Attitudes are what we feel about a concept, they are about how we think about and evaluate specific concepts. (East, 1997). An important class of attitudes are those about behaviour. We can discover a person’s attitude by observing his/her behaviour. (East, 1997). Behaviour is usually seen to be directied by prior held attitudes. Foxall (has shown that models of decision making usually portray behaviour as a function of attitudinal formation. (Sharp, 1997) The main topic under discussion is whether attitude or behaviour comes first.
We shall be looking at ideas and views held by some main authors of consumer behaviour. Among these authors are Robert East, Andrew S. C. Ehrenberg and Anne Sharp. These authors have many different views on which on the link between attitude and behaviour as well as which one comes first. I feel that behaviour comes before attitude and the arguments presented by the various authorities on this subject will explain why. It is found that the traditional school of behaviourism rejects the idea that a person’s attitude is what drives him to do something. A behaviourist believes that attitudes are effects but not causes.
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If this is to be believed, that would mean that marketers can only use attitude data as an indicator of how a person is going to behave, and to only predict but not explain behaviour (East, 1997). This school of behaviourism is usually not accepted today. The school of cognitivism holds the view that attitudes can directly change behaviour. Cognitivism basically means a disposition to act. There is some support for this view. For example, when the mad cow disease was spreading in Europe, people over there either reduce their consumption of beef dramatically or stopped altogether. East, 1997). “It is found that certain fields other than fast moving consumer goods, cognitivism is better supported based on the evidence. It was observed that people expecting to make a durable purchase would eventually make that purchase. “(East, 1997) In this case, the argument that experience forms attitude doesn’t hold since the opportunity to try the durable is not available to all consumers. (East 1997). However all this is very situation specific and it will not be generally useful.
There are a few studies which supported the argument that attitudes drive behaviours. One such study was conducted by Kahle and Berman (East, 1997)This study found that in two cases, which was about voting for presidential candidates, the attitude change came before any change in behaviour. Another two cases about drink driving and religious observance had ambiguous results but still favoured the idea that attitude came first. Korgaonkar, Lund and Price found that attitude had a part to play in deciding store choice but store choice had no effect on attitudes. (East, 1997).
However, East (1997) had the opinion that store location was the main influence of store choice and that the most popular store was viewed by most consumers as the best one. Marsh and Matheson looked at peoples attitudes toward smoking and their subsequent behaviour. He found that those who thought that it would be very beneficial to stop would have a better chance of doing so while those who didn’t see any use if they stopped smoking would have less chance of stopping. (East, 1997) It was observed that people who were brought together under circumstances will eventually get to like each other. East, 1997) This theory was researched among students and found that changes took place slowly and they argued that behavioural changes and attitudinal changes overlapped. However there is a problem with such attitude-behaviour research. “It is usually conducted by social psychologists who have more interest in high involvement problems which are more likely to show attitude causing behaviour. ” (East, 1997) This is because low involvement behaviours such as brand choice is a trivial decision so people don’t really think about it. Examples of high involvement behaviour include drug taking and religion.
Even then, Kraus found typically low correlations (around 0. 3) between previously held attitude and high involvement future behaviour. (Sharp 1997) On top of that, these people may have left out certain sections of their research and chose not to publish it because few researchers actually set out to prove that behaviours do come before attitudes. There is much competition between behaviourist theories and cognitive theories. There is evidence to support both sides. “It is believed that whichever comes first will depend very much on the person, action and context.
Attitudes are also seen to be interwoven with behaviour, hence any change in either one of these components would affect the other. “(East, 1997) Research between the link of attitudes and behaviour has been done for a long time. In general it was found that attitudes are of little or no use entirely. Wicker feels that attitudes are either totally unrelated or only slightly related to behaviour. (East, 1997)This has cast doubt on the ability of social psychologists to predict behaviour from attitude. An early example of attitude not predicting behaviour is shown in a study conducted by LaPiere.
He accompanied a Chinese couple on a tour of America and noticed that they were treated well by hotel owners and their requested accommodation was provided nearly all the time. However, in response to a letter from LaPiere, many of these hotel owners said that they would not like to have Chinese guests. There are many other examples that show the inconsistencies between attitude and behaviour. For instance, is has been found found that results of an evaluation of a persons job and his actual level of performance did not correlate. (East, 1997)
Recently, there has been the advances in research has incorporated an approach called ‘other variables'(East, 1997)). This approach emphasized the effects that the social and physical environment will have on behaviour. Factors under ‘other variables’ include personal abilities, social constraints and the uncertainties over the outcome of an action. These factors can restrict individuals so that they behave like they want to. For example good manners may have stopped the hotel owners from expressing their displeasure at the Chinese guests thus discrediting LaPiere’s example. East, 1997). East(1997) reports that discrepancies may arise between measures of attitude and behaviour if the measures are taken at differing times. Attitudes and behaviour may change over time because of new information provided. However, in a study conducted, there was no evidence that a long period of time would change the correlation between attitude and behaviour. (East, 1997) A few major problems of behaviour prediction based on attitude arose from a poor conceptualization of attitude called the three component model. (East, 1997).
Here, “attitude is seen as an aggregate of evaluations, cognitions and behavioural dispositions”. This theory was rejected by Fishbein and Ijzen. They consider attitude to be just an evaluative concept. Their main argument was that the attitude which has been chosen as a predictor for behaviour was nearly always chosen wrongly. Their conclusion was that quite a number of research that has been seen as testing the relation between attitude and behaviour are not relevant to the question. Hence, if the correct attitude was chosen, it might prove to be more accurate in predicting behaviour. East, 1997) However, this is only my own conclusion and there is no solid evidence to back it up. Brand attitude does seem to be a satisfactory predictor of market share. Joel Rubinson and Allan L. Baldinger, (1996) conducted a thorough study on the link between attitude and behaviour based on brand loyalty. They used the Brandbuilder model which was developed by NPD Group Inc. in 1992 to collect data on both behaviour and attitude. The main idea is that buyers who behave loyally to a brand are expected to have a better attitude about that brand.
In the study, they found that prior held attitudes toward a brand have a big effect on a brands ability to retain their customers loyalty. They also found that consumers with consistent attitudes tend to remain loyal to a brand while a consumers with inconsistent attitudes tend to switch away. Jacoby and Chestnut (1978) believes that a main attribute behind brand loyalty was a consumers consistency in choosing that brand. And it is their belief that these consumers must have a stable positive attitude.
However, this theory has been questioned by Roley, Ehrenberg, Barwise, Barnard ,(1997) They state that people will still behave consistently despite inconsistencies over their attitude. There is extensive evidence that people’s attitudes are based on their previous usage of the brand. (Roley, Ehrenberg, Barwise, Barnard ,1997). Day(1969) has argued that to be truly brand loyal, the consumer has to have a good attitude toward the brand. However, since it is implied that a good attitude follows behaviour (East, 1997), then changing people’s behaviour should come first.
Empirical research on the link between attitude and behaviour generally produces low correlation between attitude and future behaviour. A general example of the weak link between attitude predicting future behaviour is drunk driving. Everyone knows that it is bad and they should not do it but such cases still occur. (Sharp, 1997) The only time high correlations are obtained is when consumers are interviewed in conducive conditions. ( East, 1997). There is more support for the view that behaviour comes before attitudes (East, 1997).
They found that with frequently purchased brands, it was usage that came before the intention to buy. The Bird and Ehrenberg analysis also shows that there is a causal process from usage to intention that was stated but no evidence was found for the reverse (intention to buy actually leading to a purchase). There are also other studies which show that brand attitudes followed the purchase of fast moving consumer goods. (East, 1997) Barnad, Barwise and Ehrenberg found that the percentage of people giving a positive response to a brand was constant but only half of those people did it again. East ,1997) This is consistent with the results obtained in a study by Roley, Ehrenberg, Castleberry, Barwise and Barnard (1997) which found that attitudinal repeat rates are usually well below 100% and volatile. A main finding from this study is that variation in the 50% repeat rate from brand to brand is not brand specific. We know that consumers buy from a repertoire of brands, buying any brand in their repertoire only occasionally and also giving positive responses occasionally.
This is probably because people were more likely to associate positive attributes with a brand if they were currently using it. This suggests that behaviour drives their attitudinal responses, which in turn implies that attitude changes as behaviour changes. To further reinforce this argument, examined the relationships between brand attitudes and purchase using panel data and found that attitudes were aligned with purchase immediately after buying but over time reverted to the pre purchase pattern. (East, 1997)
In view of all the arguments presented, I believe that behaviour come before attitudes. Because our attitudes are in our subconscious and are often difficult to remember, the ability to predict behaviour on attitudes are limited. There may be certain instances where attitudes might be able to predict behaviours correctly but this as these results are obtained in highly conducive conditions, It is actually an estimate of future behaviour based on past behaviour. Attitudinal measures should only be used when other measures aren’t available. ( Sharp, 2003)