human rights as attitude objects

Research on attitudes is focussed on physical attitude objects and the like. However, especially against the background of Trump and Brexit, attitudes toward social issues like human rights need to get more attention in research.

What is an attitude?

The most quoted definition of attitude is the one by Alice H. Eagly and Shelly Chaiken defining attitude as „[…] a psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favor or disfavor.“ This definition is similar to the common understanding, defining an attitude is a positive or negative predisposition toward an attitude object.

Virtually anything that can be evaluated can serve as an attitude object. This includes concrete objects, abstract concepts, (group of) people, classes of entities, behaviors, policy issues, and so forth. However, an over proportional amount of research on attitude focusses on products, attitude towards concrete objects, and the like. Therefore, Maio & Haddock identify the following challenge: „The challenge is for persuasion researchers to collect more data on applications to social issues […]“! From a social scientist’s perspective these are the relevant attitude objects which will make a difference over time in the society as a whole.

Human rights as attitude objects – the right not to be harmed

I aim at contributing to this underrepresented part of attitude research by focussing on a social issue: the basal moral human right not to be harmed. Why the right not to be harmed? First, as Jonathan Haidt pointed out in his TED Talk from 2008, harm is one of the moral roots people all over the world  agree upon. Second, due to this global agreement, the it can serve as a basal moral right in the sense of an inalienable, universal human right.

By looking at the right not to be harmed as an attitude object, possible strategies how to change a negative attitude toward this right can be examined. I all individuals had a strong and positive attitude toward the right not to be harmed (and behave in accordance with it), the world would be a better place.

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