### Classical Texts in Psychology

### ATTITUDES AND COGNITIVE ORGANIZATION

Fritz Heider (1946)

First published in *The Journal of Psychology*, *21*, 107-112.

Attitudes towards persons and causal unit formations influence each other. An attitude towards an event can alter the attitude towards the person who caused the event, and, if the attitudes towards a person and an event are similar, the event is easily ascribed to the person. A balanced configuration exists if the attitudes towards the parts of a causal unit are similar. [1]

It is tempting to generalize from this statement and to omit the restriction to causal unit formation. Do units in general interact with attitudes in a similar way?

In trying out this hypothesis we shall understand by attitude the positive
or negative relationship of a person *p* to another person *o *or
to an impersonal entity *x* which may be a situation, an event, an
idea, or a thing, etc. Examples are: to like, to love, to esteem, to value,
and their opposites. A positive relation of this kind will be written *L,*
a negative one *~L*. Thus, *pLo* means *p* likes, loves,
or values *o*, or, expressed differently, *o* is positive for
*p*.

The relation "unit" will be written *U*.
Examples are: similarity, proximity, causality, membership, possession,
or belonging. *pUx* can mean, for instance, *p* owns *x*,
or *p* made *x; p ~ Ux *means p does not own *x, *etc. Other
relations which, in many ways, seem to function like units are: *p*
is** **familiar with, used to, or knows well *o* or *x*, and
*p* is in situation *x*. In lumping together all these relations
we are, of course, aware of the dissimiarities between them. Only in a
first approximation can they be treated as belonging to one class.

The hypothesis may be stated in greater detail thus: (a) A balanced
state exists if an entity has the same dynamic character in all possible
respects (e.g., if *p* admires and at the same time likes *o*)
; in other words, if *pLo* or *p ~ Lo* is true for all meanings
of *L*. (We may anticipate here that the analogous statement for *pUo*
does not seem to hold in a general way.) *(b) *A balanced state exists
if all parts of a unit have the same dynamic character (i.e., if all are
positive, or all are negative), and if entities with different dynamic
character are segregated from each other. If no balanced [p. 108] state
exists, then forces towards this state will arise. Either the dynamic characters
will change, or the unit relations will be changed through action or through
cognitive reorganization. If a change is not possible, the state of imbalance
will produce tension.

The first part of the hypothesis refers to influence of dynamic relations
or attitudes on each other. Since the different dynamic relations are not
included in each other logically ("*p* likes *o*" does not imply
"*p* admires *o*"), the same *o* or *x *can be positive
in one respect and negative in another. An example in point is the conflict
between duty and inclination. A tendency exists to make the different dynamic
relations agree with each other by means of cognitive restructuring (excuses
or rationalizations). Another example would be the tendency to admire loved
persons and to love admired persons.

More numerous are the possibilities to which the second part of the
hypothesis refers. They can be grouped according to the entities making
up the configurations: (a) person and non-person *(p, x) ;
*(b) two
persons (*p, o*); (c) two persons and a non-person (*p, o, x); *(d)
three *persons (p, o, q). *Many of the examples seem to substantiate
the hypothesis. Examples which do not fit may eventually lead to greater
insight into the nature of the dynamic characters and of the unit relations.
All examples refer to *p's* life space. This is true even of *oLp*
which therefore means: *p* thinks that *o* likes or admires *p*.

*(a) p and x. *Since the own person (*p*) is usually positive,
a balanced state will exist if *p* likes what he is united with in
any way, or if he dislikes the *x* he is segregated from. The cases
*(pLx) + (pUx)* and (*p ~ Lx) + (p ~ Ux) *are balanced. Examples:
p likes the things he made; p wants to own the things he likes; p values
what he is accustomed to.

*(b) p and o*. Analogously, the two balanced states for *p*
and *o* will be: (*pLo*) + (*pUo*) and (*P* *~ Lo)
+ (p ~ Uo*). Examples: *p* likes his children, people similar to
him; *p* is uneasy if he has to live with people he does not like;
*p* tends to imitate admired persons; *p* likes to think that
loved persons are similar to him.

*pUo *is a symmetrical relation, i.e., *pUo* implies *oUp*.
That they belong to a unit is true for *p* and *o* in the same
way, though their roles in the unit may be different (for instance, if
*U* is a causal unit). However, *pLo* is non-symmetrical since
it does not imply *oLp*. It is in line with the general hypothesis
to assume that a balanced state exists if *pLo* and *oLp* (or
*p ~ Lo* and *o ~ Lp) *are true at the same time. Attraction
or repulsion between p and ~o are then two-way affairs; the relation is
in symmetrical harmony. *pLo* is a non-symmetrical relation logically,
but psychologically it [p. 109] tends to become symmetrical. Examples:
*p* wants to be loved by an admired *o*; *p* dislikes People
who despise him. *oLp* is similar to *pLo* admire him to *pUo*.
Examples: *p* likes to meet people who, he is told, admire him.

*(c)p, o, and x***. **The combinations become more numerous
with three entities making up the configurations. Only a few possibilities
can be mentioned. We shall always give the balanced state in symbols before
stating the examples which refer to it.

*(pLo) + (pLx) + *(*oUx*). Both *o* and *x* are
positive and parts of a unit. Examples: *p* admires clothes of loved
*o; p* wants to benefit his friend *o; p* likes to think that
his friend benefits him. A seeming exception is the case of envy. If *o*
owns *x (oUx) *and *p* likes* x*** ***(pLx), p ~ Lo*
may often follow. This exception can be derived from the fact that ownership
is a one-many relation. A person can own many things but each thing can,
ordinarily, be owned only by one person. Therefore "*o* owns *x*"excludes
"*p* owns *x*,"** **or *oUx* implies *p ~ Ux*. Since*
pLx *may tend toward *pUx, *conflict is introduced.

Implications between unit relations often lead to conflict. Lewin's
three cases of inner conflict rest on implications. Approach to a positive
valence may imply withdrawal from another positive valence. Withdrawal
from a negative valence may imply approach to another negative valence.
Finally, approach to a positive valence may imply approach to a negative
valence if both are located in the same region. Analogously, one can talk
of three cases of outer conflict between persons. *pUx* may imply
*o ~ Ux *(for instance, if U means ownership), and if both want *x*,
conflict (competition) will arise. In the same way conflict appears if
*p *and *o* want to get away from *x* but only one of them
can do so (if *p ~ Ux *implies* oUx* and vice versa). Lastly,
it may happen that *p *likes* x *and *o* hates it, but *p*
and *o* have to move together *(pUx *implies *oUx, *e.g.,
in marriage). They either can both have *x*, or both not have it.

Trying out variations of the triad *(pLo) + (pLx) + (oUx), *we
find that (*pLo*) *+ (pLx) + *(*oLx*) also represents a
balanced case. Examples: P likes what his friend o likes; p likes people
with same attitudes. This case is not covered by the hypothesis unless
we treat *L* as equivalent to *U*. Actually, in** **many cases
the effects of *L* and *U* in these configurations seem to be
the same. Furthermore, this case shows the psychological transitivity of
the *L* relation. A relation *R* is transitive if *aRb *and*
bRc
*imply* aRc. *Thus, *p* tends to like *x *if* pLo*
and* oLx *hold. As in the case of the symmetry of the *pLo* relation,
we again have to stress the difference between logical and psychological
aspect. Logically,
*L *is not transitive but there exists a psychological
tendency to make it transitive when implications between [p. 110]U relations
do not interfere with transitivity. The relation U, too, seems (oUx) can
lead to be in this sense psychologically transitive. *(PUO)
+ pUx; p
*feels responsible for what people belonging to him do.

Taking into account these considerations, we can reformulate the hypothesis:
*(a) *In the case of two entities, a balanced state exists if the
relation between them is positive (or negative) in all respects, i.e.,
in regard to all meanings of L and U. *(b) *In the case of three entities,
a balanced state exists if all three possible relations are positive in
all respects.

The question arises whether, with a triad, one can make any generalizations
about balanced cases with negative relations. For instance, (*pLo*)
+ (*o ~ Ux*) + (p ~ Lx) is balanced.
Examples: *p* likes
*o*
because *o* got rid of something
*p* dislikes. In this case two
entities, *p* and *o*
are related positively to each other, while both are related negatively
to the third entity *x*. This
holds generally: the triad of relations is in balance. if two relations
are negative and one positive. This statement can be derived from the assumption
that *L* and *U*
are, in a balanced configuration, exchangeable, symmetrical, and transitive.
*L* and *U*
can then be treated as formally analogous to an identity relation. The
"balanced" cases with three terms are for this relation: *a
= b, b = c, a = c; a = b, b ¹ c, a ¹c; a
¹ b, b¹ c, a ¹ c.By
substituting L or U
for the identity sign one obtains the balanced cases for these relations,
though the case with three negative relations does not seem to constitute
a good psychological balance, since it is too indetermined.
*

*Therefore, the second part of the hypothesis must be stated as follows:
~(b) In the case of three entities, a balanced state exists if all
three relations are positive in all respects, or if two are negative and
one positive.
*

*(pLo) + (oLx)
+ (pUx). *Examples: *p*
likes *o* because *o*
admired *p*'s action; *p*
wants his friend* o* to like
*p*'s productions; *p*
wants to do what his friends admire.

*( pUo) + (pLx)
+ (oLx). Examples: p wants
his son to like what ,ie likes; p
likes xbecause his son likes
it.
*

*(d) p, o,* and *q*.
Among the many possible cases we shall only consider one (*pLo*)
*+ (oLq) + *(*pLq*).
Examples: p wants his two friends to like each other. This example shows,
as the parallel case with
*x***
**instead of *q*, the psychological
transitivity of the *L* relation.

*However, the transitivity of the L
relation is here restricted by implications between unit relations when
L represents a one-one love relation. p
does not want his girl friend to fall in love with his boy friend q
because oLq in
this case implies oLp, which
conflicts with pLo. Jealousy,
as well [p. 111] as envy and competition, is derived from implications
between unit relations.
*

*After this discussion of the different possibilities there are several
more points worth mentioning which refer to exa~mples of different groups.
One is the problem of self evaluation. High self regard of p
can be expressed by pLp, low
self regard by p ~ Lp (though
the two p's in these expressions
are not strictly equivalent). All of the examples so far considered presupposed
pLp. However. one also has
to take into account the possibility of p
~ Lp.As to be expected, it plays a role contrary to that of
pLp. Examples: if p has low
self regard he might reject a positive x
as too good for him; if p has guilt feelings he will think he ought to
be punished; if his friend admires his product he will think it only politeness.
A negative action attributed to himself will produce p
~ Lp,etc.
*

*The equivalence of the L
and U relations seems to be
limited by the fact that often the U
relation is weaker than the L
relation. One can assume, that pLx brings about pUx
(p wants to have a thing he
likes) more often than pUx
produces pLx (p gets to like
a thing which belongs to him). Again (pLo)
+ (oLx) usually will
lead to pLx (transitivity),
but (pUo) + (oUx)
will not do so if there holds at the same time p
~ Lo.
*

*We saw that one can derive forces towards actions, or goals, from the
configurations. It can also happen, that the choice of means to a goal
is determined by these patterns. If p
wants to produce oLx, and
he knows that oLp holds, he
can do so by demonstrating to o
the relation pLx, because
(oLp)
+ (pLx) will lead to oLx.
If p wants to bring about oLp,
and he knows that oLx holds,
he can produce pUx, for instance,
he will perform an act o approves
of.
*

*An examination of the discussed examples suggests the conclusion that
a good deal of inter-personal behavior and social preception [ sic] is determined
or at least co-determined by simple cognitive configurations. This fact
also throws light on the problem of the understanding of behavior. Students
of this problem often mentioned the aspect of rationality which enters
into it. Max Weber and others pointed out one kind of rationality in behavior,
namely, the rationality of the means-end relation. Choosing the appropriate
means to gain an end makes for a "good," a "rational" action, and we can
understand it. In Lewin's concept of methodological space this kind of
rationality is elaborated. However, understandable human behavior often
is not of this sort, but is based on the simple configurations of U
and L relations. Since they
determine both behavior and perception we can understand social behavior
of this kind.
*

*1. HEIDER, F. Social perception and phenomenal causality. Psychol.
Rev., 1944, 51, 358-374.
*