The theory of reasoned action: how to predict behavior?

Attitudes influence us when it comes to processing information in the environment. Many times they even guide the decisions we make at a behavioral level. Today we will learn about the most influential and well-known model of attitude-based behavior prediction. This is the theory of reasoned action of Fishbein and Ajzen (1975).

There are different factors which exert various influences on behavior and which strengthen or weaken the attitude-behavior relationship. Hence, we will know the mentioned theory, as well as some others.

    Characteristics of the Fishbein and Ajzen model

    The position that a person takes in a bipolar evaluative or affective dimension in relation to an object, action or event is what we know as attitude (Fishbein, 1967).

    The theory of reasoned action is a model of rational decision-making, i.e. establishes that conduct is the result of a rational and deliberative process. The final action is reached by a process that has several steps. For these reasons, the model is limited to explaining voluntary (voluntary) behaviors.

    the model it aims to predict behavior. It is one-dimensional, that is, it focuses on a single component (considered essential) which is the assessment of attitude to determine behavior. However, consider other relevant variables, as we will see later.

    Elements of the theory of reasoned action

    According to this model, the behavior it is directly determined by behavioral intention. It is the ultimate and immediate determinant of behavior, which drives the person to perform it or not.

    Behavioral intention, on the other hand, is determined by two variables, which are:

    behavioral attitude

    The behavioral attitude consists of the positive or negative evaluation of the subject to develop this behavior. It is determined by subjective probability and subjective desirability.

    Subjective probability is the probability that we perceive that a certain behavior will lead to a certain consequence. Subjective desirability is the subject’s desire for a consequence to occur.

    subjective standard

    It is the subject’s judgment of the likelihood that people important or relevant to him will expect the subject himself to show the behavior to be predicted.

    It depends on two other variables: normative beliefs and motivation to accommodate them.

    Normative beliefs are what others concerned with the subject expect from the subject. The motivation to adapt to these beliefs is the degree to which the subject pays attention to what he thinks the people they are interested in should do.

    Implications of the theory

    According to reasoned action theory, if normative beliefs are powerful and the motivation to accommodate them is zero, the subjective social norm will have no influence on the intention to engage in such conduct. This is so because the end product of the two variables would be zero.

    There is considerable empirical support for this theory to predict behavior., According to various studies. However, there are other authors, such as Bentler and Speckart, who have proposed factors other than these to explain the behavior.

    They argue that habits directly influence behavior and that the mediation of attitudes or norms is null.

      New contributions to Fishbein and Ajzen theory

      In recent years, new contributions have appeared in relation to this theory. The most important were two.

      Planned action theory (Ajzen and Madden, 1986)

      This is an extension of the model that adds a new component: perceived behavioral control. It unites attitude and behavior.

      Thus, the ease or difficulty of the subject in performing the behavior is taken into account.

      In other words, with this new contribution, intention will depend on three elements: attitude, subjective standard and perceived behavioral control.

      Gollwitzer: intentions of implementation or practice

      This author argues that behavioral intentions better predict behavior when accompanied by intentions or implementation plans related to the behavior. when and where the desired behavior will begin.

      This new contribution is particularly useful when the behavior is not something specific but it is an action which implies a continuity in time (for example the learning of a new language).

      These intentions are called “chronic intentions”, that is, intentions that have been around for a long time but which have never led us to take such an action. Thus, for the subject to finally take action, implementation intentions will be necessary.

      Attitudes, individual and environment

      We have seen how attitudes are closely related to individual behavior. In this regard, we can affirm that these they will weakly predict behavior when there are strong factors in the environment. In other words, the greater the environmental influence, the less it influences the individual behavior of the individual.

      In any case, one of the main environmental conditions is the social norm, which often determines “how we should act”.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Reis, L. (2007). The theory of reasoned action: implications for the study of attitudes. Educational research Duranguense, nº7.
      • Hogg, M. and Graham, M. (2010). Social psychology. Posted by Panamericana

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