Does Behavior always follow from Attitudes?
We have maintained that attitude affects behavior. Early research on attitudes assumed that they were causally related to behavior; that is, the attitude that people hold determines what they do. Common sense, too, suggests a relationship. Isn’t it logical that people watch television programs that they say they like or that employees try to avoid assignments they find distasteful.
However, in the late 1960s, this assumed relationships between attitude and behavior was challenged by a review of the research. Based on an evaluation of a number of studies that investigated the attitudes-behavior relationship, the reviewer concluded that the attitudes were unrelated to behavior or at best, only slightly related. More recent research has demonstrated that attitudes significantly predict future behavior and confirmed original thinking that the relationships can be enhanced by taking moderating variables into account. Moderating Variables:
The most powerful moderators of the attitudes behavior relationships have been found to be importance of the attitude,its specificity, its accessibility, whether there exist social pressures, and whether a person has direct experience with theattitude.Important attitudes are ones that reflect fundamental values, self-interest, or identification with individuals orgroups that a person values. Attitudes that individuals consider important tend to show a strong relationship to behavior.The more specific the attitude and the more specific the behavior, the stronger is the link between the two. For instanceasking someone specifically about his/her intention to stay with the organization for the next 6 months is likely to betterpredict turnover for that person than if you asked him/her how satisfied he/she was with his/her pay. Attitudes that are easily remembered are more likely to predict behavior than attitudes that are not accessible in memory. Interestingly you are more likely to remember attitudes that are frequently expressed. So the more you talk about your attitude on a subject, the more you are likely to remember it, and the more likely it is to shape your behavior.Discrepancies between attitude and behavior are more likely to occur when social pressures to behave in certain ways hold exceptional power. This tends to characterize behavior in organizations. This may explain why an employee who holds strong anti-union attitudes attend pro-union organizing meetings; or why tobacco executives, who are not smokers themselves and who tend to believe the research linking smoking and cancer, don’t actively discourage others from smoking in their offices.
Finally, the attitude-behavior relationship is likely to be much stronger if an attitude refers to something with which the individual has direct personal experience. Asking college students with no significant work experience how they would respond to working for an authoritarian supervisor is far less likely to predict actual behavior than asking that same question of employees who have actually worked for such an individual. Self-Perception Theory:
Although most attitudes-behavior studies yield positive results, researchers have achieved still higher correlations bypursuing another direction-looking at whether or not behavior influences attitudes. This view, called self-perceptiontheory, has generated some encouraging findings. Let’s briefly review the theory. When asked about an attitude toward some object, individuals often recall their behavior relevant to that object and then infer their attitude from their past behavior. So if an employee was asked her feelings about being a training specialist at Marriott, she would likely think, “I’ve had this same job with Marriott as a trainer for 10 years. Nobody forced me to stay on this job. So I must like it”. Self-perception theory, therefore, argues that attitudes are used, after the fact, to make sense out of an action that has already occurred...
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