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The theories of reasoned action and planned behaviour

The extended Fishbein model, based on the theory of reasoned action, includes the following components to explain behaviour.

  1. Attitude to the behaviour comprising:

    • a. The strength of the expectancy (beliefs) that the act will be followed by a consequence.

    • b. The value of that consequence to the individual.

    This is the basic expectancy value approach. Returning to our previous smoking cessation example, if we expect that stopping smoking will result in health, wealth and happiness – and this is important to us – then we will develop a positive affect towards the behaviour of stopping smoking. There is, however, another dimension.

  2. Subjective norms (i.e. the socio-cultural norms of other persons, groups or society) and the individuals' desire/motivation to conform to these norms. Consequently, peer group and other pressures may reduce or enhance our attitudes towards stopping smoking. Ajzen (1985) later included:

  3. Perceived control (i.e. situational or internal obstacles to performing the behaviour). This addition has resulted in a new model – ‘the theory of planned behaviour’. Consequently, the power of addiction may impact on our attitudes and prevent us from trying to stop smoking.

A key question, for both commercial and social marketers, is: Why do actual behaviour and reported intentions often differ?

As discussed earlier, the purpose of social marketing is to effect behaviour change. Attitude models often record behavioural intentions rather than actual behaviour. One of the purposes of research is to assess how people will behave in the future, for example in response to new stimuli such as additional resources – help lines, clinics, etc. One of the problems, however, is that reported behavioural intentions often don't match up to actual behaviour.

Activity 4

List the reasons why you think that what people say they will do in answer to research questions is often very different to what they actually do.

Discussion

There are many reasons. These may include:

  • Reasons due to the research process, e.g. telling the researcher what they want to know out of politeness.

  • Reasons due to the individual's wish to show themselves to be rational or a ‘good citizen’. They might, therefore, overstate intentions to reduce environmental emissions and understate intentions to use private transport.

  • They may genuinely intend to engage in the behaviour but situational factors intervene, e.g. they may not have the time to travel by public transport or there may be a bus strike.

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