Attitude-Behavior Consistency

VARIABLES: intentional attitude, observed and perceived behavior, social norms

DOMAINS: Psychology, Sociology, Public Opinion, Social Psychology, Education, Political Science
Contributors:  Norma Palomino         

Martin Fishbein and Icek Ajzen

Since the early 1930s, there has been ongoing research in the social and behavioral sciences regarding the relationship (either causal or correlational) between people’s attitudes toward a given behavior, and the ability to predict such behavior (Blessum, Lord and Sia, 1998). In the 1960s and 1970s, scholars proposed several models, the most influential to date being Fishbein and Ajzen’s attitude-behavior theory (Liska, 1984). Fishbein and Ajzen’s model correlates three variables: attitudes, behaviors and subjective norms. The main goal of the model is to predict an individual’s behavior based on their attitude, with the assumption that there is a large degree of consistency between each (i.e. the individual will act according to his or her attitude).

Fishbein and Ajzen (1977) discuss that “a person's attitude represents his evaluation of [a given] entity” (p.889). Conversely, behaviors “consist of one or more observable actions performed by the individual ... Behavioral acts include attending a meeting, using birth control pills, buying a product, donating blood, and so forth.” Subjective norms refer to how the individual perceives he or she will be judged by the social environment if he or she decides to act in the intended behavior. “According to this analysis, a single behavior is determined by the intention to perform the behavior in question. A person's intention is in turn a function of his attitude toward performing the behavior and of his subjective norm. It follows that a single act is predictable from the attitude toward that act, provided that there is a high correlation between intention and behavior” (p. 888). Consistency adds the predictability element to the model, since “it is usually considered to be logical or consistent for a person who holds a favorable attitude toward some object to perform favorable behaviors and not to perform unfavorable behaviors, with respect to the object” (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1977, p. 889).

Related theory:   Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50 (2), 179-211
REFERENCES ~ Selected Entries Detailed Reference Sheet
  • Liska, Allen E. A Critical Examination of the Causal Structure of the Fishbein/Ajzen Attitude-Behavior Model.   © 1984 American Sociological Association. Abstract: Since the "discovery" of attitude-behavior inconsistency in the 1930s by LaPiere and others, the study of the relationship between attitudes and behavior has come a long way. During the 1960s and early 1970s researchers systematically examined the problem of attitude-behavior incosistency, showing that the attitude-behavior relationship depends on "other" variables. In the middle and late 1970s much of this research was integrated and synthesized in various general models of behavior, the most significant of which is the Fishbein/Ajzen model. This paper critically examines the causal structure of that model. Specifically, it examines the theoretical problems and issues generated by the parsimonious causal structure of the model, that is, the structure underlying the traditional attitude concept and the relationships between other varibles and the model concepts.
  •  Ajzen, I., & Fishbein, M. (1977). Attitude-behavior relations: A theoretical analysis and review of empirical research. Psychological Bulletin, 84(5), 888-918. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.84.5.888
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  •  Blessum, K., Lord, C. & Sia, T. (1998). Cognitive load and positive mood reduce typicality effects in attitude-behavior consistency. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24(5), 496-504
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