Theory Of Planned Behaviour Psychology Essay

The Theory of planned behaviour is the theoretical model developed for the prediction of behaviour upon individuals’ intention. It is an extension of the theory of reasoned action (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975) made necessary by the original model’s limitation in dealing with behaviour over which people have incomplete volitional control (Ajzen, 199). Because intentions are found to be good predictors of specific behaviour, they have become a critical part of many contemporary theories like that of human social behaviour cognitive theory (Bandura, 1997, 1998), for example. The theory of planned behaviour postulates three conceptually independent determinants namely attitude towards the behaviour, subjective norm and perceived behavioral control. The degree at which the determinants are important in shaping behaviour varies according to situations and behaviour.

The use of this model is widely spread in various domains, and many theories have adopted the theory of planned behaviour, it being simplistic. Examples of such theories are, the health belief model (Rosenstock, Strecher, & Becker, 1994; Strecher, Champion & Rosenstock, 1997), the information-motivation-behavioral skills model (Fisher & Fisher, 1992), the theory of interpersonal relations and subjective culture (Triandis, 1977), the theory of trying (Bagozzi & Warshaw, 1990)]. In the health studies, the theory of planned behaviour was used to understand behaviour towards the use of condom to prevent AIDS or other sexually transmissible diseases, cigarette smoking and even individual eating low fat diet.

To understand the attitude and perception of tourism students at the University of Mauritius towards a career in the industry, it is empirical to make use of the theory of planned behaviour. It will help depicts the control beliefs that lead to the perception, that one has or does not have the capacity to carry out the behaviour. Those who find them in the position of having the required skills and other resources required to carry out the behaviour will have more positive intention towards the behaviour. Those feeling lacking the prerequisite resources will have a much weaker sense of personal agency.

Relatively to the study, the theory of planned behaviour will help predicting how far attitude towards the tourism industry, along with subjective norm refering to social pressure, and perceived behavioral control, will influence the students’ intention to indulge in a tourism career. As mentioned in various studies about the theory, intentions are shaped by both motivational (individual own willingness to perform or not to perform the behaviour) and non-motivational factors (availability of required resources and opportunities (Thompson et al., 1994) upon which the individual does not always have control, at the specific moment. Applying such a theory to the tourism students choice of career, those, who choose to embark on a tourism education trek voluntarily will have a more positive attitude towards the industry (Aksu & Koksal, 2005) while those who choose a tourism education trek by chance, without great information about the subject, will be less likely to have a same positive attitude.

The theory of planned behaviour has been developed to improve the reasoned action theory as it was limited in its capacity to deal with behaviors over which people have incomplete volitional control. According to Liska (1984) and other researches like Sheppard et al., (1988), the theory of reasoned action cannot deal with behaviors that require resources, cooperation and skills. Then Ajzen responded to that criticism with the theory of planned behaviour (Jyh-Shen Chiou, 1998). Figure one is the structural diagram graphically representing the theory with its independent determinants of intention.


Figure 1: The Theory of Planned Behaviour (adapted from Ajzen and Fishbein, 1980)

2.3 Determinants of the theory of planned behaviour

2.3.1 Attitudes towards the behaviour (Behavioral Beliefs)

Attitude towards behaviour is defined as the sum of the salient beliefs associated with the performance of behaviour; where salient beliefs refer to beliefs about the consequences, important to the individual of him or her performing the behaviour (M.S. Mohd Zahari, 2004). According to Fishbein & Ajzen (1975), in their expectancy-value model, attitudes develop reasonably from the beliefs people hold about the object of the attitude. Generally speaking, people form beliefs about an object by associating it with certain attributes, i.e., with other objects, characteristics or events.

To form an attitude towards behaviour, the individual intending to produce a behaviour make an evaluation of how good or bad are the consequences behind that particular behaviour. The consequences are the outcomes on which the individual has linked all his beliefs. The evaluation can prove to be either positive or negative depending upon the sum of the relatively weighted dimensions (M.S. Mohs Zahari, 2004). Following the attitudinal pathway, behavioral belief is what is weighted by the outcome evaluation. Behavioral belief is the subjective probability that behaviour will produce a given outcome. And it is upon that perceived outcome that an individual will base his intention to perform or not that particular behaviour. Pertaining to the tourism industry, some authors argued that attitudes in the tourism context, based on direct experience, are stronger and more realistic (Roney & Oztin, 2007). People would generally favour behaviors which they believe have largely desirable consequences and for those generating undesirable consequences, they tend to develop an unfavorable attitudes towards such behaviors.

To further understanding about the difference between attitude and behavior, it is important to realize that investigators have been concerned with two different types of inconsistency (Schuman & Johnson, 1976). In LaPiere’s (1934) study, a contradiction existed between intentions and action, that is, between what people say they would do and what they actually do.

2.3.2 Subjective Norms (Normative Beliefs)

As we are confronted almost throughout our daily complete behaviour by opinion, actions and advices of important others (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975; Triandis, 1971) it is not surprising that subjective norm or social factors are an important determinant for an individual’s intention or behaviour. Social psychology researchers like Solomon Asch, Kurt Lewin or Leon Festinger, introduced or proved by experiments the concept of social influence as a pressure of conformity on an individual human being to act conform to the behaviour of a distinct group or person (Asch, 1951; Lewin, 1952). Social influence is an element that tunes an individual thinking or feeling concerning a specific behaviour as he communicates with another individual or a person. According to Fishbein and Ajzen (1975), subjective norm is referred to “the perceived social pressure to perform or not to perform the behaviour as a sum of the perceived expectation of specific referent individuals and/or groups weighted by the individual’s motivation to comply”. Triandis (1971) further support subjective norm by stating “that an individual’s behaviour is influenced by social norms, which depend on messages received from others and reflect what individuals think they should do” (Triandis, 1991).

While researching about subjective norm, an element that goes along is the normative beliefs. Normative beliefs are an individual’s beliefs about the extent to which other people who are important to him or her think he or she should or should not perform a particular behaviour. Normative beliefs have been criticized to be same as behavioral beliefs by different searchers like Miniard and Cohen (1981). However, there has been experiment proving that there is strong support for the validity of distinction for the normative belief (Trafinow, 1994; Trafinow & Fishbein, (1994a, 1994b); Trafinow, 1998, 2000). Normative beliefs have long been used by health researchers to predict and influence health behaviors. Trafinow (1996) mentioned that there might be different causal pathways to behaviour for different person. He further explained this by stating that some person may rely more on the attitudinal pathway to perform behaviour while some, my on the other hand, concentrate on the normative pathway. Thus as a consequence, focus should be laid on both the behaviour of interest and the specific person of interest (Trafinow, 1996).

2.3.3 Perceived Behavioral Control (Control Beliefs)

The last dimension of the theory of planned behaviour is the perceived behavioral control. It plays an important part in the theory as Ajzen (1991) extended the theory of reasoned action to include its measurement as part of the variables that help predicting behaviour by intention. The rationale behind the addition of perceived behavioral control was that it would allow the prediction of behaviors that were not under volitional control of an individual. Ajzen and Madden (1986) defined perceived behavioral control as “a person’s estimate of how easy or difficult it will be for him or her to carry out the behaviour”. It is also assumed to reflect “past experiences as well as anticipated impediments and consequences” (Schifter & Ajzen, 1985:844). Perceived behavioral control is the determinant where, the resources and opportunities available to an individual, dictate, to some extent the likelihood of his behavioral achievement.

A concept that proves to be compatible to that of perceived behavioral control is the perceived self-efficacy concept developed by Bandura (1977, 1982). Perceived self-efficacy “is concerned with judgments of how well one can execute courses of action required to deal with prospective situations” (Bandura, 1982, p. 122). In his researches, along with his associates (e.g., Bandura, Adams & Beyer, 1977; Bandura, Adams, Hardy & Howells, 1980), Bandura demonstrated that individual’s behaviour is strongly influenced by their confidence in their ability to perform it. The concept of behavioral control faced several critics to the fact that it becomes less realistic when it comes to an individual having little information about the behaviour, when the requirements or available resources have changed, or when new and unfamiliar elements have entered into the situation. Another concern that impede on perceived behavioral control as a valuable determinant for behaviour by intention is its aspect of not having a direct impact on an individual’s behavior, when researchers like Dzewaltowski, Noble and Shaw (1997) compared the theories of reasoned action, planned behaviour to that of self-efficacy. White, Terry and Hogg (1994) researched about safer sex behaviors and they ended up with perceived behavioral control only had an effect on a behavioral measure of discussing the use of condoms with any new partner, while self-efficacy had a strong effect on intentions to discuss and intentions to use condom.

Beyond all these critics, perceived behavioral control made its way through. Individuals do not have complete control over their behaviour, and it has been proven that the degree of confidence an individual has, over which they have control helps predict a behaviour as well as intention. Schifter and Ajzen (1985) confirmed the use of the concept to influence intention and as well behavior in one of their research.

2.3.4 Prediction of Intention and Behaviour, and the Role of Past Behaviour and Habits

As per the theory of planned behaviour, performance of a behavior is a joint function of intentions and perceived behavioral control. As a general rule, it is found that when behaviors pose no serious problem of control, they can be predicted from intentions with considerable accuracy (Ajzen, 1988; Sheppard, Hartwick & Warshaw, 1988). Intentions represent a person’s motivation in the sense of his conscious plan or decision to exert effort to enact the behaviour. Intentions and behavior tends to strongly relate to each other, when they are measured at the same level of specificity in relation to the action, target, context and time frame (Fishbein & Ajen, 1975; principle of compatibility). It is solely for volitional behaviors that intention has the full control of predicting behavior. With the intervention of perception of control, the theory put itself in the position to go beyond and predicting as well nonvolitional behaviors (Ajzen, 1988; 1991).

The theory of planned behaviour is the most spread theory to predict individuals’ intention and behaviour. Searchers used it to investigate about drinking problem (Schlegel, d’Avernas, Zana, DeCourville & Manske, 1990), leisure behaviour (Ajzen and Driver, in press a, b), and condom use (Otis, Godin, & Lambert, in press) inter alia.

The limitation of the theory is due past experience of a same behaviour and repetition of a behavior. Repetition over time leads a behavior to be defined as a habit according to several researches. It was found that habit had an independent effect on intention as compared to perceived behavioral control. Beside this critic, habit was entitled to be the most important predictor of exercising behavior, over and above all the determinants encompassing the theory of planned behavior (Godin et al., 1993).

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