“I love my parents, but their overcautious nature makes me mad.”, the statement might bring a flood of similar opinions that we hear often. Many such thoughts cross our busy minds every day. Remember the situation when we had to decide on inviting a friend to the party, who might be less popular amongst our other friends.
Or the last time you ended up spending hours glued to your computer screen deciding on the new dress for that special occasion. In spite of being inclined towards making our choices, we vacillate for we find ourselves full of contradictions. This duality of our inclinations is our ambivalence towards the particular situation or the attitude object.
Before we arrive on the question of ‘Why a student should be ambivalent?’, let’s examine the concept of ambivalence.
Studies and Development of the Concept of Ambivalence:
The Oxford English dictionary describes being ambivalent, as ‘having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone.’ Growing up can be difficult for our attitudes towards life in general, and the position objects, in particular, are shaped by our experiences.
When most of these experiences are first hand, in many cases, we struggle to form a definite opinion, for the other expertise contradicts our previous view. Having both positive and negative inclinations towards the attitude object is natural during the growing years.
The factors that determine our choices are often the ones that influence us the most during our later life. The degree of ambivalence during our increasing years also determines our cognitive decision-making abilities and our overall personality.
The concept of ambivalence was first studied by Swiss Psychologist EugenBleuler and coined in the year 1910, and by 1929 is was acknowledged in its broader sense.
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The later studies on attitudinal ambivalence were aimed at understanding the results of holding an attitude of uncertainty towards a wide range of attitude objects, and it’s effects on behaviour, personality, relationship, decision making, etc.
Many recent pieces of research associate ambivalence to cognitive dissonance and psychological discomfort in decision making and associate it with aversive behaviour. However, many parts of research have proved that the correction of harmful habits is most effective in individuals having an attitude ambivalence.
Increased cooperation and constructive intergroup relationship are likely to flourish between ambivalent individuals. An individual with an ambivalent attitude is more adaptive in the face of identity threat and can have a more balanced and realistic reaction towards adverse groups and situations.
Univalent v/s Ambivalent:
Social scientists and psychologists differ in their views about attitudinal ambivalence. While some believe that uncertainty adversely affects the overall personality of an individual, many consider it an effective adaptive mechanism that helps in overcoming threats to the identity of the individual in adverse situations.
Having a clear and stern opinion about an attitude object might be appealing and is often associated with the notion of ‘knowing oneself’; however, it usually leaves little room for being open to experiences that could have been otherwise beneficial.
For example, A student who has to apply for admissions after school might be apprehensive about leaving home, in spite of being a good student. In the present scenario, the thrill and expectations of a new school and a change of stay will appeal and influence a person with an ambivalent attitude, a person with a univalent attitude is most likely to succumb to his/her apprehensions.
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Thus, an ambivalent student is most likely to develop the following qualities that will minimize the scope of growth:
- Rigidity: An ambivalent attitude towards an attitude object is associated with experiences that are deeply rooted in the psyche of the individual and are hard to change.
- Close mindedness: A person with an ambivalent attitude has already made a choice and has formed a rigid opinion. Leaving no room for consideration of other views.
- Stubbornness: To safeguard and nature a single inclination, whether positive or negative, requires a stand. This inclination, when questioned or scrutinized, is often met with a strong defence.
- High-handedness: An ambivalent attitude towards an attitude object often leads to aggressive safeguarding of the position.
While in spite of nurturing both positive and negative inclinations about the attitude object, a student with an ambivalent attitude will be more:
- Flexibility: An uncertain person is more likely to consider opinions that differ from his/her own.
- Open-mindedness: A person who believes all the aspects of an attitude object is more open to ideas, experiences, and opinions.
- Adaptation: The ambivalent attitude regarding the attitude object is more likely to provide the maximum number of possibilities of outcomes and a person can easily choose the best amongst them.
- Cautiousness: The awareness of multiple results of a possible inclination is likely to make a person with A person with an ambivalent attitude more careful while making choices.
We all have an ambivalent attitude regarding many attitude objects in our lives. From dawn to dusk, most of the choices that are ‘easy’ are the ones that are determined by the univalent attitude towards the attitude object. However, the options become ‘hard’ when our ambivalence creeps in.
How to Cope with the Ambivalent Attitude?
Having two contradictory feelings about an attitude object, no doubt is taxing on the nerves and can pose a severe dilemma while making a choice. The best way to cope with ambivalence is to negate the ‘conflict‘ in the attitude.
While dealing with a ‘hard’ option, we must denote two extremes to our inclinations. Each was opposing the other. It creates a plane of conflict, and it becomes hard for us to be inclined to any of these extremes. However, if we negate this conflict and consider both the heights as a part of the complete attitude object, we are sure to make our choice more easily.
Let’s consider the statement, “I like to smoke, but it causes cancer.” This statement, when made by a chain smoker, in spite of highlighting the conscious observation of impending doom, is less likely to enable the smoker to make the right decision of quitting.
For the statement places the attitude object of smoking in two extremes, but fails to present the attitude object in its entirety. This, it is unlikely that the person will make the corrective choice of quitting; however, if the attitude object is placed in a plane that has no room of conflict viz. ” I like to smoke, and it causes cancer.” The person in negating the conflict is more likely to make the correct choice.
Ambivalence is an attribute; if natured without conflict can be the most effective method of making informed choices.