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Why is behaviour not always consistent with underlying attitudes?

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Mansoor Mir 28th January 2004 PS2007: Social Psychology II Why is behaviour not always consistent with underlying attitudes? (Spring 2003) In his classic review of attitude to behaviour relations Wicker (1969) concludes that there is little or no correlation between behaviour and underlying attitudes. However, methodological problems with cited studies (such as that of LaPierre, 1934) have since cast doubt on Wicker's conclusions. More recent work by Ajzen (1988) and Fazio (1990) has provided strong support for the existence of an attitude-behaviour relationship. The apparent absence of such a relation in earlier studies can be explained in terms of moderating variables. Aggregations across behaviours, the specificity of attitude and behaviour measurement, individual differences, and direct experience have all been shown to affect the degree of correlation between behaviour and attitudes. The accessibility, stability and strength of an attitude have also been shown to determine consistency with later behaviour. Fishbein & Ajzen's (1974) Multiple Act Criterion (MAC) predicts that attitude to behaviour relations are stronger if an aggregate of several specific behaviours are compared against underlying attitudes. The MAC is conceptually sound; it makes sense that multiple observations would help to control confounding variables that might affect the apparent consistency between attitudes and specific behaviours. Moreover, the prediction has been empirically tested. For example, Weigel & Newman (1976) ...read more.


Regan & Fazio (1977) asked participants to rate the interest level of puzzles (the attitude measure) and then observed how long each participant played with the puzzle when given no specific instructions (behaviour measure). Before the attitude measure some participants were allowed to familiarise themselves with the puzzles (direct experience condition) whilst others merely had the puzzles described to them (indirect experience condition). It was found that there was a greater attitude-behaviour correlation for participants within the direct experience condition. The same result has also been found using different attitude objects and in more ecologically valid field settings (Fazio & Zanna, 1978). There is therefore strong evidence that direct experience strengthens the attitude-behaviour relationship. Attitude accessibility, stability and strength have also been found to affect this relationship. Fazio & Williams (1986) found that people who responded quicker when evaluating presidential candidates (attitude accessibility measure) voted more consistently with their attitudes. Similarly it has been shown that greater attitude stability (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980) and self-report measures of attitude strength (Fazio & Zanna, 1978) both correlate with greater attitude-behaviour consistency. However, it should be noted that all three of the above concepts are very closely related. It may be that they are all tapping a feature of attitudes that could be captured on a single dimension. ...read more.


This means that it fails to fully explain more automatic or instinctive behaviour. Fazio's (1990) Motivation and Opportunity as Determinants of Processing Theory (MODE) provides a parsimonious and intuitive solution to this problem. The theory dictates that effortful reasoning sometimes mediates attitude-behaviour relations but only when both motivation and opportunity are present. In other cases a more spontaneous and automatic process is proposed (Fazio, 1986). As well as accounting for automatic behaviour the theory also has strong empirical support. By manipulating motivation and opportunity in a lab setting Sanbonmatsu & Fazio (1990) were able to demonstrate that these factors determine whether or not effortful reasoning mediates the effects of attitudes on behaviour. In conclusion, it can be demonstrated that a whole host of variables moderate attitude-behaviour relations. Aggregations across behaviours, the specificity of attitude and behaviour measurement, individual differences (personal variables) and direct experience (situational variables) all have observable effects on the consistency between behaviour and underlying attitudes. Attitude accessibility, stability and strength have also been observed to have an effect but it is likely that these factors are simply consequences of direct experience. In addition the above variables may not constitute a complete list. That is, future work may expose further processes that mediate attitude-behaviour relations. Finally, the theory that best integrates all of these factors is the MODE model proposed by Fazio (1990). ...read more.

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