Trial Products

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ROBERT E. SMITH and WILLIAM R. SWINYARD*

The role of direct versus indirect experience in the attitude-behavior consistency issue Is reviewed. Using a new communications model, the authors extend the direct/ indirect experience paradigm to a common marketing scenario: product trial versus product advertising. The specific contributions of attitude strength and typw of behavior are examined, and results show that when ottitudes are based on trial they predict purchase very well. When attitudes are based on advertising, however, attitude-behavior consistency is significantly reduced. Implications for when attitude models should be applied in marketing research and practice are discussed.

Attitude-Behavior Consistency: The Impact of Product Trial Versus Advertising

Do consumer attitudes predict consumer behaviors? According to traditional attitude theory the answer is "yes," consumers buy the brands and products they like best. However, mounting evidence indicates that attitudes are not very good predictors of overt behaviors. The purpose of the study reported here is to examine attitude-behavior (A-B) consistency in marketing situations. BACKGROUND The importance of the attitude concept dates back to the 1920s when behavioral scientists began the search for factors mediating between stimulus perception and overt behavior. Behavioralism, reinforcement, and genetic theories that implied a rudimentary S -^ R process were deemed unsatisfactory in fully explaining complex social behaviors. Investigating the "inner man" gained momentum from studies in human verbal leaming that showed important apperceptive skills (see for example Mead 1934). These phenomenological manipulations were seen as transforming primary perceptual units into verbal/symbolic units that mediated overt behavior (Anderson 1975). Such variables included cognitions, inferences, attitudes, and intentions, though early studies heavily emphasized the attitude concept. By 1954, All-

port (p. 45) would describe attitudes as "the primary building stone in the edifice of social psychology,"' Definitions of attitude have varied markedly, but many stress its relationship to overt behavior. For example, Allport (1935) defined attitude as "a mental and neura) state of readiness . . . exerting a directive and dynamic influence upon the individual's response." Doob (1947) called an attitude an "implicit response which . . . affects subsequent overt responses." Green (1954) argued that "the concept of attitude implies a consistency or predictability of response," and Campbell (1963) labeled an attitude an "acquired behavioral disposition." Not surprisingly, initial efforts in attitude research concentrated on developing valid and reliable measurement techniques (Guttman 1944; Likert 1932; Osgood, Succi, and Tannenbaum 1957; Thurstone 1928). Other issues of importance such as attitude formation, structure, and change were also examined in detail, often by

•Robert E. Smith is Associate Professor of Marketing, Indiana University. William R. Swinyard is Associate Professor of Marketing, Brigham Young University. The authors thank the JMR reviewers for their thoughtful comments on a draft of [his article.

'The question of whether psychology can fruitfully exploit the "inner man' has been debated for at least 60 years. Behavioral ists such as Watson (1919) and Skinner (1971) argue that as hypothetical constructs, attitudes must always be infened. However, the inherent limitations of the inference process render attitudes an inappropriate dependent measure fraught with subjectivity and measurement error. In many cases they represent nothing more than epiphenomena- Because only the stimulus and overt response an; directly observable, they alone should be the basis for behavioral inquiry. The S -* R model has also been used to explain complex social and verbal behaviors (see for example Deutsch and Krauss 1965). Clearly, some behavioral scientists challenge the...
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