Attitudes are our evaluations (positive, negative, or mixed) concerning persons, events, or things. They provide a general predisposition toward the object of the attitude. This helps us deal with the complexities of our world by reducing the amount of information we need to obtain before choosing a course of action with regard to the situation. However, they can also mislead us — they may be misinformed, based on incomplete or inaccurate information, incorrect generalizations from data or experience, clouded by strong emotions, and so forth.
We form attitudes based both on our direct experience and from the opinions of others, who directly or indirectly persuade us to adjust our viewpoint. When we obtain information and adjust our attitude based on a trustworthy source, one that has the benefit of the whole in mind, our attitudes become valuable supports for our behavior. When, on the other hand, we are persuaded by those who seek their self-centered gain, our attitudes may become counter-productive to our own well-being.
Since attitudes cannot be observed directly, psychologists have had to devise indirect methods of study. As social psychology has developed, different methods and interpretations of those studies have emerged, with the result that attitudes and their processes of formation and change are poorly understood. "fallen nature" — the tendency of people to deceive and to act in ways that benefit themselves — not only increases the difficulty of studying attitudes, but also complicates the formation of those attitudes. People who are motivated to see others as God sees them, discerning their true nature of goodness, develop attitudes that support harmony and productive relationships. Those who are self-centered, and ready to exploit others for their own gain, develop stereotypes that support conflict and destructive relationships. They may also be satisfied with incorrect evaluations of others and resist changing their attitudes. Those who seek the truth about persons, events, or things are more open to new information and revising their attitudes when relevant information is presented.
Thus, while attitudes are useful in that they prepare us to deal with new situations, if they are inaccurate or inflexible this can be problematic. As we seek to develop a world of peace and harmony, we need to learn how to develop the most appropriate attitudes, attitudes that will enable us to approach each new situation and person with an expectation of positive outcomes.