotions are interconnected too, are they not? (Basis for Cognitive behavioural therapy). Many of our early beliefs come from our parents. Have you written anything about these related themes? I'm curious about how people can have very strong, irrational religious beliefs.

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 7 years ago from UK

      Thank you my friend. You are always very welcome. I am honoured to have such readership.

    • richtwf profile image

      richtwf 7 years ago

      As always an excellently written and presented hub - Top drawer stuff! Content was very good and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and the quotes that you shared as well.

      Great work my friend and God bless you!

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 7 years ago from UK

      Thank you, I agree. It is important to share the core values and beliefs in order to express and expect shared attitudes.

    • profile image

      cookingdiva 7 years ago


      Our Attitude is based on our beliefs and Value. I so agree with this wonderfully written hub. I recently wrote about what is important to you with finding our core personal values in mind. Sometimes we need to find out what our values are.


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