Custom Search

Sunday, February 6, 2011



Ever since the beginning of attitude research, investigators have puzzled over the relation between attitudes and behaviour. Why do people sometimes say they like something and then act as if they do not? Are these instances much less frequent than instances where the attitude and behaviour match perfectly?
Measuring the attitude–behaviour link Researchers were intrigued by the results of some early research that revealed very weak relations between attitudes and behaviour.In one study (LaPiere, 1934), a researcher and a young Chinese couple travelled around the Western portion of the US, visiting 250 restaurants, inns and hotels. Despite widespread American prejudice against Chinese people at that time, the researcher and his visitors were refused service at only one of the establishments. Yet, when he later wrote to these establishments requesting permission to visit with ‘a young Chinese gentleman and his wife’, 92 per cent refused permission! These refusals are often interpreted as indicators of negative attitudes towards Chinese people. Viewed this way, they provide someof the earliest evidence that people’s behaviours (in this case,accepting the Chinese couple) can fail to match their attitudes towards the behaviour (i.e. their desire to refuse permission).This raised some doubts about the ability of attitudes to predict behaviours.
There were many methodological limitations to LaPiere’s study, however (Campbell, 1963). For example: the attitude and behaviour were measured at different times and locations; the attitude measure itself was, at best, indirect (LaPiere did not ask the restaurant owners to complete an attitude scale); the young couple may have looked more pleasant than the proprietors had imagined; the proprietors may have followed the norm of hospitality to guests once they entered the restaurant; and the situation in which behaviour was measured may simply have made it too difficult for most proprietors to refuse the Chinese couple, because of the embarrassing scene that might ensue.Subsequent studies used more stringent procedures . Using a correlational technique, these studies tested whether people with positive attitudes towards a particular object exhibit more favourable behaviour towards the object than do people with negative attitudes towards the object. Even so, until 1962, researchers still found only weak relations between attitudes and behaviour.
The consistent failure to find strong attitude–behaviour correlations led researchers to search for explanations. Fishbein and Ajzen (1975) pointed out that past research often failed to measure a behaviour that directly corresponded to the attitude being measured. For example, suppose we measure the relation between (a) attitudes towards protecting the environment and (b) using a recycling facility in a particular week. Even if someone is a strong environmentalist, there are many reasons why they might fail to recycle in a particular week (lack of a nearby facility, lack of time to sort recyclables, and so on). The problem is that the measured behaviour (recycling in a particular week) is very specific, whereas the attitude object (protecting the environment) is much more general. To better measure ‘general’ behaviour, Fishbein and Ajzen (1975) proposed the multipleact criterion, which involves measuring a large number of behaviours that are relevant to the general attitude being studied. For example, to measure pro-environment behaviour, we could measure numerous proenvironment behaviours, including recycling across several weeks, willingness to sign pro-environment petitions and tendency to pick up litter. This would give us a more precise and reliable measure of behaviour. Weigel and Newman (1976) did just this and found much stronger attitude–behaviour relations by takingan average measure of all of the behaviours, rather than any single behaviour

No comments: