Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

Robustness of the Theory of Planned in Behavior in Predicting Entrepreneurial Intentions and Actions

Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

Robustness of the Theory of Planned in Behavior in Predicting Entrepreneurial Intentions and Actions

Article excerpt

This analysis demonstrates the relevance and robustness of the theory of planned behavior in the prediction of business start-up intentions and subsequent behavior based on longitudinal survey data (2011 and 2012; n = 969) from the adult population in Austria and Finland. By doing so, the study addresses two weaknesses in current research: the limited scope of samples used in the majority of prior studies and the scarcity of investigations studying the translation of entrepreneurial intentions into behavior. The paper discusses conceptual and methodological issues related to studying the intention-behavior relationship and outlines avenues for future research.


Since the late 1980s, a considerable body of literature has addressed the concept of entrepreneurial intentions, viewing much of entrepreneurship as intentional behavior and the formation of an intention to start a business as a step in the process of founding an organization (e.g., Bird, 1988; Kolvereid, 1996; Krueger, Reilly, & Carsrud, 2000; Van Gelderen et al" 2008). The most commonly used theoretical framework in this stream of research (Schlaegel & Koenig, 2012) is the theory of planned behavior (TPB), which conceptualizes strength of intention as an immediate antecedent of behavior (Ajzen, 1991, 2011).

To date, applications of the TPB in the business start-up context have been limited to explaining the formation of intentions. Twenty-five years after the appearance of Bird's (1988) seminal article, Schlaegel and Koenig's (2012) meta-analysis discovered only three published entrepreneurship studies that have applied the full TPB, and thus include the intention-behavior relationship. However, those studies do not focus on business start-up intentions (Kolvereid & Isaksen, 2006), use samples that are limited in size (Kautonen, Van Gelderen, & Tomikoski, 2013), or analyze data that concerns a niche population (academic scientists) and suffers from nonrandom sample attrition (Goethner, Obschonka, Silbereisen, & Cantner, 2012). The scarcity of studies including the intention-behavior relationship is somewhat surprising. After all, entrepreneurship is about actions rather than mere intentions, and the extent to which entrepreneurial intentions translate into action defines the relevance of intention research. Moreover, the existence of a sizeable intention-action gap would point to the importance of studying additional factors rather than mere intentions for predicting and explaining entrepreneurial behavior.

This analysis contributes to the entrepreneurial intentions literature by presenting a test of the full TPB model in the business start-up context. Our analysis adopts the theory as its originator, leek Ajzen (2011), currently specifies it. We utilize two waves of survey data (2011 and 2012) from the Austrian and Finnish adult populations (n = 969). Thus, our study overcomes the usual weaknesses of prior studies of using limited samples (often students) and not including the intention-behavior relationship. Moreover, the size and scope of the sample allows us to run an extensive range of robustness tests. We find strong support for all hypothesized relationships, and we also find them to be robust across a range of different demographic and biographical characteristics of individuals. Our study of the entrepreneurial intention-action link sheds light on conceptual questions regarding whether entrepreneurship is intentional or planned in nature, and on methodological questions concerning the timing of data collection and the level of specificity in operationalizing the TPB constructs.

Theory of Planned Behavior

The TPB posits that beliefs about attitude, control, and norms influence behavior and are mediated by intentions. Ajzen (2011) defines intention as "a person's readiness to perform a given behavior." Intention has three cognitive antecedents (Ajzen, 1991): attitude refers to the individual's evaluation (favorable or unfavorable) of the target behavior; subjective norms capture the opinions of social reference groups (such as family and friends) regarding whether the individual should engage in the behavior; and perceived behavioral control (PBC) denotes the perceived ease or difficulty of performing the behavior. …

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