FROM INTENTIONS TO ACTIONS
[From: I. Ajzen (1988), Attitudes, personality, & Behavior. Chicago: Dorsey Press] It*s a long step from saying to doing. Cervantes In the previous chapter we began to unravel the mystery surrounding prediction and explanation of specific action tendencies by turning our attention to behavioral dispositions that correspond precisely to the particular action tendency of interest. Based on this principle of compatibility, the present chapter introduces a conceptual framework for the prediction of specific action tendencies, a framework that deals with a limited set of dispositional antecedents assumed to guide specific action tendencies, with the origins of these dispositions, and with the relations among them. Incorporated into this conceptual framework are the two behavior-specific dispositions discussed in Chapter — perceived behavioral control and attitude toward the behavior — as well as a few additional concepts required for a more complete account of the determinants of specific action tendencies.
The case of willful behavior Many behaviors in everyday life, which are often the behaviors of greatest interest to personality and social psychologists, can be thought of as being largely under volitional control. That is to say, people can easily perform these behaviors if they are so inclined, or refrain from performing them if they decide against it. In Western countries most people can, if they so desire, vote in political elections, watch the evening news on television, buy toothpaste at a drugstore, pray at a nearby church or synagogue, or donate blood to their local hospitals. If they wish, they may also decide against engaging in any of these activities. The important point about willful behaviors of this kind is that their occurrence is a direct result of deliberate attempts made by an individual. The process involved can be described as follows. In accordance with deliberations to be described below,, a person forms an intention to engage in a certain behavior. Intentions are assumed to capture the motivational factors that have an impact on a behavior; they are indications of how hard people are willing to try, of how much of an effort they are planning to exert, in order to perform the behavior. These intentions remain behavioral dispositions until, at the appropriate time and opportunity, an attempt is made to translate the intention into action. Assuming that the behavior is in fact under volitional control, the attempt will produce the desired act. This implies that the disposition most closely linked to a specific action tendency is the intention to perform the action under consideration. In other words, when dealing with volitional behavior people can be expected to do what they intend to do. Expressions of behavioral intention should thus permit a highly accurate prediction of corresponding volitional action. Predicting behavior from intention The literature contains many examples of intentions that are highly correlated with volitional behavior. Table 6.1 shows a few representative findings. It can be seen that intentions have been found to predict a variety of corresponding action tendencies, ranging from simple strategy choices in laboratory games to actions of appreciable personal or social significance, such as having an abortion, smoking marijuana, and choosing among candidates in an election. It is worth noting that the intentions assessed in these
ATTITUDES, PERSONALITY, AND BEHAVIOR
studies were highly compatible with the behaviors in terms of the target, action, context, and time elements. Thus, in the study reported by King (1975), the behavior of interest was whether or not college students would attend church services in the course of a 2-week vacation. This behavior could be predicted with a high degree of accuracy by asking the students, prior to the recess, how likely it was that they would attend church services at least every 2 weeks....