A large body of research in social psychology has investigated the links between attitudes and social structure. Efforts have focused on () relating attitudes to aspects of the social context and to indicators of location in the social structure; () investigating how social structure affects attitudes via such intervening mechanisms of influence as social networks and roles; and () identifying the psychological processes through which persons interpret their experiences, and which in turn affect their attitudes (House 1981). This article reviews recent work in these three areas, as well as on the relationship between social structure and attitude change over time. While attitudes often are found to be weakly correlated with socioeconomic status, research on work and personality has continued to make progress in identifying the particular aspects of occupations that influence attitudes. Theories of the intervening mechanisms through which social structure affects attitudes need to be more systematically articulated, and such theories must specify the psychological processes that mediate the effects of social structure. A promising line of research develops and tests models that show the links between aspects of social structure, psychological processes, and attitudes. Future work also would benefit by incorporating recent findings concerning the motivations and cognitive limitations that affect attitudes. The review concludes by discussing challenges that remain. These are to improve attitude measurement, to determine the relative strength of structural and cultural influences in various types of attitudes, to reconsider the degree to which attitudes are situational rather than dispositional, and to integrate research on self-attitudes with research on other attitudes.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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