Do Attitudes Guide Behavior?Many social change agents,
salespeople, advertisers, and politicians are interested in changing your
behavior for their cause. The most direct way for them to accomplish their goal
is to try to influence your behavior directly. The problem is that they don't
have much direct control over your behavior; you have a modicum of free will
and choice on your side. No matter what they say or do, you get to decide what
to buy, use, or who to vote for. So influencing behavior directly is difficult,
especially if a social change agent wants to have a permanent effect on you.
Social change agents have a way around this problem, however. As you will
explore in this week's materials, your behavior may be a function of the way
you evaluate an issue or object. Your attitude is one psychological factor that
influences how you behave or interact with something in your social context. If
a social change agent can change your attitude toward an object, from neutral
or negative to positive, then you may be more likely to want to purchase the
object, vote for it, or use it repeatedly. On the other hand, if the agent can
change your attitude to be more negative toward an object or issue, you may be
more likely to avoid it, vote against it, or tell someone else to steer clear
of it. Perhaps the idea that attitudes guide behavior is so obvious, it shouldn't
even be covered in this course, or said aloud.
But does attitude change guarantee behavior change? It does only if the new
attitude guides the target behavior. As you will see, the way that attitudes
guide behavior is much more complex than many people suspect.
To prepare for this Discussion:
• Read Chapter 3 in the course text, Persuasion: Psychological Insights and
Perspectives, focusing on factors that determine when attitudes guide
• Reflect on what "qualities of the behavior" moderate the
relationship between attitudes and behavior. Be sure you understand how the
concept of measurement "specificity" determines the relationship
between attitudes and behavior.
• With respect to "qualities of the person," think about the types of
people that are likely to use their attitudes to guide their behavior. What are
the two personality variables that predict higher-attitude behavior
correspondence? Can you think of a way to make most people rely more on their
attitudes when they act?
• Consider what two "qualities of the situation" you believe moderate
the correspondence between attitudes and behavior. Think of an example of how
norms reduce the ability to act on attitudes toward an object, issue, or group
of people. Think about how time pressure inhibits the expression of attitudes.
• Consider which qualities of an attitude influence the ability to behave
consistently with it. Think about how the attitude-behavior link may be
increased by increasing the accessibility of the attitude.
With these thoughts in mind:
Post by Day 4 a description of an attitude with which you do not behave
or operate consistently very often. Then briefly describe the qualities of the
behavior, your personality, the types of situations, or the attitude itself,
that cause you to behave or operate inconsistently with your attitude about the
topic. In other words, explain why your attitudes don't always guide your
behavior and how these factors moderate the relationship between your attitudes
and behavior. Finally, explain what would need to change in order for you to
behave or operate more consistently with your attitude.