In this blog I briefly introduce subject matter concerning behaviour. A summary of lecture notes, wider reading, and dialogue from my MSc Psychology studies last week. All anticipated to be revisited as research methodologies addressing v | b | t .

v | behaviour (attitude, belief, intent) | t

A tentative conclusion, from my readings at this point, is seeing Behaviour (as action) as the output with attitude a variable, alongside beliefs, and intention.  Per Manstead (2000), the relative weighting a person places on each of these three will determine the final act (i.e., behaviour).

Social Psychology

These first notes come from the discipline of Social Psychology. They connect attitude to behaviour. There are many other perspectives, constraints, models, and methods to consider. Biological, cognitive, developmental, individual difference, all presenting psychological context. Wider disciplines of sociology, anthropology, socio-economics, to add too.

This blog therefore one of many I anticipate writing in support of future research intent. The remainder of this blog is a brief examination of some of the key models and complexification of what attitude and corresponding factors offer in consideration of behaviour.


Attitude as a determining factor of behaviour

Gordon Allport writing in 1935 is where many texts begin. Who considered attitude and its study to being a place that cultural, social, and individual concerns meet (Gross 2015). From my lecture notes:

Attitudes are a mental and neural state of readiness, organised through experience, exerting a directive or dynamic influence upon the individual’s response to all objects and situations with which it is related

Gordon Allport 1935 pp810

Lectures last week presented three periods of increasing complexity of the study of attitude. This early period of the 1930s – dealing with a single component – affect (Thurstone 1931), and a second component of action (Allport 1935) [i.e., behaviour]. A period in the 1950s and 1960s concerned with dynamic change. A third component as belief further complexifying modelling from 1970s. Attitude as a factor of systems interactions with cognitive and social structure from 1980s and 1990s.

Example methodologies intended to explain this relationship:-

The expectancy value technique –  Belief strength measured probabilistically 0-1.  High regard to truth and strong belief in something such as reliability of one option over another.  Evaluation scaled over a five-point scale ranging from -2 to +2.  Combining this strong belief with evaluation capability presenting a high or low likelihood or behaving in a certain way.  Fishbein later expanded this theory with Icek Ajzen (cf Ajzen & Fishbein 2008; Ajzen & Fishbein 1980; Fishbein and Ajzen 1974; )  “most popular model of this type in social psychology is the expectancy–value (EV) model of attitude formation (see Dabholkar, 1999; Feather, 1959, 1982)” Ajzen & Fishbein 2008 pp2223).  Multiplication method argued by them in 2008 (pp2231).  Also note their rejoinder to Ogden 2003 dated 2004.  Specific attitude more relevant than general (Hogg et al 2018 pp163) e.g. attitude towards an exam not attitude towards a subject more broadly.  (cf.  Kraus 1995 meta-analysis)).  Ajzen & Fishbein 1975 do however suggest general attitudes can be of some value as multiple-act criterion – i.e., in predicting multiple behaviours not just one action.

Reasoned Action; Planned action; and motivations to change – Three processes of belief, intention, and action, and include the following components [adapted from Hogg et 2018 pp163]:

Conviction of belief – reasoned action theory –a product of the person’s beliefs about the target behaviour and how these beliefs are evaluated (refer to the cognitive algebra in Table 5.1).  Note that this is an attitude towards behaviour (such as taking a birth control pill in Davidson and Jacard’s study), not towards the object (such as the pill itself).  Here distinction is made between Behavioural intention – an internal declaration to act; and Behaviour – the action performed.  (Hogg et al 2017 pp163-164).  This result expressed in terms of a correlation between expected result and actual pp164

Intentions – Planned Action theory– This introduces the notion of behaviour being under the person’s conscious control.  (cf Ajzen 1989, Ajzen & Madden, 1986).  The perceived behavioural control added to early theory to allow for 20 percent of prospective actual behaviour being attributable to this additional variable of behavioural control (Tony Manstead and Dianne Parker (1995)).  Ajzen arguing that perceived behavioural control can relate to either the behavioural intention or the behaviour itself “the theory of planned behaviour”.  Per Hogg et al 2018, Richard Cooke and Pascal Sheeran (2004) “probably the dominant account of the relationship between cognitions and behaviour in social psychology” (ibid pp159) also citing Ajzen and Fishbein 2005).  See Fig 5.3 pp165 of Hogg et al 2018 for how both theories can be applied together.

Motivationprotective motivation theory– (cf Floyd, Prentice-Dunn, Rogers).  Cognition balancing between perceived threat of illness and one’s capacity to cope with the health regiment.  Two responses are possible.

The maladaptive response is a threat appraisal – which is to take the intrinsic and extrinsic reward, less the severity and deemed vulnerability to the threat.  In other words change is only made if the implications of the change are deemed manageable vs the relative appraisal of threat.

The adaptive response more mature as outcome orientated.  This is of itself an attitudinal determinant, but in my opinion not necessarily at the level of engagement with the object action itself.

All three theories share a view that “motivations towards protection results from a perceived threat and the desire to avoid potential negative outcomes (Floyd, Prentice-Dunn, Rogers 2000)” pp167

By the above examination there is no single factor that can be applied consistently to change behaviour.  This is a contextual examination.  Accordingly, it is perhaps the context itself which is the factor of greater importance.  Context enables the intervention to be applied to the better variable for the situation, and thereby the appropriateness of the control.  By example:

Moral values – past behaviours to indicate future ones based upon someone’s conviction and values (Gorsuch and Ortberg 1983; Manstead, 2000; Pagel and Davidson, 1984; Schwartz 1977)

Normative action– (cf. Norman and Conner 2006)  Habit as a predictor of future behaviour.  Becoming normative.  Safe sex can be normal without consideration or reasoned decision-making (Trafimow 2000), but so too can binge-drinking become normalised and therefore less in mind to be controlled (Norman and Conner, 2006).


Further reading:

Gross, R. “Psychology : The science of mind and behaviour” 7th Edition, Hodder Education, 2015

Hogg, M., & Vaughan, G. “Social Psychology”, Pearson Education, Limited, 2018


About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here: