Attitudes and Behavior
- Geoffrey Haddock, Geoffrey HaddockDepartment of Psychology, Cardiff University
- Sapphira ThorneSapphira ThornePostdoctoral Research Associate, Cardiff University
- and Lukas WolfLukas WolfUniversity of Bath, Department of Psychology
Attitudes refer to overall evaluations of people, groups, ideas, and other objects, reflecting whether individuals like or dislike them. Attitudes have been found to be good predictors of behavior, with generally medium-sized effects. The role of attitudes in guiding behavior may be the primary reason why people’s social lives often revolve around expressing and discussing their attitudes, and why social psychology researchers have spent decades examining attitudes.
Two central questions in the study of attitudes concern when and how attitudes predict behavior. The “when” question has been addressed over decades of research that has identified circumstances under which attitudes are more or less likely to predict behavior. That is, attitudes are stronger predictors of behaviors when both constructs are assessed in a corresponding or matching way, when attitudes are stronger, and among certain individuals and in certain situations and domains.
The “how” question concerns influential models in the attitudes literature that provide a better understanding of the processes through which attitudes are linked with behaviors. For instance, these models indicate that other constructs need to be taken into account in understanding the attitude-behavior link, including intentions to perform a behavior, whether individuals perceive themselves to be in control of their behavior, and what they believe others around them think the individual should do (i.e., norms). The models also describe whether attitudes relate to behavior through relatively deliberative and controlled processes or relatively automatic and spontaneous processes. Overall, the long history of research on attitude-behavior links has provided a clearer prediction of when attitudes are linked with behaviors and a better understanding of the processes underlying this link.