Attitudes, Behavior, and Social Context: The Role of Norms and Group Membership

By Deborah J. Terry; Michael A. Hogg | Go to book overview

4
A Theory of Attitudes, Subjective Norms, and Private Versus Collective Self-Concepts

David Trafimow New Mexico State University

One of the most important tasks for personality and social psychologists is to predict behavior. Consequently, several theories have been proposed for this purpose. One theory that has performed well over the last few decades is Fishbein's theory of reasoned action (TRA; Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; Fishbein, 1967b; 1980; Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975). According to this theory, the proximal cause of behavior is intention to behave, which, in turn, is caused by attitude and subjective norm. An attitude is the target person's opinion about whether the behavior is positive or negative, and a subjective norm is the target person's opinion about what most others who are important to him or her think he or she should do. Attitudes and subjective norms are determined by beliefs about the consequences of the behavior and beliefs about the opinions of specific important others, respectively.

Not surprisingly, recent investigators have added other variables to the model. Some of these are affect ( Triandis, 1980), perceived behavioral control ( Ajzen, 1988), moral values ( Gorsuch & Ortberg, 1983), previous behavior ( Bentler & Speckart, 1981; Fredricks & Dossett, 1983), behavioral norms ( Grube, Morgan, & McGree, 1986), and habit ( Triandis, 1980). Although each of these variables has been shown to increase our understanding of some behaviors, attitudes and subjective norms have remained central components of the theories, and much of my own research has been concerned with them. This chapter summarizes that work by placing it in a

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