Monday, February 22, 2010

Attitude vs. Behavior

Attitude has been the subject of research for social psychologist for many years.  Over the years, many different definitions of attitude are considered.  For the purpose of my project, attitude is considered as “a general latent disposition which underlies affective, cognitive, and behavioral responses to an attitude object” (Ajzen, 2005).  In other words, an attitude is a personal outlook that is driven by thoughts about the subject, feelings towards the subject, and intentions toward the subject.  

Attitude behavior consistency is the correspondence between declarations and actions.  Social psychologists have discarded the idea of a clear-cut connection between attitude and behavior (Byrka, 2009).  In their book Understanding Attitudes and Predicting Behavior, Ajzen and Fishbein discuss the idea that intention is the driving determinant in a person’s behavior.  They describe intention as
a function of two basic determinants, one personal in nature and the other reflecting social influence.  The personal factor is the individual’s positive or negative evaluation of performing the behavior.  The second determinant of intention is the person’s perception of the social pressures put on him to perform or not to perform the behavior in question (1980).
People will act upon an intention if they determine it as positive and believe “important others think they should perform it” (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980). 

Campbell’s paradigm is another major theory in attitude behavior studies.  Katarzyna Byrka discusses his theory in her thesis on Attitude behavior consistency.  According to Byrka, Campbell subscribed the idea to situational limitations such as social norms create different settings for behaviors.  In his theory, the behavior’s difficulty is determined by to “total cost of performance” (Byrka, 2009).

In 1997 a project titled "The Demographics of Recycling and the Structure of Environmental Behavior" was conducted.  This project showed that “a large number of people will take pro-environmental actions is they have access to a convenient way of doing so”.  I hypothesize that redefining a norm and creating a space that is more conducive to performing sustainable actions will result in more environmentally responsible behaviors.   In my research, I will test this by conducting a survey based on the aforementioned areas of sustainability.  The results determine the driving determinant in student attitude-behavior consistency (or inconsistency) on campus.  

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