VOLUME XXV, NUMBER 4, 1969
Attitudes versus Actions: The Relationship of
Verbal and Overt Behavioral Responses
to Attitude Objects
Allan W. Wicker'
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Gordon Allport (1954) has described the attitude concept as
"the primary building stone in the edifice of social psychology [p. 4 5]," and the extensive attitude literature in the past 20 years supports this contention. Stimulated primarily by the cognitive consistency theories, thousands of pages have been written recently on attitude formation and change. One possible reason for the popularity of the attitude concept is that social psychologists have assumed that attitudes have something to do with social behavior. Cohen (1964), in the concluding chapter of his book. Attitude Change and Social Influence, states:
'The writer is indebted to the following colleagues for helpful suggestions and comments on an earlier version of this paper: Roger Barker, L. B. Kornreich, Eugene Levitt, and Lawrence Linn. Thanks are also due to Anthony Fazio and James Green who supplied unpublished studies for review, and to Dean Bolton and Douglas Simpson for library work. Locating relevant references was facilitated by Deutscher's bibliography (1966a). This research was supported by a grant from the Graduate School of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and National Institute of Mental Health Grant 1 R03 MH-15798-01. Portions of this paper were presented at the Western Psychological Association Convention, Vancouver, B.C., June 20, 1969. Now at the University of Illinois, Urbana.
ALLAN W. WICKER
Most of the investigators whose work we have examined make the broad psychological assumption that since attitudes are evaluative predispositions, they have consequences for the way people act toward others, for the programs they actually undertake, and for the manner in which they carry them out. Thus attitudes are always seen as precursors of behavior, as determinants of how a person will actually behave in his daily affairs (pp. 137-138].
But as early as 1934, there was published evidence contrary
to the assumption that attitudes and behaviors are closely related. In the 193O's when, according to studies of social distance, there was much anti-Chinese sentiment in the United States, LaPiere (1934) took several extensive automobile trips with a Chinese couple. Unknown to his companions, he took notes of how the
travellers were treated, and he kept a list of hotels and restaurants where they were served. Only once were they denied service, and LaPierejudged their treatment to be above average in 40% of the restaurants visited. Later, LaPiere wrote to the 250 hotels and restaurants on his list, asking if they would accept Chinese guests. Over 90% ofthe 128 proprietors responding indicated they would not serve Chinese, in spite of the fact that all had previously accommodated LaPiere's companions. The present paper examines several aspects of the relationship between attitudes and actions: (a) importance' of the relationship in terms of conceptual, validational, and social considerations, (b) empirical research on the relationship, and (c) factors postulated to influence the relationship.
Before continuing, it will be necessary to consider several terms. Following Insko and Schopler (1967, pp. 361-362), attitudes are conceived as "evaluative feelings of pro or con, favorable or unfavorable, with regard to particular objects"; the objects may be "concrete representations of things or actions, or abstract concepts." No distinction will be made between affective and cognitive components of attitude, since in practice both are tapped by verbal measures, and often questions about feelings and beliefs are included in the same attitude scale. The term overt behavior will be used to refer to nonverbal behavior outside the situation in which attitudes were measured. As Kendler and Kendler (1949) have noted,...