This concept is a relatively recent acquisition to psychology. It originated with Müller and Schumann . Whereas Kulpe  defines attitude as a predisposition of the sensory or motor centres to a definite stimulation or persistent impulse, Ebbinghaus  conceives it in a wider sense as a phenomenon of exercise, introducing an air of the customary into the individual act which deviates from the customary. Our use of the concept proceeds, from Ebbinghaus' conception of attitude. For us, attitude is a readiness of the psyche to act or to react in a certain direction. It is precisely for the psychology of complex psychic phenomena that the concept is so important, since it provides an expression for that peculiar psychological phenomenon wherein we find certain stimuli exercising a powerful effect on one occasion, while their effect is either weak or wholly absent on another. To have a certain attitude means to be ready for something definite, even though this definite something is unconscious, since having an attitude is synonymous with an a priori direction towards a definite thing, whether this be present in consciousness or not. The state of readiness, which I conceive attitude to be, always consists in the presence of a certain subjective constellation, a definite combination of psychic factors or contents, which will either determine action in this or that definite direction, or will comprehend an external stimulus in this or that definite way. Active apperception (q.v.) is impossible without an attitude. An attitude always has an objective; this can be either con-scious or unconscious, since in the act of apperceiving a new content a prepared combination of contents unfailingly emphasizes those qualities or motives which appear to belong to the subjective content Hence a selection or judgment takes place which excludes the irrelevant. As to what is, and what is not, relevant is decided by the already orientated combination or constellation of contents. Whether the attitude's objective be conscious or unconscious is immaterial to its selective effect, since the choice is already given a priori through the attitude, and therefore follows automatically. It is useful, however, to distinguish between conscious and unconscious, since the presence of two attitudes is extremely frequent, the one conscious and the other unconscious. Which means to say that the conscious has a preparedness of contents different from that of the unconscious. This duality of attitude is particularly evident in neurosis.
There is a certain kinship between the concept of attitude and the apperception concept of Wundt, though with this difference, that the idea of apperception includes the process of relating the already prepared content toˆthe new content to be apperceived, while the concept of attitude relates exclusively to the subjectively prepared content. Apperception is, as it were, the bridge which connects the already present and prepared content with the new content, the attitude being, in a sense, the end-pier or abutment of the bridge upon the one bank, while the new content represents the abutment upon the other bank. Attitude signifies an expectation, an expectation always operates selectively—it gives direction. The presence of a strongly toned content in the field of consciousness forms (sometimes together with other contents) a certain constellation which is synonymous with a definite attitude, because such a conscious content favours the perception and apperception of everything similar, and inhibits the dissimilar. It creates an attitude corresponding with it This automatic phenomenon is an essential cause of the onesidedness of conscious orientation. It would lead to a complete loss of equilibrium if there were no self-regulating, compensatory (q.v.) function in the psyche to correct the conscious attitude. Thus in this sense the duality of the attitude is a normal phenomenon, which plays 'a disturbing rôle only when conscious one-sidedness becomes excessive.
As ordinary attention, the attitude can be either a relatively unimportant subsidiary phenomenon or a general principle determining the whole psyche. From disposition, environmental influence, education, general experience, or conviction a constellation of contents may be habitually present, continually moulding a certain attitude which may operate even down to the most minute details of life. Every man who has a special sense of the unpleasant side of life will naturally have an attitude of constant readiness for the disagreeable. This excessive conscious attitude is counterbalanced by an unconscious attitude for pleasure. The oppressed individual has a conscious attitude that always anticipates oppression; he selects this factor in experience; everywhere he scents it out; and in so doing his unconscious attitude makes for power and superiority. The total psychology of the individual even in its various basic characters is orientated by the nature of his habitual attitude. In spite of the fact that general psychological laws are operative in every individual, they cannot be said to be characteristic of the individual, since the nature of their operation varies completely in accordance with the nature of the general attitude. The general attitude is always a resultant of all the factors that can have an essential influence upon the psyche, such as inborn disposition, education, milieu-influences, experience of life, insight and convictions gained through differentiation (q.v.), collective ideas, etc. Without the absolutely fundamental importance of attitude, there would be no question of the existence of an individual psychology. But the general attitude effects such immense displacements of energy, and so modifies the relations between individual functions, that resultants are produced which frequently bring the validity of general psychological laws into question. In spite of the fact, for instance, that a certain measure of activity is held to be indispensable for the sexual function both on physiological and psychological grounds, individuals certainly exist who, without injury to themselves, i.e. without pathological phenomena and without any demonstrable restriction of productive power, can, to a very great extent, dispense with it; while, in other cases, quite insignificant deprivations or disturbances in this region may involve very considerable general consequences. How potent individual differences can be is seen perhaps most clearly in questions of likes and dislikes. Here practically all rules go by the board. What is there, in the last resort, which has not at one time given man pleasure, while at another has caused him pain? Every instinct, every function can be subordinated to other instincts and functions and act as a servant. The ego or power-instinct can make sexuality its serviceable subject, or sexuality make use of the ego. Thinking may over-run everything else, or feeling swallow up thinking and sensation, all in obedience to the attitude.
Au fond, the attitude is an individual phenomenon and is inaccessible to the scientific method of approach. In actual experience, however, certain attitude-types can be discriminated in so far as certain psychic functions can also be differentiated. When a function habitually predominates, a typical attitude is thereby produced. In accordance with the nature of the differentiated function, constellations of contents take place which create a corresponding attitude. Thus there exist a typical thinking, a feeling, a sensational, and an intuitive attitude. Besides these purely psychological attitude-types, whose number might possibly be increased, there are also social types, namely, those for whom a collective idea expresses the brand. They are characterized by the various '-isms'. These collective attitudes are, at all events, very important in certain cases, even outweighing in significance the purely individual attitude.