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The Relationship Between Beliefs, Values, Attitudes and Behaviours

Mohan is a family physician and a postgraduate associate dean working in the UK. He has a keen interest in self-regulated learning.

Attitudes are a construct of internal beliefs and value systems.

Attitudes are a construct of internal beliefs and value systems.

"The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind."

— William James

What Are Beliefs, Values and Attitudes?

In our various roles, our beliefs, values and attitudes are constantly interacting with those of our peers, friends, family or teachers. We seem to instinctively 'like' the individuals who share our core values and beliefs. Harmonising our value systems is what makes a relationship successful, be it personal, educational or professional.


Proponents of adult learning state that in order to achieve competence and excellence, one needs to be able to teach and assess not only knowledge and skills, but attitudes, as well. To achieve excellence, we must be able to identify the core values and belief systems that underpin attitudes2.

Performance improvement can only come from learning the appropriate knowledge and skills. Possessing the right value and belief systems may influence our motivation, intention and engagement with a specific task.

We may come across individuals who seemingly possess the knowledge and skills to do a task, but only with a positive attitude towards the task will there be motivation, engagement and intention to complete the task.

The 'iceberg' diagram below shows the relationship between our hidden values and belief systems and our outward behaviours. However, there are two factors displayed that directly influence behaviours—one is the attitude that underpins the behaviour, and the other is the capability to express the expected behaviour.

Iceberg demonstrating implicit and explicit bias.

Iceberg demonstrating implicit and explicit bias.

'The power of knowledge to organise, select, learn and judge comes from values and beliefs as much as, and probably more than, from information and logic'

— Thomas Davenport and Laurence Prusak (2000) Working Knowledge

Attitude: Description and Significance

Almost all educational theories encompass teaching and assessment of knowledge, skills and attitudes. While we find it easier to define knowledge and skills, definitions of attitudes vary.

Attitudes have been described as hypothetical constructs that represent a person's like or dislike for anything. Attitude is a judgment made on the 'attitude object' (a person, place, task, event, skill, etc.). Judgments from attitude can range from positive, negative or neutral.

Attitudes arise from an inner framework of values and beliefs, developed over time. Carl Jung, in his essay on psychological types, defines attitude as "the readiness of the psyche to act or react in a certain way,"1.

Beliefs, Values and Attitudes

Beliefs, Values and Attitudes

The Three Components of Attitude

Attitudes are comprised of three components: emotions, behaviours and thoughts. These three components can also be described as the 'ABC' model: affective, behavioural and cognitive.

The 'affective' response is one's emotional response to a task or an entity. The 'behavioural' response is the displayed verbal or behavioural tendency to a task or entity, whereas the 'cognitive' response is the cognitive evaluation of the entity based on an internal belief system.

There is considerable overlap in the semantics of beliefs, values and attitudes, however, these are also distinct constructs (as illustrated above).

Attitude: Based on the Behaviours of Ourselves and Others

One of the key lessons to be learned is that we are at the mercy of expressed behaviours. Both in ourselves and in others, we ‘assume’ attitudes based on observed behaviour.

For example, someone who regularly arrives late may be considered not very punctual or organised. However, this same person may spend time caring for somebody who is very ill, and their personal time delivering this care may interfere with their prompt arrival to work or lessons. With this new information, they may be viewed from a different perspective.

Our attitudes toward observed behaviour will also tint our judgements. For example, if a person arrives shoddily dressed for an interview, we may feel they have not taken the time to prepare. However, if the said person believes their talent and skills are what should be recognised and not their appearance—this mindset influences their attitude toward dressing ‘smart’ and thus influences their behaviour.

Behaviours may also be ‘false’. A person may display false obeisance and ritualistic behaviour when they need a favourable review, or feel they are being observed for performance. This may indicate a certain attitude, but the observer needs to delineate the difference between a true attitude and a false behaviour implying an attitude. A person who is constantly fawning and agreeing to everything their superior says may not necessarily be in agreement, but may fawn in order to carry favour.

In assessing behaviour, one needs to be aware of capability. There have been situations where a particular person may be considered ‘rude’ due to a raised voice or lack of clear idioms and phraseology, such as saying 'thank you' and 'please'. Yet, if the person or persons observed have never received any training to modulate their speech pattern or learn the idioms and phraseology of the language they are communicating in, they may not have the capability to express the right behaviour for the situation. This, in turn, may be perceived as a ‘bad attitude’ by those that have the capability to express a more appropriate behaviour.

"It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome."

— William James

Provide Feedback on Behaviours, not Attitudes

Positive attitudes are needed in an individual in order for them to be motivated and engaged in a task. Attitudes arise out of core values and beliefs we hold internally. Beliefs are assumptions and convictions we hold to be true based on past experiences. Values are worthy ideas based on things, concepts and people. Behaviours are how these internalised systems (attitudes, beliefs and values) are expressed.

These factors heavily influence the ability to learn and organise knowledge and skills. In order to influence performance in a learning context or an organisation (or even at home!), one needs to be aware of the key differences between these constructs.

Feedback on attitudes will always be perceived as judgemental as it is about others' behaviour filtered through our value systems. It is better, therefore, to provide feedback on behaviours. It is even better to determine ideal behaviours for an organisation, situation or learning environment and set the scene before the behaviours are being assessed. This way, feedback can be contextualised on behaviour that is observed and factual. This reduces the potential for conflict and low morale.

  • Attitudes are not the same as behaviours.
  • Attitudes are a construct of internal beliefs and value systems.
  • Attitudes, capabilities or circumstances influence observed behaviour.
  • Use caution when assessing attitudes and use behaviours as examples.
  • Feedback and behaviour management can change attitudes.
  • Changing attitudes can also change values and beliefs and vice versa.
  • An understanding of these constructs helps personal and organisational management.

"Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it."

— Lou Holtz


  1. Jung, C.G. [1921] (1971). Psychological Types , Collected Works, Volume 6, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01813-8
  2. Knowles, M. (1975). Self-Directed Learning.New York: Association Press.


Barry on April 01, 2020:

Mohan, I read your research on beliefs, values, and attitudes. Could you provide me the full citation of the diagram you used because I would like to give the author credit for a study I am doing on this topic.

angeline mendoza on September 03, 2019:

ilike it so very very nice you know

Ashenafi on May 29, 2019:

Thinku very much excellence opera

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on February 20, 2019:

Thank you so much for your kind feedback.

Mercy on February 19, 2019:

Great work you have here

BHenry-B on December 18, 2018:

Well articulated and effective. I like your emphasis on 'feedback on behavior, not attitude. That resonates well!

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on November 18, 2016:

Thank you rozina, mimimeche, Zipperconstantine and Mel- glad you found this helpful and some fruit for thought. appreciate your comments.

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on September 02, 2016:

We certainly bandy about an awful lot of neat words that we can't really define - he has a bad attitude, she has a great attitude, we use it as a label but do we really know what it means? Attitudes are certainly subject to change, I think. I had a coworker that I assumed had a bad attitude toward work because he is frequently injured. Then a couple of weeks ago I got hurt, and now my attitude toward him has changed. I am more tolerant, and less critical. We need to be careful with our attitudes. Great work.

Pat from United States on July 19, 2015:

This article is very thought provoking! Thank you!

mimimeche on July 07, 2015:

I am most grateful for this hub author. I am looking into researching the impact of value education on behaviour. this article has really broken down some aspects i want to look into with regards to behaviour. thank you very much

rozina nomali on June 05, 2015:

very nice and fruitfull is a source of socail awareness also thank you!

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on April 23, 2015:

Thank you Dr Gaikwad, much appreciate your visit and comment.

ani on August 20, 2014:

Its very educative. thump up.....

Dr. Shshi Gaikwad on August 04, 2014:

Hi Docmo,

Hub is a wonderful discovery for me. I came across it accidently but some accidents are fruitful.(positive thinking)!

Very good article, very useful, thoughts very clearly explained. The iceberg is a ture representation of an individuals mind. (We learn that in Psychology too)

Would like to be a regular reader.

Dr. Gaikwad

Johnk831 on July 17, 2014:

You completed a number of fine points there. I did a search on the theme and found the majority of folks will agree with your blog. ccbkcdfdeeed

Johne18 on July 17, 2014:

I think this is a real great blog post.Much thanks again. fdgfdafkdkde

AlllyM2014 on January 23, 2014:

Hi Docmo, great article. thank you. question the iceberg picture, did you create that or do u have a source for it?

Amanda Littlejohn on March 01, 2013:

That has opened up my understanding a great deal. You have presented a very detailed, thoughtful and informative piece here that clearly shows the difference and the interactions between attitudes, beliefs and actions.

You have a very deep understanding of psychology and do a great job of communicating your ideas clearly. Not only in words, as the images you have chosen to explain some of the more complex concepts really help to visualize what you mean.

I think that this sort of thing should be more widely appreciated in order to develop greater understanding and self and social awareness.

Thank you,

delruth on February 05, 2013:

thanx for this sir... my mind really got crumpled thinking of the distinction between belief and attitude. My student is planing to cinduct a research on "Belief and Attitudes and their effects on performance in math" Its more on perceptional study of students. I don't know what are the statements that describes attitude or belief so that the students can rate whter it affects much, moderately or not at all. Thanx looking forward for your help and bright ideas.

rex on December 10, 2012:

what a brilliant article...its so nice to read your article...well done..

Mujda on November 23, 2012:

Excellent work, well done.

Tillsontitan on November 01, 2012:

" beliefs, values and attitudes", often thought to be one and the same, however, you have more than explained it so it is easy to understand.

Unfortunately I have just had to install Firefox as my Chrome wasn't working but now I can't get any voting even after logging in. Will try to get back to this hub to make sure I vote it Up and Wonderful!!

Rich from Kentucky on October 31, 2012:

Mohan -

I can see why this hub is so highly scored. You've taken many of the items taught in secondary institutions and lined it out beautifully for all to understand. Really a tremendous job accomplished!

Daisy Mariposa from Orange County (Southern California) on October 31, 2012:

Mohan (Docmo),

I came back to read and share this brilliant article a second time. Well done, polymath!

Abdilahi Abdirezack Ali on October 15, 2012:

this web bage is searchebale knowlage and beter learn education thank you for written

Gary R. Smith from the Head to the Heart on September 27, 2012:

Your iceberg illustration especially caught my attention. I remember attending in the 70s a workshop called 'Adventures in Attitudes' founded by Bob Conklin. Afterwards I wrote an article for the organization magazine and titled it 'It's All in the Attitude.' However, the editor was not as enthusiastic about my approach as I was and it was not published. I was pissed for awhile. Seems my head ideas still needed to be integrated into my response to life. It is all a marvelous evolution, isn't it. May I invite you to visit my website, with symbolic art and a blog post on 'Authenticity and the Art of Life' with an illustration of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs depicted not as the usual triangle but in a golden spiral. How do you feel in general about collaboration? Thank you also for your presence, Docmo.

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on September 04, 2012:

Nyamache- appreciate your visit and comments. Glad you found this useful.

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on September 04, 2012:

Keith- that's very kind of you- Thanks friend. The Iceberg reference is something I use a lot in my teachingand lectures.

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on September 04, 2012:

Nell you are so right - we are at mercy of displayed behaviour and once we see past that we would be able to make a more accurate assessment of the individual. Some - in fact many- people don't and they end of stereotyping! thank you!

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on September 04, 2012:

Cyndi - thank you ,I am glad this was thought provoking and useful.

Joshua Nyamache from Kenya on August 19, 2012:

This is a well researched hub. I particularly liked the quotes and your explanation using images and diagrams.

KDuBarry03 on August 19, 2012:

Docmo, again your intelligence bursts through your words. The Iceberg reference is definitely something unique, easy to remember, and highly creative. Great Job!

Nell Rose from England on August 19, 2012:

Fascinating stuff Mohan, this actually brought to mind the behaviour that I noticed when I was working in my last office. If someone started out friendly, happy and a good laugh, even though they may go down hill after that and even start being nasty, people seemed to veer towards the fact that this was ' a good, nice, hilarious person' and so on, and it worked the other way too, if someone was nasty, late, or downright rude to start with, even though they changed or were having a bad day, everyone remembered their first meeting with the person and they were always disliked, strange stuff going on. the one thing I noticed where I was concerned was the fact that they saw me right from the begining as someone who like a laugh, was a bit of a flirt and so on, and even now when I visit the office, they automatically presume that's me, so without realising I change on cue!

Alecia Murphy from Wilmington, North Carolina on August 19, 2012:

People are like anything that has layers- well developed, complicated, and mysterious. To a fault, we see a surface behavior and judge a person on that when like you said there's more than meets the eye. This hub definitely helps clear up misconceptions people seem to have about the difference between attitudes and behaviors and what it could really mean. Great hub!

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on July 11, 2012:

You're correct - there is so much more than meets-the-eye with people. It's so often hard to understand actions and motivations without knowing someone. Even then, our own perceptions and values color our perspective. Add to that all of our different experiences and personality types - whew! Your narrative here summarizes everything so well.

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on June 12, 2012:

Thank you, Crazed Novelist- much appreciated. Glad you found this useful.

AE Williams from Atlanta, GA on June 12, 2012:

Very good use of the data and I love the chart. You put a lot of work into this and I must say, it paid off. Good work, sir, voted up!

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on June 12, 2012:

Nithya - much appreciated!

Rahul -thank you very much for your visit.

I really need to catch up with both your hubs.

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on June 12, 2012:

Daisy, this was based on a talk I gave at a national conference- I had to really think this through to make it understandable- firstly to myself and then to an audience of senior educators. IT was a tough call but it worked well. I am delighted that if you search for attitudes, beliefs and values this hub usually comes up in the top 5 on Google. Thank you very much.

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on June 12, 2012:

Ruchira- Thank you very much- glad you found this useful.

Jessee R from Gurgaon, India on June 12, 2012:

Wonderfully written and useful!

Our Attitude certainly reflects the outcome of any work we do

Great hub

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on June 12, 2012:

Deep thoughts analyzed and explained brilliantly. Interesting and makes me wonder about these three componenets in our daily lives. Voted up.

Daisy Mariposa from Orange County (Southern California) on June 11, 2012:

Mohan (Docmo),

Your genius shines through, once again, in your explanation of the three concepts. The use of the Venn diagram crystalizes everything in one's mind.

Another brilliant article, my friend.

Ruchira from United States on June 11, 2012:

Beautiful hub explaining these 3 adjectives, which are always surrounding us. however, our beliefs and values makes our attitude thus, gotta learn to change them so that we can try to keep our life in balance with our attitude.

voted up as useful hub and sharing it across

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on February 02, 2011:

I am surrounded by very educated and experienced people who are also completely unaware of prejudging that prompted me to visit this subject. My discussion around changing attitudes through feedback on behaviour is mostly around educational and training relationships where there is implicit requirement to give and take feedback. On a personal level this has to be handled carefully and may not always be welcome- as you rightly say we need to pick our 'battles' carefully. Thanks Amy!

Amy Becherer from St. Louis, MO on February 01, 2011:

Mohan, I found your information regarding assumptive attitudes based on observed behavior personally validating. I worked with someone who had no qualms about passing judgement and "rolling her eyes" everytime I suggested that things are not always "cookie cutter" cliches, particularly regarding the homeless that strolled past my window everyday. I "stifled" myself eventually as I had no interest in changing her opinion, knowing it was a losing battle (an assumption on my part). I was content to believe what I believed with no further conflict from this individual. I've learned to pick my battles carefully. It is good to know that attitudes can be changed through feedback and behavioral management. My assumption on that note is I believe it would be a difficult task as some of the most obstinate attitudes are oppositional to change and the only changes that can occur must be desired and with the realization/acceptance by the individual that change needs to occur. Inspiring, thought provoking and interesting write, Docmo. Thank you!

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on January 27, 2011:

Thank you LisaMarie, glad it makes sense... appreciate you dropping by!

Lisa Stover from Pittsburgh PA on January 27, 2011:

I never gave this much thought but your hub is right on the money. It makes sense that your attitude would stem from all these things. Good hub!

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on December 31, 2010:

Will sure do, BaileyBear. I teach on this subject to Medical Teachers and budding Doctors.

Baileybear on December 31, 2010:

That would be great if you could to that, Docmo. It's something I know a little about, but have many other things to write about first. I would like to link how beliefs are formed to my hubs about religious indoctrination.

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on December 31, 2010:

Thanks. Beliefs and Values are received and responded to subconsciously in the formative years. It can be a very powerful osmosis - kinda like brainwashing- I am going to write a hub in detail about how Beliefs and attitudes are formed and implanted. Glad you are interested.

Baileybear on December 31, 2010:

good job. Beliefs, thinking and emotions are interconnected too, are they not? (Basis for Cognitive behavioural therapy). Many of our early beliefs come from our parents. Have you written anything about these related themes? I'm curious about how people can have very strong, irrational religious beliefs.

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on December 20, 2010:

Thank you my friend. You are always very welcome. I am honoured to have such readership.

richtwf on December 20, 2010:

As always an excellently written and presented hub - Top drawer stuff! Content was very good and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and the quotes that you shared as well.

Great work my friend and God bless you!

Mohan Kumar (author) from UK on December 20, 2010:

Thank you, I agree. It is important to share the core values and beliefs in order to express and expect shared attitudes.

cookingdiva on December 20, 2010:


Our Attitude is based on our beliefs and Value. I so agree with this wonderfully written hub. I recently wrote about what is important to you with finding our core personal values in mind. Sometimes we need to find out what our values are.