EXPRESSING ATTITUDE ON FORUM DISCUSSION BOARDS 1 Essay Example
EXPRESSING ATTITUDE ON FORUM DISCUSSION BOARDS
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A dissertation submitted to the Faculty <Insert name>
In Partial Fulfilment of the degree of
<Insert University name>
This document has been submitted in partial fulfilment for the award of the degree of …………… . ………. reserves the right to copy or edit any material from this dissertation. Any alteration herein is protected by copyright laws and is highly discouraged. The use of this material shall be with consent from the author and that no except may be plagiarized from this text without proper quotation.
I wish to acknowledge the efforts of my lectures and tutors who were very helpful in my effort to write this document. My supervisor, …….. cannot go unmentioned as it is through her guidance that I was able to par take this exercise in fruition. Lastly, God, who held my hand and kept me away from all forms of health issues to enable me to complete this rather tedious and strenuous research work successfully. I am very grateful to all parties not mentioned here, such as my classmates; whose went on to motivate me to a great extent, their desire and willingness to help is also unmatched. To all you people who took your time to help me make this a success, I applaud you and appreciate you, for it is through the completion of this project that I can clearly see how uneventful my actions would have been had I gone at it alone.
I wish to dedicate this dissertation to my supervisor………, I believe that you deserve all the credit for all the work I have done as pertains this project as without your help, I would hardly have made it this far. Thank you for your support and God bless you. I look forward to working on more projects with you in future; especially projects.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1.1 General Introduction and Background………………………………………………………..7
1.2 Attitudes and opinions in perspective…………………………………………………………8
1.3 Problem statement………………………………………………………………………….11
1.4 Aims and objectives…………………………………………………………………………11
1.5 Research questions………………………………………………………………………….12
1.6 Research approach…………………………………………………………………………12
1.7 Chapter outline……………………………………………………………………………….13
2.1 Theoretical Literature Review……………………………………………………………….15
2.2 Attitude and anthropology……………………………………………………………………15
2.3 Attitude and psychology……………………………………………………………………..16
2.4 Psychological perspective of attitude formation……………………………………………..18
2.5 Critical Discourse Analysis and Attitude…………………………………………………….20
2.6 Conversational analysis and attitudes………………………………………………………..21
2.7 Systemic Functional Linguistics and Appraisal Theory………………………………………23
2.8 Relevance of appraisal theory in linguistic research…………………………………………25
3.1 Introduction ………………………………………………………………………………….28
3.2 Appraisal theory ……………………………………………………………………………..28
3.3 Appraisal Theory and the Exploration of Attitude…………………………………………..30
3.4.3 Instructions of Using the Discussion Board……………………………………………….34
3.4.4 Data collection and analysis………………………………………………………………34
3.5 Analysis of the discussion threads…………………………………………………………..34
3.6 Overview of Steve Jobs Decision …………………………………………………………..35
3.7 Steve job’s choice of alternative medicine for cancer treatment…………………………….35
3.8 Appraisal theories vis a vis Steve Jobs case…………………………………………………39
4.2 Message learning reception…………………………………………………………………..43
4.3 Expectancy/Value Formulations…………………………………………………………….46
4.4 Information integration……………………………………………………………………..46
4.5 Cognitive Response Approach………………………………………………………………47
Chapter five…………………………………………………………………………………… 50
5.1 Conclusion ………………………………………………………………………………….50
5.2 Recommendations………………………………………………………………………….. 51
This chapter presents a background to the study, discusses the research problem, explains the general purpose of the study, highlights the research objectives and questions, describes the research approach, and gives an overview of what each chapter will contain.
General Introduction and Background
Expressing attitude on forum discussion boards has become one of the most common phenomena that people engage in. The evolution of the internet has offered a platform through which people can give their opinions and ideologies regarding particular social issues. There is a plethora social sites and discussion boards through which people express their independent opinions regarding particular subjects (Lienemann & Stopp, 2013). Most of these discussions are engaged in by persons that are professionals as well as non-professionals.
The nature of communications in which people engage in depends largely on their attitudes and definitions of the problems in question or subjects under discussion. The difference in attitude offers an array of opinions that can easily be used in defining the character as well as the preferences of an individual.
Successful study of any given topic within the discussion boards largely depends on a number of factors; most of these factors relate to the personal opinions, attitudes, levels of professionalism, familiarity with the topic under study, and the social perception of the subject matter. The discussion boards often offer equal chances for people to express their feelings and opinions regarding the subject matters (Lovibond, 2011).
Among the above subject matters, attitude and opinions play the most significant function in determining the levels of accuracy and coherence of the subject under discussion. Attitudes and opinions play a primary role in the determination of any sociological interactions.
Opinions and attitudes have enhanced the levels of accuracy on the social interaction forums and have played a key role in determining the manner in which different facts are argued out. The quality of result is mainly determined by the ability of the people involved discussing and express their opinions independently in a manner that is likely to influence the outcome. Therefore, it is prudent to note that the entire discussions around expression of attitudes on the forum discussion boards are mainly based on the attitudes and opinions depicted by the concerned parties. Many theories have been placed forth to explain the manner in which attitudes, values and opinions are expressed (Ortiz & Harwood, 2007). Such theories can be of great significance in this study, and can offer several explanations concerning the various issues at hand regarding the values and attitudes that coarse people towards posting of opinions that they usually give. The paradigms of social values that people often believe and base their opinions may differ from one social panorama to the other, this makes it hard for any individual to predict the outcome of any given analysis especially if the issue concern multifaceted discussions.
Attitudes and opinions in perspective
Attitude refers to an expression of support or dis-support towards a person, event, opinion, place or even a thing. Gordon Allport, one of the most prominent psychologists defined attitude as among the most indispensable and distinctive ideas that are mostly applied in the modern society. Attitude can come as a result of many issues, most of which include the past or the present experience of an individual. People who develop specific attitudes towards various issues often do so out of full conviction within themselves that the resulting outcome would be as they anticipate (Popovic, Smith, & Hellebusch, 2013). The contemporary social paradigms depict a system in which people can freely express their attitudes towards issues, events and other individuals independently without necessarily fearing the outcome.
Despite the stringent nature of attitudes, it is worth noting that attitudes can be measured and can also be changed. The levels through which a person’s attitude goes can be easily measured through hypothetically since they are not visible aspects.
From the definition of attitude, it is easy to analyze the attitude of a person towards an object, and such an analysis may vary depending on the perspectives through which they are looked into. An attitude can, therefore, be defined as towards a negative extremity or positive extremity depending on the levels of perceptions and conviction that the affected parties posses. An individual may also possess various attitudes towards a given object and such may include both the positive and the negative attitudes. This idea has led to robust arguments towards the subject of attitudes with many people expressing their opinions regarding whether or not an individual can hold multiple attitudes.
Consequently, a heated debate has been subject of discussion on whether attitudes can be considered explicit or implicit. Most researches on the implicit attitudes often use a number of sophisticated methods to get responses from people under study. Most implicit attitudes come about due to the response to certain stimuli hence triggering people to act and behave in a given manner. Explicit and Implicit attitudes have been observed largely to affect the manner in which people behave and respond to certain issues. This relationship has, however, not been fully understood as many researchers are still providing varying opinions on the possible explanations that would warrant these causes.
Relatively, researchers have developed another approach known as Iterative Reprocessing (IR) Model to develop a proper understanding of attitude rather than providing a distinction between the explicit and the implicit attitude theories. According to this theory, difference in evaluation of certain factors, topics or issues are not based on attitudinal expressions; rather, they are based on differences that occur during information processing.
The model further proposes a framework through which attitudes are described using stable unit weights and the evaluation provides reference to the activation pattern of the units. These units’ weights are also seen to consist of valence and intensity. The results are then analyzed on how the evaluation is influenced by motivation, goals and context of the issues in question.
Quality of responses on the forum discussion boards is largely dependent on the nature of attitudes that the individuals possess. The Iterative Reprocessing emphasizes the importance of information processing in terms of development of attitudes. The evolving internet revolution is also increasing introducing a number of advancements that will eventually force people fully to embrace the online mode of study. Many people who benefit from the comments on the forum discussion boards are students who are probably in schools and other institutions of learning.
In the face of ever changing technological environment, discussion boards are increasingly becoming a way of communication between people operating in the online domain and it offers almost every person an opportunity to express his/ her opinions independently. Most states are equally emphasizing on the value of freedom of expression, and this is among the key ideas that are engaged in the discussion forums.
People within every social setting have developed number self opinions which expressing, are revealed by the manifestation of their attitudes. The essence of information almost depends on attitudes to foresee the nature of the response given, whether good or bad. There are a number of study models that have attempted to offer explicit explanation of the occurrence of attitudes, ranging from the initial steps to the last steps.
Whether in writing or speech expression, attitude of a person will always have a great impact on the nature of communication transpiring between the parties. Knowing the attitude of a speaker at any given time within a speech context can be quite difficult as attitude cannot be measured using the normal standards, but through extremities, such as positive or negative attitudes (Greenwood, 2013).
In social psychology, attitude and behavior are extensively covered with many theories attempting to offer valid explanations on how people’s attitude influences their way of thinking as well as decision making. Such theories include the social cognitive theory; the theory of planned behavior as well as the theory of seasoned action has provided comprehensive explanations on the nature of attitude and the impacts that come with it. All the above prescribed models hold to the fact that attitudes can be used in the prediction of behavior. However, Sjoberge (2012) offers a different opinion on the nature of attitude and states that the attitude can only predict our behaviors to a certain extent, and such is warranted in cases that the parties involved have the ability and capacity fully to carry it on. Most of these theories have also been empirically tested through many studies and the results have pointed out to the fact that attitudes and opinions work together in various contexts.
It is therefore, quite evident that an attitude plays a crucial function in the manner in which people express their opinions. Opinions form the basis of any communication, and can offer a proper stand in situations that people need to establish the best opinion within any discussion context. This research attempts to illuminate the roles played by attitude during discussions on forum boards (Cho, Park, & Ordonez, 2013). The research will also attempt to explain the relationship between attitude and other communication factors such opinions and behaviors which can be used in the prediction of any attitude.
Aims and objectives of the study
The main objectives of this research study is to explore the conviction behind the expression of attitudes on discussion boards, with a specific focus on how the attitudes affect other similar disciplines such as personal opinions and ideology. Prior to the explanation on the factors affecting attitude, in depth discussion of attitude theories will be performed to offer insight on the origin and significance of attitude in the normal daily undertakings (Lee, 2011). To achieve its main study objective, the analysis will also seek to fulfill the following specific objectives:
To investigate the significance of attitude in communication
To explore the challenges that is brought about by individual’s attitude towards certain situations.
For the aforementioned objectives to be achieved, it is important that they be formulated into questions. Some of the questions that this research study seeks to answer are, therefore, as listed below.
What role does attitude play on the forum discussion boards and in what manner do they influence individual opinions?
What are some of the challenges brought about by the difference in attitudes during opinion expressions?
The subject of attitude expression on discussion forums is increasingly becoming a common aspect. As the use of technology keeps advancing, the need for proper use of these discussion boards is increasingly becoming necessary (Diab, 2005). The topic under study is quite diverse and certain aspects for proper analysis are beyond the scope of this study. It thus exclusively depends on reviewing and analysis of secondary data in the form of well-documented information on this subject matter. To achieve a level of analysis that is appropriate for the level of this study, a review of existing literature is conducted. Past studies are analyzed to establish any trend within the discussion forums and how such communications and interactions have affected the attitudes of people involve (Leafman, Mathieson, & Ewing, 2012). Reviews by other scholars are also examined to determine whether the perception of others capture what is transpiring between the other partisans to the discussion forums. It is envisaged that this will delineate the new aspects that could have been added to the discussion forums and any possible additional aspects that the social media users are considering (Huesmann & Chow, 2009).
To accomplish this, the researcher will use sources of information from a range of scholarly articles including journals, books, websites, and other research reports by individuals over the same topic. These resources will offer proper basis for analyzing the attitudes expressed on the discussion forums.
Chapter outline for dissertation
This dissertation comprises five chapters. Chapter 2 examines a selection of existing theories, among them being the Theory of reasoned action, social cognitive theory and the theory of planned behavior. The chapter specifically focuses on the social cognitive theory since the attitude – opinion relationship is examined in light of this theory during the later chapters. In addition, the chapter provides a comprehensive theoretical literature review. Chapter 3 presents the results of the study, whilst the fourth chapter forms an analysis and discussion of these findings. The final chapter sums up the dissertation in a conclusion.
THEORETICAL LITERATURE REVIEW
As articulated in a number of studies, attitude has played a significant function in determining the nature of comments that people give on the discussion boards in various levels of discussions that are undertaken on the online domains. Expression of attitude on various online domains has elicited a series of responds most of which revolve around the major role that attitude plays in the determination of what people perceive and the manner in which they respond to the phenomenon that are subject to discussion. Many theories have attempted to offer an explanation of the process of attitude expressions and to relate the manner in which the responses give by people is subjective to their attitudes. The current social setting has an inclination towards the expression of attitudes in discussion forums, which occurs in many phases and inviting people to participate either voluntary or involuntary. Attitude and opinion expression appears to be a dependent human strategy socially to establish the self among others in society. Attitude can be realized and can be interpreted in many fashions and processes. Differing perspectives of attitude, as a system of human social behavior, therefore, exist. In this section, we will analyze attitude in terms of the perspective of various disciplines such as anthropology, psychology and linguistics. The section provides a brief description of attitude from the point of view of different disciplines and discusses various theories that pertain to this.
Attitude and anthropology
Anthropological studies have mainly been concerned with the study and interpretation of human behaviors within the social paradigms. Most socials behaviors are influenced with the attitude that people have developed towards certain phenomenon in a given time. Anthropology tends to study how and why people relate to certain social values; in the same perspective, it expresses the reasons for certain attitudes and why they apply within any community setting. Cultural background of an individual also affects their attitudes towards certain social issues. Cultural beliefs differ within social settings, and as one community may uphold certain beliefs, another may not easily uphold the same. Therefore, in the discussion boards, people often contribute their thoughts depending on their cultural affiliations and beliefs and then keeping in mind that these beliefs are their major basis for decision making. In other cultural settings, there are also the elements of communication where the language used play a very vital role in determining the direction of the conversation. A language that a person uses mainly depends on the cultural and social background of an individual. Different words ad phases may not imply similar meaning in different conversations and speech contexts. Most people, therefore, are often curious about the nature of language used in any discussion board and such may influence their levels of contribution towards the ongoing discussion. Anthropologists have often engaged in the study on how culture and the social set up affects people’s attitude towards certain phenomenon.
Eagly and Chaiken studied attitude and used it as a process of either showing or describing the subject of concern as positive or negative. Through the analysis of attitude, they further attempted to show how humans evaluate subjects as positive or negative. Its is this aspect of Eagly and Chaiken’s work that is regarded as important in the field of anthropology (OR Psychology) as the processes of human evaluation behaviour is immediate to a social experience, indicating social semiotic learning and behaviour (Doob 1947).
Although Eagly and Chaiken’s studies contributed to a better understanding of attitude, they still did not have the tools to carry out a consistent analysis of attitude through the analysis of discourse. Moreover, this is where this research project is focusing on.
Attitude and psychology
A number of psychological studies have been ventured into establishing the manner in which psychology and attitudes are related to each other. The concept of attitude formation and change is purely psychological and may take place consciously or unconsciously and may not be largely dependable on the victims’ consent. Psychologists have gone in depth in analyzing the manner in which people comprehend issues and opinions before expressing their favor or disfavor of the same.
According to Fredrick Rayne, a prominent psychologist, attitude is simply a learned tendency in which an individual evaluates issues in a certain way. The nature of this evaluation may encompass people, events, situations, objects and issues among others. The evaluations may also be considered positive or negative; however, in other instances it is not easy to tell whether they are positive or negative.
Psychological studies suggest that attitude is made up of various components and these include the emotional components, cognitive components and behavioral components. The emotional components are mainly reflected on how an object, issue, event or person makes you feel. The emotions projected by these forms the attitude towards them and such may influence the levels of an individual’s perceptions towards such.
The cognitive component, on the other hand, reflects the thoughts and beliefs that a person has developed about an object or the subject matter. Such beliefs and thoughts could be as a result of or happenings that could have changes their opinion regarding the subjects. For instance, an individual that has witnessed killing of innocent people through terrorism may never perceive it along any positive thoughts. Their perceptions towards terrorism would be totally negative and this in turn would influence their attitude.
Furthermore, psychologists perceive attitudes as either explicit or implicit. The explicit attitudes are those that an individual is aware of and influence their behavior and beliefs towards a given objects or subject directly. Implicit attitudes, on the other hand, are unconscious but still affect the beliefs and behaviors of an individual.
Psychological perspective of attitude formation
Most psychologists assert that attitudes result mainly from experience. Such experience may be direct personal experience or just from mere observations. The respective social norms and roles have been observed to have a stronger impact on the nature of attitude developed by an individual. Social roles depict the manner in which people are expected to behave at any time within the community; the society norms are also considered as the behaviors through which individuals are expected to behave. Such roles and norms often affect individual perceptions over the various issues at hand.
The development of attitude can be done in a number of ways, for instance, the manner in which advertisers use classical conditioning in influencing a person’s attitude towards a product. Watching beautiful people having fun in the beach while taking a soft drink helps in developing different attitude towards a product. The attractive and impressive imagery created makes one develop a positive attitude towards the product being advertised.
Operant conditioning has also been known largely to influence people’s attitude towards certain habits and behaviors. For instance, take into consideration a young man who has just begun smoking; every moment he lights up a cigarette, people around him complain of the habit, chastise him and ask him to leave that place. The constant negative feedback from people within his surrounding will make him change his attitude towards smoking and finally quit the habit completely.
Consequently, attitudes are learnt through observation of people within the surrounding. Myers (2009) affirms that this is one of the various means through which many people develop attitudes. For instance, when a person you consider a role model expresses his/ her attitude towards a given object, you may find yourself developing the same attitude towards the same object. This can also be best explained using the children- parent illustration in which case, children develop similar attitudes towards certain issues as their parents.
Attitude change: as much as attitudes may have influence on the behavior and opinions, such influences can lead to changes in attitudes and the same can be explained using a set of psychological theories that have been explained by a number of academic scholars.
Learning theory of attitude transformation: the concepts of classical conditioning, observational learning and operant conditioning. These concepts can be used to create and change attitudes of a person towards various objects or subjects of study.
Elaboration likelihood theory in attitude change: this persuasion theory asserts that people can change their attitudes in two different ways. The first way is through listening and motivation about the subject and in the process experience an attitude change. Alternatively, such people can be easily influenced by the characteristics portrayed by the speaker hence resulting into attitude change. Non-provoking messages which are appealing and creating a sense of logic are likely to influence the attitudes of an individual.
Dissonance theory of attitude change: as aforementioned in the previous passage, attitudes of people can easily change when they have conflicting beliefs regarding the subject. To reduce the tension developed by the difference in attitudes, most people often find themselves shifting their attitudes.
Attitude is understood as the semiotic act of ideational expressions in the form of body movement and status. For example, the statue might stand in a particular fashion so as to express a degree of feeling or even to express a complete belief or conviction (Craig, John 1844; Woldmar Ruoff, Henry 1916).
Critical Discourse Analysis and Attitude
Linguistic studies and enquiries are particularly interested in analyzing the effect and production of language use. The analysis of Ideology realised in language studies appeared to be a concern to Critical Discourse Analysis (Hereafter, CDA). CDA has proven to be a fruitful endeavour in the analysis of large textual productions, nominalisation, and inter-textuality to hone in on degrees of expressions of linguistic tools but not the attitude of utterers. Fairclough (1992), van Dijk (2001; 2006), and Wodak and Meyer (2005) attempted a CDA analysis of large text types as newspaper articles and political oration to identify the establishment of ideology, dominance, racism, and power. For example, Fairclough’s (1992) CDA is concerned with micro- and macro text analysis identifying the text’s processes of production. This detailed textual analysis also involved analyzing the status of intertextuality and ideational instantiation (Fairclough 1992). very good
The gradual developments of CDA, however, led to the establishment of a more Cognitive linguistics (CL) nature to CDA. CL appeared dependent on a number of cognitive theories that ranged from metaphoric to cognitive grammatical theories. At these levels of linguistic analyses, the capturing of ideology appeared, firstly, at a social communal and second, at larger textual analysis levels (van Dijk 2001; 2006 cited in Attia, chapter 4, p. 81 cited in Hart and Luke (eds.) 2007). Therefore, CDA has particularly focused on human lingual behaviour and accounted for textual exchange strategies to establish a socially accepted pattern of such behaviour. However, CDA has not focused on attitude. For this reason, it is interesting to identify attitude expression. This research provides an analysis of linguistic studies and how they influence the attitudes of people.
Conversational Analysis and Attitude
In addition to CDA, Conversation Analysis (CA) was also involved in the analysis of interactional behaviour of speech. Sacks, Schegloff and Jefferson (1974) initiated conversation and social behaviour analysis. Hymes (1972; 1974) contributed to the ethnomethodological analysis of conversation by identifying a mental schema in conversational exchanges. A number of enquiries followed in using this ethnomethodological tool to trace the patterns of socially accepted language exchange processes.
Various social contexts and situations became the concern of researchers’ enquiries into human conversational exchange. Issues such as miscommunication (House, Kasper and Ross 2003), social context and its influence on conversational exchange strategies (Jefferson 1985), doctor-patient relationship and the conversational exchange processes during a consultation(Maynard and Heritage 2005; Ainsworth –Vaughn 1998), strategies of information provision in the doctor-patient conversational exchange (Tannen and Wallat 1986), significant contributing factors to patient participation during a consultation session with a doctor (Street, Gordon, Ward, Krupat and Kravitz 2005), the role of physicians as a power figure during the consultation procedures (Bales 1950), and how a physician uses vagueness and ambiguity to affect consent in the patient (Bamberg, 1991; Brown et al. 2004), customer-service provider (Hasan 1990) conversational exchange are among the many contributing researchers that focused on Conversational Analysis. Tannen and Lakoff (1984, p. 11) were in particular concerned with identifying a rapport establishment in conversation, analyzing express patterns and voice pitch that indicate degrees of meaning in conversation (1984, Tannen; 1984; Tannen 1990) attempted a comparative analysis between male and female tools of dominance and power in conversational exchanges. The study aimed at laying focus on the manner in which their levels of interaction affected their attitudes towards one another through the micro-analysis of the conversational components.
Schriffrin (1987) suggest that the micro analysis of conversational tools and discourse have been a centre of interest in the sociolinguistics studies. This conversational approach has been concerned with the identification of social meanings and implications of various conversational habits. In addition to the casual conversation analysis, the Birmingham School did resort to Systemic Functional Linguistics to identify the social levels of conversations that are highly structured in various social contexts such as the classroom setting (Sinclair and Coulthard 1975). Although these linguistic enquiries into human conversational exchange did contribute to the understanding of human social behavior and socially accepted patterns of talk and socialization, it appeared that the findings had not shown the significant aspects of attitude in conversational exchanges.
Since both CDA and CA methods of analysis in language use appeared to identify communication in systemized and socially accepted patterns of behavior, it also appeared that both analytical processes required differing theoretical support to assist in the interpretation of findings. For example, CDA thoroughly focused on ideological presence in different text types. However, the discourse analysis failed to capture any degree of attitude in the discourse analyzed. Likewise, CA exhaustively analyzed patterns of conversations in differing social settings and such an analysis was able to establish an anthropological realization of how humans talk. However, CA did not contribute to any length of identifying implication of attitude since there was an absence of social theory. Because of the gaps in the study of attitude, this research focuses on human information exchange in general and examines the attitude of people in particular. In so doing, this research focuses on the conversational exchanges of participants in an exchange forum board and explores their attitudes through the analyses of verbal exchanges/or texts. The forum is taken from an online article entitled Harvard Cancer Expert: Steve Jobs Probably Doomed Himself with Alternative Medicine. This article was published on the Gawker website which usually includes forum discussion boards following articles published. However, the attitudes of people are the prime focus of this investigation. These people are participants on the exchange forum that followed the selected online newspaper article. The issue that Jobs’ usage of alternative medical therapy to fight his pancreatic cancer established the forum exchanges of masses. The attitudes against and supporting alternative and bio-medicine are the focus of this research. This research focuses on forum board exchanges of attitude because it has not yet been explored. Furthermore, the theory that I will use as the framework of my data analysis is Appraisal Theory. I will use Appraisal Theory to analyze the attitudes since both the CDA and the CA have failed to offer an effective theoretical tool to tease out this semantic level of attitudes in language.
Systemic Functional Linguistics and Appraisal Theory
The theory that the analysis is based on is Appraisal Theory (Hereafter, AT). AT was first developed within Systemic Functional Linguistics (Hereafter, SFL) by Martin and White (2005). SFL primarily sees communication as a simultaneous process of interpersonal, ideational and textual levels of lingual functions. Any human experience reflects a theory of how experience is converted into an idea. This theory is referred to as the Ideational Metafunction in SFL. That is, world experience is realized or construed through a particular grammatical structure which entails interpersonal and textual functions. SFL stresses on the significance of language action. That is, when world experience is realized, in any language structure, there is a simultaneous co-existence of social interaction happening. That is, ideation only exists because the speaker’s relationship with other interlocutors and circumstances allow this ideation to be construed in that particular fashion. Therefore, the Interpersonal Metafunction is the action of the Ideational Metafunction. However, these two levels of lingual functions are, in fact, only possibly present if there is a Textual Metafunction. It is the Textual Metafunction that permits the Ideational and Interpersonal Metafunctions to be realized in clausal, sentence, discourse structures. The Textual Metafunction, therefore, is seen to be the “product of [the] process “of ideational construal (Halliday 2004 p. 525). SFL holds the argument that these three levels of function are integral. This simultaneous existence is the reason why language, any language, can be systemically analysed to account for the linguistic construal of what is happening in relation to the interlocutors involved and their expression of attitude, opinion and propositions in both written and spoken discourse (Halliday 2004 p. 29), based on the SFL’s particular interest in identifying the social semiotics aspects of language and communication, Appraisal Theory in particular focuses on this semiotic element of communicating opinion and attitude. Appraisal Theory is constituted of three systems: Attitude, Engagement and Appreciation. Attitude is organized around accounting for levels of “emotion, ethics and aesthetics” (Martin and White 2005, p. 42). Judgment is that sub-system that is concerned with evaluating how humans behave. This is grasped in relation to socially accepted standards. Appreciation is the third sub-system concerned with evaluating objects and states of affairs (Appraisal Theory Website). Appraisal Theory provides a system that systematically analyses the interpersonal levels of language. This theory is concerned with the analysis of opinion and perspective production in the lingual forms used by speakers and/or writers (Martin and White 2005, p.1). Appraisal theory also attempts to identify the opinions expressed in relation to community values. In this way, it is concerned with mapping out the processes that a speaker/ writer establish stance and authority of issues of concern.
Appraisal theory is, therefore, an appropriate tool of analysis to investigate the presence of attitude in the data selected for this research. These data are the discussion events that have occurred on a forum board which followed an online newspaper article. This issue of discussion is the validity of Steve Jobs’ decision to resort to using alternative medical therapy in his attempt to overcome his pancreatic cancer. The focus of this analysis is to trace the speakers’ attitudes toward this issue. This is so because Appraisal Theory can provide not only a semantic description of attitude expression; it can also provide a numerical account of ways attitudes can be expressed at social semiotic levels.
Relevance of Appraisal Theory in Linguistic research
Appraisal theory has been used in multiple researches. For instance, Knight (2008) analyzed the language used on the internet. Using Appraisal Theory, Knight focused on the messages and the humor within the communicative processes of interaction. Whitelaw, Garg and Argamon (2005) also used Appraisal Theory to establish a sentiment in movie reviews to focus on the level of sentiment in the review text. In this research, Appraisal theory was used to establish a sentiment classification. Gale (2011) also deployed Appraisal Theory to identify the instances of opinion. She was concerned with the threat in language as a means of establishing stance in relation to opinion or attitude of persons. Gales (2011) used Appraisal Theory to identify the instances of opinion. There were also scholars who attempted to analyse the interpersonal level of academic writing of second language learners within the framework of SFL. For instance, Lee (2006) analyzed argumentative, persuasive essays. Argumentative, persuasive essays were analyzed for interactional, interpersonal and interactive language structures. These three elements were analyzed using Appraisal Theory to identify the participants’ ability to establish their voices in argumentative academic discourse. Language teaching and learning has been an area of concern for many research projects. Wiksten Folkeryd (2007) focused on the language of evaluation in textual discourse, in Swedish primary schools. His main concern was to analyze the instantiation of emotion at the evaluative level of Appraisal use. Analysis of academic report and evaluation was also a concern of attitude an opinion analysis. Marshall, Adendorff and de Klerk (2009) analysed the evaluative language of reports of South African National Research Foundation (NRF). He carried out an Appraisal Analysis in order to recognize research expertise and to establish an evaluative system assessment rating.
Research in linguistics has ventured into varying issues and concerns. Mass media and technological advancement have been fields of linguistics enquiries. Zappavigna (2012) focused on online sources and the language used in these settings. The issue of concern was emotional exchanges in twitter dialogue. Zappavigna (2012) attempted this dialogic analysis using Appraisal Theory (Martin and White 2005). In analyzing this level of emotion via Appraisal Theory, Zappavigna identified the social behavior which was effective to establishing bonding and affiliation (2012). Another online related phenomenon was reader commentary after an online published article. This reader commentary takes the structure of the dialogue form in the forum discussion structure. The genre which includes the article and reader commentary, realised in a forum discussion form, was referred to by Cambria (2011, p.125) as the article-cum-comment genre. The article-cum-comment text type appears to be a particularly interesting linguistic enquiry. Cambria (2012) analyzed the genre of the article-cum-comment structure within the overall electronic news story. However, Zappavigna’s Appraisal analysis of dialogue on Twitter did not identify an attitude in the data selected. Cambria’s generic analysis was not extended to any point of Appraisal of the genre structure. So that is why this research attempts to explore the attitude through text analysis, using Appraisal Theory as its base.
Appraisal Theory appears to be an effective theoretical tool to capture the levels of opinions and evaluation in many fields and disciplines. This is why this research is concerned with using Appraisal theory to identify the attitude in online discussion contexts. With the advancement of online interaction like Facebook, twitter, instant messaging and the article-cum-comment etc., a linguistic research into attitude expression is essential to capture a newly accepted behavior of communication. This research analyses the expression of attitudes on the forum discussion board. Using the Attitude system of Appraisal Theory, this research captures the semantic as well as numeric patterns of attitude expression used by participants on the forum board selected.
The next chapter will provide both a detailed description of the data which been selected in this research and the participants involved. This next chapter will also provide a detailed explanation of Appraisal theory and how it has been used to analyze the selected data which are the verbal exchanges of attitude on a forum discussion board concerning the issue of Steve Jobs’ choosing to use alternative medicine to cure himself of pancreatic cancer.
The analysis of attitude entails the identification of semantic levels which provide word knowledge, conviction and opinion. This tripartite nature present in utterances does not indicate a simplification of opinion only. So opinion and attitude appear to be two distinct realities or cognitive processes
Appraisal theory offers proper theoretical means in capturing and evaluating the opinion of people in different fields and disciplines. For this reason, the research finds it relevant to apply the appraisal theory in the finding of the attitude of people within an online discussion group. With the increase in technology, the use of social medias like facebook, twitter, Skype and tagged among others have largely increased (Diab, 2008). These platforms offer a valid discussion forum in which people express their attitudes and opinions; most of these opinions are dependent on beliefs and cultural backgrounds of the persons participating in the discussions. The aim of this chapter is to examine the attitudes of people acting in the discussion forums using the appraisal theory and make analysis of the participants’ attitudes.
This chapter will evaluate various data that has been selected for study, as well as the participants, and make valid conclusions in regards to the study. Moreover, this chapter will give a detailed explanation of the appraisal theory and the manner in which it is applicable in the context of the discussion boards. The study will analyze the appraisal theory vis a vis the attitudes presented by the persons involved. The data that will be used in the discussion process are a discussion from an opinion forum where people discussed Steve Jobs decision to use an alternative medicine in quest to cure his pancreatic cancer.
The appraisal theory
The appraisal theory is a psychological theory in which emotions are estimated from people’s reactions and evaluation of events that result in specific reactions in people differently. One of the greatest questions that are often asked in emotion psychology is the cause of emotion in people. Most modern researchers agree that the appraisal theory gives a powerful manner of illustrating the dynamics of emotional experience (Hansen, 2012). Appraisal theories are often considered distinct from the other theories because they are based on assumptions that emotions are developed from event evaluations.
According to this theory, emotions develop from pattern evaluation using appraisal structures. Appraisal approach in most cases is often considered a cognitive approach since the emotions are traced to the point of events evaluations. It is, however, inaccurate to compare the appraisal process with that of conscious reasoning. The appraisal processes are often presumed to be naturally unconscious and automatic.
Most appraisals of events occur in real time and people often engage in thinking further over the event that has transpired and those that are likely to happen. In this view, one may develop positive or negative thoughts about the event. Psychologists consider appraisals n two different perspectives; these are the primary appraisal and the secondary appraisal.
The primary appraisal involves the assessment on the significance that an event holds in the life of an individual. This assessment is often done with consideration as to whether the event is a threat or an opportunity. The secondary appraisal, on the other hand, considers the ability of an individual to cope or use the situation for their own benefits. Most attitudes result during the primary appraisal where one looks at the event vis a vis its benefits and threats. Events that are likely to benefit an individual often result to positive attitudes towards the event and in most cases people encourage the existence of such events. On the contrary, the events that are likely to cause distress or bring threat to an individual well being are often refuted and results into negative attitudes.
The appraisal network has developed from the functional perspective of linguistics. Ideally, the functional grammar recognizes language as consisting of three metafunctions, these are the ideological, textual and interpersonal. The interpersonal metafunction often concerns mostly with the relations between addressers and the addressees in the discourse situation together with the attitude of the addresser towards the event that is under description.
According to Halliday, modality and mood are the main components of any interpersonal meaning. Through an emphasis in the semantics of evaluation, appraisal has created a new area in IP meanings. Using this framework, Martin has offered an in-depth description of the system used in language communication.
The nature of this appraisal model is multidimensional and incorporates three different types of semantic resources. These include the attitude that entails expression of feelings towards certain events; engagement that encompass sourcing of attitudes and then the negotiation of heteroglossic diversity. Finally, there is the graduation that involves the measuring of interpersonal force for blurring or sharpening the perception of a focus valuer.
Appraisal Theory and the Exploration of Attitude
The analysis of attitude of the participants on the forum discussion board selected is done using Appraisal Theory. Although a forum discussion board is a conversation, this research is not concerned with the conversation analysis as much as the realization of attitude in the participants’ utterances. Branching from (OR: based on) Systemic Functional Linguistics, Appraisal Theory is capable of identifying the semantic elements of attitude present in exchanges of discourse. One of the theories capable of specifying semantic constituents of attitude is Appraisal Theory; In fact, the use of appraisal theory makes it possible to identify the semantic configurations of the interpersonal level of communication in terms of 3 systems: Attitude, Engagement and Graduation. Appraisal Theory is comprised of three main systems which contribute to the interpersonal level of communication; that is, Attitude, Engagement and Graduation. One of these systems, Attitude, is concerned with highlighting the speaker’s and /or writer’s expression of “…emotion, ethics and aesthetics…” (Martin and White 2005 p.45). Engagement and Graduation, however, are particularly concerned with the identifying the discoursal tools which contribute to the specificity of various genres and textual development.
This research is not concerned with generic textual analysis but is interested in mapping out the attitudinal levels of expression on a forum discussion board. Therefore, I have selected the sub-system of Attitude which, itself, is made up of Affect, Judgment and Appreciation. Affect identifies the speaker’s feelings in a manner of dichotomy of the positive or the negative; that is happiness/ unhappiness, security/insecurity, satisfaction/dissatisfaction. Through Affect, the participants’ inclination to either empathizing or demise Jobs’ decision to resort to alternative medical therapy were identified. Judgment is concerned with the expression of attitude towards human behavior. This second sub-system is also divided into a positive and negative evaluation and is immediately connected to social conviction and social semiotic understanding of human conduct. Judgment is realized by social esteem and social sanction expressed in the discussion forums. Social Esteem is that the evaluative element directly related to communal or social belonging. The aspects of the analysis of Social Esteem are normality (how special?), capacity (how capable?), and tenacity (how dependable?). Social Sanction is related to socially accepted rules and regulation. The evaluative elements are veracity (how true is this?) and propriety (how moral is this?). Judgment can, therefore, analyze the levels of ideology and social conviction which contribute to the realization of attitude in language structures.
Judgment, like Affect in their dichotomist nature, can be realized implicitly (evoked: factual information given indirectly to evaluate or provoked: some evaluative language given) or explicitly (inscribed). The evaluative system of Judgment provides valuable room to identify and highlight those expressions that imply social semiotic value and hence the ideology that lies between these semantic borders. Therefore, the tracing of attitudinal expressions can begin at this analytical apparatus. The last sub-system of Attitude is Appreciation. This is an evaluative system of “…objects, artifacts, processes and states of affair…” (grammatics.com). Appreciation is not concerned with human behavior but with cognitive processes that occur within the mind before acceptance and approval of a given issue. Appreciation is sub-divided into composition (its complexity or purity), reaction (impact on evaluator or the degree of liking) and valuation (how worthwhile was it?) of what is being evaluated. Appreciation is also a dichotomy of evaluation. These levels of evaluation initially began in such simplified tripartite aspects which were seen particularly distinct and individual.
However, since the evaluative expressions are semantically permeated, attitude expression realizes a completely different way of instantiation. Therefore, since the evaluation in language is immediate to semantic levels within any utterance and although the aspects of Attitude are originally dichotomous and individualistic, evaluation in sentence structures provide areas of more complex semantic levels. One realization of this is referred to as polyphony in Appraisal (Bednarek 2007). Polyphony of Judgment and Appreciation appear as yet another evaluative system of Attitude. For this reason, I have selected Attitude, of Appraisal Theory, to carry out a systematic analysis of attitude in language. It is capable of capturing the semantic levels attitude as well as providing a numeric analysis of attitude instantiation Marjoribanks, 2010). For this reason, I have chosen the Attitude system of Appraisal Theory as a tool of analysis of the selected data.
Future appraisals can be made better through development of better understanding and reasoning on people’s emotions (Kriel, Louw, & Vuuren, 2009). The nature of these appraisal theories is that they account for variances in emotional reactions to a similar event.
The sample used in this case is of students from South Australian matriculation program in the Taylor’s University College. The study entailed selection of a class of 31 students both males and females who were the target group of study of the case of Steve Jobs decision to pursue alternative medicine options rather than opting for the available medical interventions for his cancer treatment. Another class consisting of 27 students was also selected to act as the control for the experiment. These classes comprised of students both male and females with diverse social economics backgrounds as well as cultural beliefs. All the participants had access to online learning management system (OLMS) which was provided by the college. The levels of proficiency in English were also equal and the students were granted equal access to the use of the OLMS which was to provide them with a discussion forum.
The target group students were given an introduction of the selected topic which was an analysis of Steve Jobs choice to use alternative medicine in the treatment of cancer rather than using the existing medical interventions. The research question was narrowed down into argumentative discussion in which case each student was to present his/ her opinion regarding the subject matter. The students were then introduced to the discussion board and given explicit instructions on the manner in which they were expected to utilize the discussion board in expressing their views and opinions. They were also allowed to share information with one another on the selected topic before presenting their final opinions. Both the groups were given 10 days to discuss the topic and present their views in the online discussion forum. The control group category was given equal chances for a similar discussion with the exception of only conducting their discussions during class hours.
Instructions of Using the Discussion Board
The participants were required to play two major roles; the first role was making an introduction on the focus question and the guidelines to be used in the discussion board. This role was taken by every student. The second role included responding in which case students gave critical response to the question under study. To ensure active participation of the students on the board; the teacher however observed the students’ responses online through the OLMS
Data collection and analysis
At the end of the research period, the discussion thread of the online forum was collected and then analyzed relative to the set protocols. The data was further analyzed using independent investigators who were not familiar with the students.
Analysis of the discussion threads
In this thread, a broad category of responses was observed on the thread and the students expressed their opinions regarding the decision by Steve Jobs to go for alternative medicine rather than the normal procedures in the quest to rid himself of the cancer cells. The aim of this was to observe the ability of the students to express their opinions and attitudes critically in a manner that suggested their knowledge and beliefs on the subject matter. Through the responses, the appraisal theory could be used in explaining the emotions developed by the students and how these emotions led to the development of opinions which finally forms the attitude expressed on the discussion forum (Greenwood, 2013). Through this, the objective of the research which encompasses finding the attitudes of people on the online discussion forums would best be explained and analyzed in details.
Overview of jobs decision
The current age has witnessed a number of researchers portraying interest in researching into the impacts of attitudes on the nature of ideas that people express on the opinion boards. Placing consideration on the manner in which the online discussions are becoming popular, most individuals are actively participating on the contributions placed on the various social media like facebook and twitter, and such postings largely depend on the attitudes possessed by the persons making the posting. Putting in consideration the nature of discussion boards that are currently emerging, research into the attitudes have been greatly necessitated and such results aim to appraise the attitudes possessed by the individuals concerned with the discussion (Misaka & Koike, 2007). As mentioned in the beginning, the research will take into consideration the decision by Steve jobs to opt for alternative medicine in quest to cure his pancreatic cancer.
Steve job’s choice of alternative medicine for cancer treatment
Many people have expressed varying opinions regarding the mystery behind Steve jobs decision to opt for alternative medicine instead of the other available options that could have helped in the healing of the cancer.
Having been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer for nearly 2 decades, Steve Jobs did not immediately resolved to medication and therapies for cancer, rather, he chose to use alternative in his treatment. Many people have questioned this choice terming it as one of the worst choices made by Jobs. Other people have also expressed their opinions regarding the same issue and have asserted that the decision was good and it is probably one of the reasons why he managed to stay for over a decade with this cancer rather than succumbing within three to six months.
Discussion on the social Medias like facebook elicited a series of mixed reactions over the decision by Steve Jobs to use alternative medicine rather than using the normal recommended procedures in the cure for pancreatic cancer. One of the most likely methods was the use of chemotherapy or surgery in the treatment. Furthermore, the type of cancer that Job suffered from was called islet cell neuroendocrine tumor which medical professionals considered responsive I case early treatment was instituted. Job, however, restricted his diet to fruits as he underwent traditional and natural therapies.
Considering the opinions set by people on the online podium, there are various reactions some supportive and others totally contradictive to the opinions set. One such person was Chevardier who was on the opinion that the move to use traditional options was ideal and would help in retention of a large amount of bodies energy. She feels that following the natural and traditional remedies was considerably a good option and would help in recovery faster ad safer than surgery.
Jobs didn’t want his body to be opened up, a factor that Dayniel considered very wise and would enable him come up with better options regarding his treatments. Nonetheless, this was considered a waste of time by Rachel since it would lead to worsening of the patient’s condition hence resulting into more complications into the condition. According to Rachael, Steve jobs could have laid aside his fears and chose to undergo the surgery while the condition was still manageable. Furthermore, Jobs was in a better position to afford the best medical treatment that was available during the time. Choosing to go for an alternative medicine was just a decision that was made based on fears that surgery would expose him to death.
Apart from the negative opinions that other people expressed, there are those who consider the move to select alternative medicine as a viable option for Steve Jobs, his ability to choose what he thought was best for him and would give him utmost satisfaction. Most individuals attributed his long life with the choice to use alternative medicine since. According to various scientific researches, the use of alternative medicine, in which case the patient is subjected to eating fruits and vegetables makes the body remove the various toxins that are responsible for the multiplication of the cancer cells. These foods together with the traditional medicines make the body strong and capable of resisting the cancer effects that may affect the body.
This, therefore, makes it possible for the cancer patient to live longer than expected. In one of articles published on dailies, the author expressed contentment in the choice by Steve job to use an alternative medicine since it made him live longer than expected. However, most people in the social media are still on the opinion that facing this cancer and opting for treatment would have been the best way forward for Jobs; the nature of cancer that he suffered was manageable and could be easily controlled, therefore, choosing to have surgery or the normal therapy would have helped him a great deal in finding solution to the cancer that he fought for a very long time.
In lieu to the above analysis regarding Steve Jobs decision to opt for alternative medicine, people do not seem to have the same stand on the decision by Steve Jobs to opt for the alternative medicine. The many people were supporting and many people opposing the move is an illustration of how attitudes of people affect their thinking regarding certain issues in the social setting. These attitudes range from good to bad attitudes that are developed by these people during the analysis on the discussion forum.
Despite how smart Steve Jobs was, many people still argue that he made a dim decision regarding his health. CT scans and other tests performed on him revealed that he had a cancerous tumor on his pancreas. Many doctors and health professionals advised him to have the cancer removed through operation, but Mr. Jobs would not listen to this, and instead opted for the vegan diet and other alternative medicines.
Nine months down the line, the tumor had grown and spread to the liver, and it was during this time that Jobs accepted to go the surgery. This sequence of events gave rise to a number of news articles and blogs which on 20/20 hindsight speculated that if only the surgery had been done within the right time, the doctors could have caught the cancer and removed it before it spread to other body parts which could have eventually saved him.
However, there is no way in this world to know which the right decision is whether in business or health, all is about taking risks; therefore Steve Jobs wish to delay or avoid surgery was not to be considered abnormal since most people in his situation could have considered a similar option. In addition, regarding the tumor that he had been diagnosed with, he was justified to make the decision to delay the treatment process.
According to doctor Ornish, when the cancer was diagnosed for the first time, he advised Mr. Jobs to consider surgery, but he was reluctant and took a few months off to consult with a number of scientists and physicians worldwide together with his team of professional medics on whether or not to go for surgery.
Other medical professionals have sided with Jobs citing the surgery as something that was not to be taken lightly and that nobody could have been very thoughtful on how to go about the situation as much as Jobs did. The attitude that people had over the issue has largely contributed to the mixed reactions that people have over the actions that could have been taken by Steve Jobs. Moreover, it is evident that the opinions are affected by the difference in culture, traditions, beliefs and levels of professionalism of the individuals concerned.
Appraisal theories vis a vis Steve Jobs case
Given the manner in which people have expressed their feelings and emotions towards Steve Jobs decision to face the cancer using the alternative medicine approach, people have developed various opinions which come as a result of emotions developed during the discussion. Considering various factors such as availability of more viable treatment options, a section of the public could not believe that Jobs did not have the guts to face the situation through a solution that would end it once and for all. Instead the approach he gave only gave the cancer more time to develop and overpower the body. In this regard, he then chooses to go for the liver transplant which he thought would boost the body’s ability to resist the cancer infection. However, he succumbed to the condition and lost his life in the process.
Considering the appraisal theories, emotions are observed to develop from evaluation patterns which develop into appraisal patterns. From the point of perspective of an individual, one can consciously or unconsciously deduce the credibility of Steve Jobs decision regarding his cancer treatment. The primary aspect of the appraisal involves looking primarily into the significance of the event in the life of an individual. The cancer treatment in perspective of other persons seemed to be the most viable option since it would provide the guarantee that the cancer cells would be completely wiped out of the body. Moreover, given that the type of cancer that Jobs suffered were manageable, the decision to go for surgery would have been the most viable and would greatly help in preventing its spread to other body parts.
Nonetheless, others may also argue on the perception of considering the alternative medicine. The basis for this perception lies on the fact that the traditional medicines and treatments involve procedures that would help in controlling the cancer and demeaning its level of activity in the body. The alternative medicine procedures help in the elimination of toxic substances in the body hence providing no room for the development of cancer. Through this method, one can easily escape the painful experience of surgery which is equally risky since the patient may succumb or develop further complications that may not be manageable in the long run. Owing to these, one develops inner fear, which any average human would consider. In the same line of thoughts, job seemed to be justified by his action since he consulted with a number of health professionals around the globe on the best treatment for his condition.
The secondary appraisal in this case comes into the picture when the victim’s ability to cope with the situation is evident. Given the type of cancer that Job suffered, it can be deduced that he might have the ability to contain the situation (Ortiz & Harwood, 2007). Furthermore, Jobs cancer was at its novice stage and, therefore, instituting controllable measures as well as the curative measures were options that he could have easily considered during his assessment. The comments on the discussion forums would, therefore, be a reflection of what the opinions of the people involved in the discussion forum regarding the dangers and the benefits likely to be achieved by the selected approaches given in the discussion. The negative and the positive attitudes depicted in most comments are just a product of the people’s levels of assessment of the situation and their approval of whether or not the situation is good and likely to benefit the affected party.
The appraisal theories, therefore, offer a better platform through which the attitudes and the opinions of people in the online forums can be analyzed and deduced in terms of their credibility. Moreover, the online podium is expanding each time and most people are increasingly joining the long list of discussions in these forums (O’neill, 2011). The extent to which opinions may differ is increasingly becoming high with people giving all types of comments and observations regarding their supports for everything that is presented in the discussions.
The above illustration also presents the tripartite nature of the conversation in which case people present varying opinions regarding the subject matter and then such opinions used in making assessment to whether the arguments are credible. The studies of the appraisal theories also seem to illuminate the existing differences between attitudes and opinions. While opinions may refer to an individual’s point of view, attitudes are the products of such pint of views. For instance in the case of Steve Jobs, many people have different opinions on the best actions that he could have taken to resolve his health issues. These opinions were within two different extremities; these were the positive and the negative attitudes (Psychology today, 2011, October 24). Those who were on the opinion that seeking medical attention was a viable choice and could have helped in eliminating all the cancer cells definitely constituted the group that was against the choice of engaging the use of alternative medicine.
On a different perception, there is the network of individuals who believe that alternative medicine works well if all the prescribed procedures are followed to the latter. This group, therefore, has an inclination towards the actions and choice taken by Steve Jobs in regards to resolving to alternative medicine in his cancer treatment. It is, therefore, true to state that attitudes and opinions are two distinct realities (Nelson, 2007).
Basing on this analysis, the appraisal theories have offered a good structural framework through which emotions can be studied and predicted to know the nature of attitudes likely to be revealed.
CHAPTER 4: ANALYSIS
Considering the discussions on the previous chapters, major concepts have been developed regarding the formation of attitudes in the online discussion forums. The above discussion has highlighted that attitudes can be developed and changed via high effort processes. In regards to the dual process formulations, the high effort processes have a tendency of impacting persuasive outcomes in situations where ability to think and motivations are high (Grunbaum, 2009). Such situations may include instances where people within the discussion forum have high knowledge of the topic, are accountable for their options and judgments, few distractions present and then when the issues subject to discussion holds a high personal profile to the concerned partisans.
Message learning reception
The early theories of attitude change were pegged on beliefs that persuasion was dependent on a sequence of stages which included comprehension, attention, acceptance, learning and retention of information in the context of persuasive communication (Millar & Millar, 2006). Therefore, a persuasive appeal would be deemed successful to the extent that the intended messages, as well as its conclusions, were processed, well understood, then accepted and finally recalled later on.
This model was, however, modified later to include only two core processes which include reception and yielding. McGuire (20007) argues that variables are likely to have an influence on the persuasive outcomes by having an effect on either the process of reception or yielding which are likely to have impacts on the processes. Despite a number of researches providing an in depth examination of the roles played by literal comprehension in attitude changes, a large number of researchers have made attempts to address the issue of reception yielding hypotheses through the assessment of the existing relationship between changes in attitude and the process of message recall (Mceachrane, 2009).
Despite the perceptive appeal of this model, substantial research has revealed that message recall and attitudes have a rather fable relationship. Several factors have been used in explanation of the low correlation between
A number of aspects have been placed forth to account for a relatively low correlation occurring between information recall and attitude changes (James, 2004). One of the arguments towards this phenomenon is that the learning theories offer an explanation to the facts that people form various evaluations of the information from persuasive messages. For instance, in the case of Jobs, there were varying opinions regarding the options he could have taken and many people persuasively argued that selecting the proposed options could have helped him rid off the cancer from his body. In this context, one may find an opinion or argument to be ludicrous while another would find the same argument very reasonable and applicable in the discussion context. However, both the parties would be able to recall the argument vividly but still remain with the conviction (Kelman & Eagly, 2012). Attitude change has been observed to correspond closely with information recall in cases where a person’s unique assessment of the recalled information has been accounted for.
Moreover, attitudes have been observed to have positive correlations with learning ad recall in instances where the information is not evaluated online at the time of exposure. Such cases may arise when individuals are given non-evaluative processing goals hence making the processing difficult. Under such conditions, when individuals are requested to give their attitudes, they are often forced to retrieve what they have in their memories and then focus their attitudes on the evaluative implications that come with the information (Wheeless, 2007).
In regards to the early findings of this study, that change in attitudes and recall have a consistence relationship, the researchers have stepped up studies in quest to gauge a person’s idiosyncratic reactions for the presented information. The expectancy value theories have proposed that a person’s attitude reflect their subjective assessment of the allure of the consequences linked to the attitude object and the possibility that the consequences will suffice.
Theory of seasoned action is also a very influential model which argues that attitudes are as a result of the multiplicative functions of the likelihood and desirability of the consequences relating to the issue of event. For instance, the attitude of a person towards a political candidate on the online podium will be defined by the levels of expectancy of that particular candidate to deliver impressive performance and enacting of policies that will be favorable to the others. Though analyzed primarily within the paradigms of behavioral predictions instead of attitude modification, the implications from this formulation underpin the successful developments of persuasive information.
More studies have also indicated that persuasive messages, as well as the contextual variables like an individual’s mood, can bring change in attitude by bringing a change in the perceived desirability and likelihood of the salient beliefs. Even though other researchers have indicated that literally, most or all attitude changes occur through a thoughtful consideration of the desirability and the possibility; attitude changes may also take place via multiple low effort methods. In addition, assessment of desirability and likelihood can also be made through the effort processes. It is also worth realizing that the concepts reveal that most individuals are often prone to believing automatically anything they hear and the perception stimuli positively. For instance, constant exposure to information increases the levels of perception as well as the validity of the information (Thompson, 2009). Repeated mere exposure to a phenomenon largely increases the desirability of the individual.
Nonetheless, the integration and retrieval and the desirability assessment of the beliefs may require fewer efforts in instances where a person has the motivation and the ability to do so. In this line of reasoning, the expectancy values often tend to account for the attitude variance where motivation for cognition to think is high.
Apart from specifying the major components of attitudes, most theorists in the attitude learning have made attempts to isolate the mean through which such components are combined to bring influence into the attitudes developed (Infante, 2005). In the context of the online discussion forum, information from various people can be easily integrated and then used in changing the attitudes of people within a discussion forum. Such information is important in analyzing the attitudes of individuals in regards to the appraisal theories.
Other theorists have also been recommended that beliefs are often a combination of averaging functions. Through this formulation, the salient beliefs are weighted through assessment of the significance of the information piece and the weighted average of the individual beliefs and then used in the prediction of the attitudes (Smith & Triandis, 2007).
Through adjustment of the weighting parameters, the beliefs can post fashion in any model hence making it capable of holding any fashion. Such qualities make them capable of accommodating any finding. However, the prior basis for various data combinations may not be well specified under the model used.
Cognitive Response Approach
The cognitive approach dwells on the belief that a person’s reactions to a given information is more important than the memory of the information itself, this is considered a cognitive approach to the persuasion. In accordance to this approach, message arguments and attitudes are normally not related since the virtue of persuasions typically relies on an individual’s idiosyncratic thoughts to the message rather than the tone or context of the message (Infante, 2006). According to this view, most people when exposed to the persuasive message often respond to it through their prior attitudes (if they possess one) and pre-existing knowledge, putting into consideration that the information is not in the message.
Further investigation into the cognitive responses has proven the existence of three important aspects for cognitive responses these include content of thoughts, amount of thoughts and importance of the thoughts.
Content of the thoughts: the overall valence of thinking has often been considered among the most important dimensions of thinking. Most researchers often categories their thoughts as either favorable, unfavorable or even neutral in other instances; after this categorization, the overall valence index for the thoughts are computed. According to this approach, the persuasion is often effective where the thoughts elicit favorable thoughts. For instance, if Steve Jobs had used opted for medical interventions, the cancer could not have killed him. On the other hand, individual may resist the messages in cases where they are likely to elicit negative or unfavorable thoughts (Curtin, 2007). As stated previously, individuals can be motivated to create thoughts through the use of external variables such as the message source and the moods. For instance, if individuals are expectant that the forthcoming message is meant to motivate them, they will typically get motivated to argue out with the forthcoming message (Rokeach, 2007). On the studies regarding reasons why people resist change, it is observed that such people could be inspired to counter argue the upcoming attitudinal message which ordinarily would equip them into the counter arguing prior to the anticipated attack.
Amount of thoughts: the amount of thoughts possessed by an individual also constitutes to the levels of valence thoughts generated. As indicated in the previous chapters, a number of factors are likely to affect the levels through which people are motivated, such factors include personal relevance or some form of distractions in thinking about the communication. Therefore as an individual generates more favorable thoughts towards a message, their levels of persuasion also increases and as such leads to increase in persuasion. The logic in this approach is that positive thinking increases the levels of persuasion and vice versa.
Confidence in thoughts: apart from the amount of thinking and valence that normally takes place, research has uncovered another aspect that has a great impact on persuasion. This is the confidence which most people have on the own cognitive responses. Relating to the self validation hypothesis people vary to some level in the way in which they have doubt or confidence in the validity of their thoughts. Therefore, thoughts that people have high levels of confidence are prone to lead to the development of high attitudes while those that have low confidence in thoughts are likely to develop poor attitude.
Despite the fact that most people often have confidence in their thoughts, such thoughts can be easily transformed and made into the desirable version. The opinions often reflected on the discussion forums may be a representative of various thoughts possessed by people from various backgrounds. Such opinions may elicit attitudes that can be easily persuaded into other beliefs that are likely to change the way in which a person perceives an object. The opinion boards in the discussion forums, therefore, subject people to the expression of independent thoughts which can also be affected by the way in which the person interact and argue out their beliefs. In the arguments towards Steve Jobs treatment, people had mixed reactions towards the issue with others presenting their preferences on the way he should have pursued his treatment.
However, there are also other groups of people that believed that the choice made by Steve Jobs was good and justified since any other person in a the same situation could have made such considerations before coming up with a resolution on the best plan to take.
The attitude theories that have been discussed in this study have a common way of approaching the manner in which people within the discussion forums can be affected by attitude (Carlson, 2006). The appraisal theories offer an evaluation of how thoughts are generated and the manner in which such thoughts are transformed from emotions, then opinions and finally ideas that can be relied upon.
Relatively the cognitive theories offer a similar explanation on how attitudes are developed and transformed depending on the levels of persuasion and the desirability of the content. Moreover, such are evaluated in terms of the moods created by the expectations of the event to the particular individuals (Burgoon & Miller, 2011). The attempt to look into the reasons for the formation of attitudes in the various discussion contexts is best explained by these theories.
CHAPTER FIVE: CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The study set out to explore the expression of attitudes on the online discussion forums and then make an in-depth study on the occurrences of such attitudes and how they differ from one individual to the other. The concern over the manner in which people present their opinions in the online podium is of great concern especially given the fact that the use of such discussion boards is increasingly becoming rampant in the current social setting. Moreover, the technological impacts on the matter have led to a great diversity among the participants in the online discussions and such diversity in places of origins and cultures have been observed to have a great impact on the nature of opinions and attitudes placed on the discussion boards (Scherer, Schorr, & Johnstone, 2001). Chapter 3 illustrates an experiment in which students’ attitudes were to be determined through the use of online discussion boards. The experiment illustrates how opinions vary depending on the levels of knowledge to the subject under discussion and the mood set by the subject, in this regard, the moods are considered on whether or not they are favorable.
The cognitive approach has been observed to play a very critical role in the formation and transformation of attitude. Most people have varying opinions regarding different things and events that are discussed on the discussion boards. Most of these opinions are set by the extent of benefits or harm that the event or the issue is likely to cause (Sherif, M., & Hovland, 2005). For instance, in a discussion regarding Steve Jobs choice of alternative medicine, people gave several responses that in their opinions were right and a number of people even justified their points of arguments citing that they were the best available alternatives.
In the process of expressing the opinions, people may differ in terms of points of view as well as their beliefs on the best methods to be used in the event under discussion. Many people, therefore, tend to shift their opinions regarding the levels of conviction they find depending on the levels of favors they anticipate achieving from the issues under discussion (Berkowitz & Anderson, 1978).
The appraisal theories, as well as the other cognitive theories, have illustrated the significance of attitudes in any given discussion forum. The theories have equally evaluated different means through which attitudes have been analyzed and best explains how the process of attitude formation is achieved. The study has also focused on conversational analysis in which case, various conversational tools have been analyzed in terms of their capacities to determine the attitudes depicted in any given conversational context. Conversational tools such as pronunciation and the use of certain words in different contexts can be used to determine the attitude possessed by the speaker.
The study has equally proved that attitudes expressed in various speech contexts may relate to the nature of personal experience that the speaker might have gone through. Such experiences may cause them to develop like or dislikes of the situations they are in. Such preferences are reflected in the attitudes expressed by the individuals through their expression on the discussion boards Gopnik, A., & (Meltzoff, 1997). The role played by attitude in any conversational context can thus not be ignored and is a major determinant on the levels of interactions within the social media platform.
Based on the researcher’s assessment on expression of attitudes on the forum discussion boards, it emerges that a few adjustments in the way of the social media usage ought to be improved. The researcher recommends the following measures that could help in improving the levels of communication on the discussion forums.
Increased use of social media could help in best improving the manner of communication on the discussion forums. Many students should be exposed to the social media to enable them develop analytical skills that will foster critical thinking in various discussion contexts (Cohen, 1964). Such exposure would also help people from diverse cultural and social backgrounds to learn the proper communication procedures that are desired within the social setting.
Provision of training to students and people using discussion forums could also be a viable solution in enhancing the attitudes of expressed by the participants in any conversational context. Such training should include proper language and expressions that are suitable for use on the social media sites. The nature of the interaction between the users of these discussion forums should also be controlled. Instituting policies that will govern the nature of attitudes developed in the discussion forums in the wake of increasing social media use. The forthcoming generation would, therefore, use the discussion forums within the auspices of their social paradigms.
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