Please prepare a one-page concept map to illustrate relationships between essential concepts or ideas of the attached readings (5 articles attached about motivation of people in public organizations) using PowerPoint, Word, Visio, or any other software. It can take any forms of charts, graphic organizers, flowcharts, or diagrams. I will attach some examples of the concept map later. I don’t need just titles or chapter names, I need you to mention the key points and/or concepts of each articles and their relation with other articles.The Motivational Bases of Public Service
Author(s): James L. Perry and Lois Recascino Wise
Source: Public Administration Review, Vol. 50, No. 3 (May – Jun., 1990), pp. 367-373
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Society for Public Administration
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/976618
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367
2 The Motivational Bases of
Public Service
l~~~~~ ____
James L. Perry, Indiana University, Bloomington
Lois Recascino Wise, Indiana University,
Bloomington
The past two decades have brought enormous changes
in the environment for public service. Beginning in the
mid-1960s, public confidence in American institutions
began a two-decade decline.’ Nowhere is the decline in
public trust more apparent than in government. At the
start of this last decade of the twentieth century, only one
in four Americans expressed confidence in government to
“do what is right.”
The decline in public trust has precipitated a “quiet crisis” in the federal civil service.2 The recent report of the
National Commission on the Public Service, more commonly referred to as the Volcker Commission after its
chair, Paul Volcker, the former chairman of the Federal
Reserve Board, recited a litany of shortcomings in the fed-
eral personnel system.3 Although no comparable evidence
is available on the status of state and local government
civil service systems, they no doubt have suffered problems similar to those experienced at the federal level.
In the face of these long-term trends and their associated consequences, political leaders have begun to call for a
rebirth of the public service ethic. The 1988 presidential
race was the first in over a decade in which bureaucrat
bashing was not one of the favorite pastimes of the candidates. President Bush has been joined in his call for a
renewal of interest in public service by other prominent
public servants, including former Secretary of State
George Shultz and former Comptroller General Elmer B.
Staats.4
Calls for a recommitment of Americans to values associated with government service, among them personal sacrifice and duty to the public interest, raise practical questions about the power of these values to stimulate and
direct human behavior. At their core, calls for a renewal
of public service motivation assume the importance of
such motivations for an effective and efficient public service. Those who advocate using public service motivation
as the primary steering mechanism for bureaucratic behavior perceive that it is essential for achieving high levels of
performance.
At least two developments of recent years, one intellectual and one practical, call into question the strength of a
public service ethic. One is the rise of the public choice
movement, which is predicated on a model of human
behavior that assumes that people are motivated primarily
by self interest.5 According to this view, because self
interest is at the root of human behavior, incentives, organizations, and institutions must be designed to recognize
and to take advantage of such motivations. A related
development, this one arising within government, is the
growing popularity of monetary incentive systems, especially at top organizational levels.6 Extrinsic rewards controlled by one’s supervisor are now seen as a major means
for directing and reinforcing managerial and executive
behavior. These related trends stand in opposition to the
view that public service motives energize and direct the
behavior of civil servants.
The decline in public confidence in American institutions has taken a particularly heavy toll on the civil service.
In calling for a recommitment of Americans to the values associated with public service, political leaders assume
that such motives can be translated into effective and efficient bureaucratic behavior. Evidence regarding the
strength of public service motives, however, is limited. This article reviews different theories for public service
motivation and identifies a typology of motives associated with public service that includes rational, norm-based,
and affective motives. Three propositions are put forward that describe the behavioral implications of public service motivation. The authors conclude that past research offers, at best, a poor understanding of the way to stimu-
late individual behavior in public organizations, and they callfor more empirical research and theory development
pertaining to the motivational bases of public service.
MAY/JUNE 1990
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368
PUBLIC
ADMINISTRATION
REVIEW
*
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Rational seeks
The present study
to clarify t
service motivation and to identify and evaluate research
Little of the literature on public service motivation
related to its effects on public employee behavior. The
acknowledges that some of the motives unique to public
article reviews existing literature about public service
service are rational in nature; motives are usually treated
motivation to identify the phenomena more precisely. It
as wholly altruistic. A strong case can be made, however,
then discusses the implications of public service motivathat public service motivation is sometimes grounded in
tion for behavior in public organizations. Needs for future
individual utility maximization.
research are discussed in conclusion
In a recent article, Steven Kelman posed the question:
“What are the distinctive advantages that might draw people to government?”13 One of his answers was that public
Theories of Public Service Motivation
servants are drawn to government to participate in the forPublic service is often used as a synonym for governmulation of good public policy. Although Kelman associment service embracing all those who work in the public
ates an individual’s desire to participate in the formulation
sector. But public service signifies much more than one’sof good public policy with the norm of public spirit, it is
locus of employment. For example, Elmer Staats has writlikely to appeal to many civil servants in more rational
ten: “‘Public service’ is a concept, an attitude, a sense of
terms. Participation in the process of policy formulation
duty-yes, even a sense of public morality.”7 Staats’
can be exciting, dramatic, and reinforcing of an individuobservation reflects both the breadth and depth of meaning
al’s image of self importance. Rawls asserts that a greater
that has been associated with the idea of public service. realization of self emanates from “skillful and devoted
exercises of social duties.”114 Someone drawn to the public
Public service motivation may be understood as an
sector to participate in policy making may therefore be
individual’s predisposition to respond to motives grounded
satisfying personal needs while serving social interests.
primarily or uniquely in public institutions and organizations.8 The term “motives” is used here to mean psycho- Anthony Downs argued that some civil servants are
logical deficiencies or needs that an individual feels some motivated by commitment to a public program because of
personal identification with the program.15 He offered
compulsion to eliminate. Following Knoke and WrightIsak, this discussion recognizes that these motives may fall Billy Mitchell and the military use of aircraft as an examinto three analytically-distinct categories: rational, norm- ple of such a motivational base, but other examples such
as J. Edgar Hoover and Hyman Rickover come readily to
based, and affective.9 Rational motives involve actions
mind. Rickover, for example, was so dedicated to the
grounded in individual utility maximization. Norm-based
nuclearization of the U.S. Navy that, even in the face of
motives refer to actions generated by efforts to conform to
opposition to his amassing influence and power, he
norms. Affective motives refer to triggers of behavior that
remained at his post well beyond normal retirement age.
are grounded in emotional responses to various social contexts.
A related rational motive that for many individuals may
not be served outside of government is advocacy for a
The motivational characteristics of public service have
special interest. Individuals may be drawn to government
drawn the attention of scholars dating to the beginnings of or pursue particular courses of action within government
the field of public administration. The concern that
because of their belief that their choices will facilitate the
motives affect the quality and content of public outputs isinterests of special groups. One of the arguments freequally long. The most prominent stream of research on quently found in the literature on representative bureaucrapublic service motivation historically has focused on atti-cy is that a widely representative bureaucracy facilitates
tudes of citizens and various elites toward government inclusion of a range of policy perspectives in a society.16
employment. Most recognizable among these contribuSuch an argument assumes that one motive prevalent in
tions is Leonard White’s The Prestige Value of Public
pluralistic societies is an individual’s conscious or unconEmployment in Chicago and Kilpatrick, Cummings, and scious advocacy for special interests.
Jennings’, The Image of the Federal Service.10 Although
prestige is a factor that influences the attractiveness of
public sector jobs, it does not set apart the motivational Norm-Based
bases of public service from other sectors of employment.
Frederickson and Hart have argued that one of the priEarly incentive theorists identified prestige as an incentive mary reasons why American public administration has had
derived from the size and growth of an organization.
difficulty coping in recent years is its excessive and uncrit-
Despite obvious differences in extrinsic rewards, other ical reliance upon the values of business administration.17
research has looked comparatively at motivation levels of Careerism has displaced idealism as a guide for bureaupublic and private managers and generally has found few cratic behavior, although there are some notable excepdifferences in overall measures of motivation.12 However, tions to this trend.
this research has not identified what other motives public
One of the most commonly identified normative founemployment serves to compensate for its limited appeal to dations for public employment is a desire to serve the
traditional rational motives. Do specific motives exist that public interest.18 Downs argues that the desire to serve the
are associated with public service primarily or exclusively, public interest is essentially altruistic even when the pub-
and, if there are, what are they?
lic interest is conceived as an individual’s personal opinMAY/JUNE 1990
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MOTIVATIONAL
BASES
ion. Others may disagree with Down’s interpretation of
OF
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369
They define patriotism of benevolence as “an extensive
love of all people within our political boundaries and the
public interest but still agree that the norm is integral to
most conceptions of public service motivation.19 The role
imperative that they must be protected in all of the basic
of values such as nationalism and loyalty to country in
rights granted to them by the enabling documents.”26
shaping a career dedicated to public service is reflected in
They go on to suggest that the patriotism of benevolence
the life of Louis Brownlow. In recounting Brownlow’s
combines love of regime values and love of others.
career on the one-hundredth anniversary of his birth, Barry
Although Frederickson and Hart argue that the patriotism
Karl described a man fully dedicated to the profession of
of benevolence represents a particular moral position, it
serving the public and totally disinclined from making any also may be understood to describe an emotional state. In
personal gains from his work.20 In Private Lives of
fact, the type of moral “heroism” envisioned by
Public Servants, Kenneth Lasson describes a physician
Frederickson and Hart may be attainable only through an
who was similarly motivated. The physician, who joined
emotional response to humankind, which brings with it a
the Food and Drug Administration to protect the public
willingness to sacrifice for others.
from inadequately tested drugs, provided the following
Of course, people are a mix of motives, exhibiting
reflection about his motivations: “I realize, intellectually,
combinations of values over a lifetime and focusing on
that I have accomplished far more in my years at Food and
different motives at various points in their careers.
Drug than I could have in private practice. When I helped
Personal or environmental factors might account for
take ‘MER/29′ off the market I did more good than a lifechanges in individual motives, but clearly an individual
time of seeing individual patients.”21
A desire to serve the public interest is only one value
integral to the construct of public service motivation.
Bruce Buchanan, citing Frederick Mosher’s classic,
Democracy and the Public Service, argues that the public
service ethic involves a unique sense of loyalty to duty
and to the government as a whole.22 Buchanan speculates
that this norm derives from the state’s sovereign power
and the role of public employees as nonelected trustees of
portions of this power. Similarly, Heclo has argued that
the extent to which public policies are responsive to citi-
zens’ preferences is significantly affected by the public
bureaucracy.23
A related normative anchor for public administrators
flows from the concept of social equity.24 Social equity
involves activities intended to enhance the well-being of
minorities who lack political and economic resources.
Frederickson argues that the obligations of public administrators are threefold: to provide services efficiently and
economically while enhancing social equity. He suggests
that the inclusion of social equity among the values served
by public administrators helps to define the political
nature of public administration roles.
Affective
As noted above, some public employees may be motivated by a commitment to a public program because of
personal identification with a program. In many instances,
however, commitment to a program may emanate from a
genuine conviction about its social importance. The
sources of commitment to a program may be difficult to
distinguish in practice, but they are conceptually distinct.
can switch among public service motives as well as away
from these stimuli altogether. For example, Robert Caro’s
autobiography of Robert Moses traces his progression
from the norm-based motives of a civil service reformer to
the rational motives of a power broker. Describing the
failure of Moses’ attempts to reform the New York City
civil service and the lesson that power makes dreams
come true that he drew from it, Caro writes:
The net result of all his work was nothing.
There was no civil service standardization….
Convinced he was right, he had refused to soil
the white suit of idealism with compromise.
He had really believed that if his system was
right-scientific, logical, fair-and if it got a
hearing, the system would be adopted….But
Moses had failed in his calculations to give
certain factors due weight. He had not sufficiently taken into account greed. He had not
sufficiently taken into account self-interest.
And, most of all, he had not sufficiently taken
into account the need for power.27
To summarize, a variety of rational, norm-based, and
affective motives appear to be primarily or exclusively
associated with public service. This is not to say that all
public employees are driven by these needs. Public service motivation is seldom identified with individual utility
maximization, but motives such as participation in the pro-
cess of policy formulation, commitment to a public program because of personal identification with it, and advocacy for special or private interests are essentially rational
in nature. Public service motivation is most commonly
associated with particular normative orientations-a desire
Luther Gulick captured the distinction in referring to what
to serve the public interest, loyalty to duty and to the govhe termed “the nobility of the great objectives of the public service.” He believed that motives derived from service to society would be more lasting than those based on
the profit motive.25
ernment as a whole, and social equity. The affective
aspects of public service motivation have been relatively
neglected and may be the least important component of
the overall concept. However, motives such as patriotism
Frederickson and Hart suggest that the central motive
of benevolence seem to be grounded in an individual’s
for civil servants should be the patriotism of benevolence.emotional state.
MAY/JUNE 1990
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370
PUBLIC
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Behavioral Implications of
Public Service Motivation
Of what significance is the public service motivation
construct? Although theory has not been well developed,
the literature on public administration has contended that
what has historically been called the public service ethic
REVIEW
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Table 1
Public Service Motives
Rational
Participation in the process of policy formulation.
Commitment to a public program because of personal identification.
Advocacy for a special or private interest.
and what is defined more formally in the present study as
Norm-Based
public service motivation has significant behavioral impliA desire to serve the public
cations. The level and type of an individual’s public serLoyalty to duty and to the
Social equity.
vice motivation and the motivational composition of a
public organization’s workforce have been posited to
influence individual job choice, job performance, and
organizational effectiveness. Some of the potential
behavioral implications of public service motivation can
50th
interest.
government as a whole.
Affective
Commitment to a program from a genuine conviction about its
social importance.
Patriotism of benevolence.
be summarized in propositional form.
1. The greater an individual’s public service motivation, the more likely the individual will seek
membership in a public organization.
The general attraction-selection framework implied by
tinuum.32 The spectrum is associated with public affairs
or civic involvement at one end and private interests at the
other. Hirschman argues that shifts along the continuum
are products of factors that both pull masses of people into
public or private affairs, such as exceptional economic
conditions, and, when preferences change, push individusubstantial empirical support.28 It presumes that organizaals away from such activities.
tions with certain properties attract and/or select employThe theory is applicable to decisions by individuals
ees with particular personal attributes. These personal
about whether to join and remain with public organizaattributes, in turn, influence how employees react to the
tions. Hirschman argues that shifting involvements repreorganization. Thus, the proposition suggests that the
greater the strengths of rational, norm-based, and affectivesent preference changes resulting from disappointments
experienced in pursuing either public or private interests.
public service motives are to an individual, the more likely
this proposition has broad acceptance and has received
It follows that if individuals are drawn to public organizations because of expectations they have about the rewards
ments in which to satisfy these needs.
of public service but those expectations go unfulfilled,
Although evidence indicates that public organizations
they are likely either to revise their preferences and objecattract different types of individuals than do private orga-tives or to seek membership in organizations compatible
nizations, only limited research attention has been given towith their interests. Thus, public service motivation
issues surrounding the individual-organization match.29
should be understood as a dynamic attribute that changes
Available empirical research on the attraction-selection
over time and, therefore, may change an individual’s willframework involving public organizations provides modingness to join and to stay with a public organization.
erate support for a public service motivation-membership
Collectively perceived frustrations associated with pubrelationship. A comparative study of sectoral choice by
lic life or, conversely, with the perceived moral bankruptBlank found that although clear correlations exist between
cy of private pursuits can produce a similar phenomenon
wages and sectoral choice, sectoral choice involves more
on a larger scale. Dramatic shifts in the attractiveness of
than wage comparisons.30 Among Blank’s conclusions
government service since the early 1960s could be
was that highly educated and more experienced workers
attributed to the types of collective behavior posited by
are far more likely to choose the public sector, offsetting
Hirschman’s model.33 More generally, the literature on
lower wages with rewards arising from the characteristics
“the image of public service”34 often identifies the push
of their jobs.
and pull factors contributing to mass shifts in preferences
for or frustrations with government service that influence
In two studies comparing graduate students about to
recruitment and retention of members.
enter or reenter the profit and nonprofit sectors of the
the individual is to seek public organizations as environ-
economy, Rawls and his associates found that nonprofit
entrants valued helpfulness (working for the welfare of
others), cheerfulness, and forgiveness (willing to pardon
others) more highly than students bound for the private
sector. Nonprofit entrants placed less value on a comfortable life and economic wealth.31 These empirical findings
are strongly supportive of the relationship in proposition
one.
In their classic book, Organizations, March and Simon
posit that organizations depend on individuals to make two
broad sets of decisions on behalf of the organization: to
participate and to perform. Proposition one posited a
direct relationship between membership or the decision to
participate and public service motivation. Although the
evidence is less compelling, proposition two suggests a
similar relationship between public service motivation and
Further theoretical support for the proposition is pro- the decision to perform.
vided by Albert Hirschman. In Shifting Involvements,
2. In public organizations, public service motivaHirschman described a cycle of collective behavior that
tion is positively related to individual perforshifts over time between two ends of a public-private conmance.
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MOTIVATIONAL
BASES
OF
PUBLIC
SERVICE
371
Systematic
empirical
evidence
ab
vidual utilitarian benefits
may be the most effective incenbetween
public tives.
service
In those instances in motivation
which organizational leadernot
exist,
but
other
ship incorrectly research
matches incentives to motives,regar
the organivational
factors zation
on
individual
perf
is unlikely
to reach its maximum potential
upon
to
supportperformance.
this
proposition.
job
characteristics
and
work
perf
The great risk in the current trend of treating the public
on
the
research
of
Turner
and
Law
service like private enterprise is that it fails to acknowlined
by
a
number
of
different
re
edge unique motives underlying public sector employment
tion
is
that
individuals
will
be
mo
and the critical linkage between the way a bureaucracy
when
they
find
their
work
meani
operates in an administrative state and the advancement of
they
have
responsibility
for
the
o
social and democratic values. Current crises of ethics and
tasks. Among the job characteristics that contribute to
accountability among politically-appointed senior manperformance motivation are autonomy, task identity, and
agers in government may be an outgrowth of the idea that
perceived task significance. It can be argued that these are
management in the public sector is not unique.37 At the
the attributes that individuals with public service motives
same time, declines in the advancement of social goals
derive from public sector employment. For individuals
may be linked to the emphasis on business management
with high levels of public service motivation, significant
techniques in government. As others have demonstrated,
tasks include those that provide opportunities to address
these trends are not unique to the American scene.38
questions of social equity, to express loyalty to country, to
advocate a valued special interest, or to pursue social proRainey’s comparative research on incentives provides
grams.
empirical support for proposition III. Rainey compared
Public service motivation is likely to be positively
related to an individual’s organizational commitment.
Individuals who are highly committed are likely to be
highly motivated to remain with their organizations and to
perform. In addition, because committed employees are
likely to engage in spontaneous, innovative behaviors on
behalf of the organization, such employees are likely to
facilitate an organization’s adjustment to contingencies. In
some instances, public service motivation, by inducing
high levels of commitment, may produce negative outcomes. Individuals motivated by public service may carry
their commitment beyond reasonable boundaries.
Extreme commitment could lead to fanatical behavior,
suspension of individual judgment, and the like, i.e., the
syndrome that Schein termed “failures of socialization.”36
3. Public organizations that attract members with
high levels of public service motivation are likely
to be less dependent on utilitarian incentives to
manage individual performance effectively.
The question of what sort of motives serve as the prin-
the responses of middle managers in public agencies and
private profit-making corporations on a series of scales
measuring incentive structures, organizational goal clarity,
and individual role characteristics.39 He found that public
managers perceived a weaker relationship between performance and extrinsic rewards. It would have been reasonable to expect differences on scales measuring organizational goal clarity and motivation, but Rainey found no
differences. He speculated that different incentives in
public organizations act as alternatives to the constrained
extrinsic incentive structure and positively influence motivation and effort. In support of this interpretation, he
found a comparatively stronger relationship between
expected timeliness, quantity and quality of work, and
sense of meaningful public service for public sector man-
agers. In a study of public and private managers in
Atlanta, Georgia, Baldwin replicated Rainey’s results,
finding no differences in levels of expressed motivation.40
Research Implications
cipal motivational bases in public organizations is inteThis study suggests several areas where future research
grally related to the way incentive systems are structured. might be focused. An obvious priority is that more
As a general rule, the incentives that organizations provide research needs to be conducted to explore and test the
are likely to be most effective if they are contingent on the
propositions above and to refine understanding of the
motives of individual members. Thus, organizations
behavioral implications of public service motivation.
whose members are motivated primarily by rational choice
Within this context, an understanding of the way values
are likely to find utilitarian incentives most effective. and incentive structures shift over time is a critical ingre-
Organizations whose members are motivated by normdient for developing an understanding of cyclical swings
based and affective considerations must rely more heavilyin the popularity of public sector employment.
on normative and affectual incentives.
A second research need is the development of measureUtilitarian incentives, if maintained at a satisfactory ment methods that facilitate better understanding of how
level, are not likely to be critical determinants of outputspublic service motivation contributes to organizational
where individuals identify with the tasks or mission of the
commitment and performance. A necessary component of
organization. Thus, public organizations that attract
employees with high levels of public service motivation
will not have to construct incentive systems that are pre-
dominantly utilitarian to energize and direct member
behavior. Where public service motivation is absent, mndi-
efforts to advance understanding of the different aspects of
public service motivation is a system for defining and
measuring public service motives. The available literature
does not provide operational indicators of these motives
that can be used in research. Development of a psychome-
MAY0UNE 1990
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372
PUBLIC
ADMINISTRATION
REVIEW
U
50th
YEAR
tric instrument capable
measuring
an
the job interview of
process. The
chance to participate in an
service motivational
structures
along
w
important
project, to create a prototype, was
a key incenoperationalizes the linkages between individual values,
tive for young engineers, but they were also attracted by
organizational environment and task structure, and out- the description of autonomy in job structure and the idea
come (such as commitment, performance, and job satisfac- that only the best engineers would be offered jobs.44
tion) is a critical next step.
A third research priority has a greater applied emphaConclusion
sis: how can public service motives be instilled in potential recruits for government service? The problem of
This review suggests that while a crisis in government
transferring to young people the motives of public serviceservice is widely recognized, understanding the motives of
has been addressed by statespersons and researchers.
public servants and the way to stimulate public service
Certainly, the image of the public service is a critical
motivation are, at best, at a preliminary stage. The popuingredient.41 The public bureaucracy cannot serve as the lar notion that management in government is not different
‘whipping boy’ for politicians and the public and still
from private business or industry runs counter to the
attract large numbers of excellent young people into its development and advancement of a theory of public serranks. Some would argue that highly competitive rates of vice motivation. The field lacks a clear definition of the
pay are a critical element for a prestigious public sector,42different motives that people experience as well as a theoretical context for linking these motives to motivational
but high rates of pay may not attract individuals with high
levels of public service motivation.
strategies and incentive structures. Further, a more sophisticated understanding of the effects of cyclical factors on
National initiatives may serve as a catalyst for activatthe value of public service employment is fundamental to
ing public service motivation. A charismatic leader or
the development of a working model. Finally, the relacollective action can effectively transmit a call for public
tionship between individual value structures and the conservice. Current discussion in the U.S. Congress has
duct of government remains a critical concern for adminisfocused on legislation that would provide public service
trative states where democracy is largely implemented by
opportunities for young people. These programs are
the bureaucracy.
intended to develop normative and affective bases of pub* * *
lic service motivation. One idea is to provide a public service experience as a component of high school education.
James L. Perry is Professor in t
Another approach is to make financial aid for college con-and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University,
tingent on public service.
Socialization or inculcation of motives, as Chester I.
Barnard labeled it, can also be achieved through managerial techniques both in the pre-entry and entry stages of
organizational membership.43 The identification of common motives and the development of nationalistic motives
are the techniques upon which military recruitment and
training are based. Similarly, recent college graduates
were recruited into a leading edge computer development
company by a combination of incentives presented during
Bloomington. His research interests include public management and public personnel. He is editor of the
Handbook of Public Administration (Jossey-Bass, 1989).
Lois Recascino Wise is Assistant Professor in the
School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana
University, Bloomington. Her research focuses on issues
relating to the public workforce, employment policy, and
research utilization. She is author of Labor Market
Policy and Employment Patterns in the United States
(Westview, 1989).
Notes
1. Seymour Martin Lipset and William Schneiders, The Confidence
Gap (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987).
2. Charles H. Levine with the assistance of Rosslyn S. Kleeman, “The
Quiet Crisis of the Civil Service: The Federal Personnel System at
the Crossroads,” Occasional Paper No. 7 (Washington: National
Academy of Public Administration, December 1986).
3. Report of the National Commission on the Public Service
(Washington: National Commission on the Public Service, March
1989).
“Reforming the Upper Levels of the Bureaucracy: A Longitudinal
Study of the Senior Executive Service,” Administration and
Society, vol. 15 (May 1983), pp. 119-144; James L. Perry, “Merit
Pay in the Public Sector: The Case for a Failure of Theory,”
Review of Public Personnel Administration, vol. 7 (Fall 1986), pp.
57-69; James L. Perry, Beth Ann Petrakis, and Theodore K. Miller,
“Federal Merit Pay, Round II: An Analysis of the Performance
Management Recognition System,” Public Administration Review,
vol. 49 (January/February 1989), pp. 29-37.
4. George Schultz, “Public Service in America,” (Washington: United
7. Staats, “Public Service and the Public Interest,” p. 601.
States Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of8. For an earlier call for research on public service motivation, see Hal
Public Communication, January 1989); and Elmer B. Staats,
“Public Service and the Public Interest,” Public Administration
Review, vol. 48 (March/April 1988), pp. 601-605.
G. Rainey, “Reward Preferences Among Public and Private
Managers: In Search of the Service Ethic,” American Review of
Public Administration, vol. 16 (Winter 1982), pp. 288-302.
5. One of the first and most prominent statements of the public choice9. David Knoke and Christine Wright-Isak, “Individual Motives and
perspective is William A. Niskanen, Jr., Bureaucracy and
Representative Government (Chicago: Aldine-Atherton, 1971).
Organizational Incentive Systems,” Research in the Sociology of
Organizations, vol. 1 (1982), pp. 209-254.
6. See, among others, Peter Smith Ring and James L. Perry,
10. Leonard D. White, The Prestige Value of Public Employment
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MOTIVATIONAL
BASES
OF
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1929); Franklin P.
PUBLIC
SERVICE
373
28. Greg R. Oldham and J. Richard Hackman, “Relationships Between
Kilpatrick, Milton C. Cummings, Jr., and M. Kent Jennings, The Organizational Structure and Employee Reactions: Comparing
Image of the Federal Service (Washington: The Brookings
Institution, 1964).
Alternative Frameworks,” Administrative Science Quarterly, vol.
26 (March 1981), pp. 66-83.
11. Herbert A. Simon, Administrative Behavior, 2d ed. (New York:
Free Press, 1957), p. 116.
29. See James L. Perry and Lyman W. Porter, “Factors Affecting the
Context for Motivation in Public Organizations,” Academy of
12. See, for example, Hal G. Rainey, “Public Agencies and Private
Firms: Incentive Structures, Goals, and Individual Roles,”
Management Review, vol. 7 (January 1982), pp. 89-98.
30. Rebecca M. Blank, “An Analysis of Workers’ Choice Between
Administration and Society, vol. 15 (August 1983), pp. 207-242,
Employment in the Public and Private Sectors,” Industrial and
and J. Norman Baldwin, “Are We Really Lazy,” Review of Public
Labor Relations Review, vol. 38, (January 1985), pp. 211-224.
Personnel Administration, vol. 4 (Spring 1984), pp. 80-89.
13. Steven Kelman, “‘Public Choice’ and Public Spirit”, The Public
Interest, no. 87 (Spring 1987), pp. 80-94.
14. John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press,
1971).
15. Anthony Downs, Inside Bureaucracy (Boston: Little Brown,
1967).
16. Kenneth John Meier, “Representative Bureaucracy: An Empirical
Analysis,” The American Political Science Review, vol. 70 (June
1975), pp. 526-542.
17. H. George Frederickson and David K. Hart, “The Public Service
31. James R. Rawls, Robert A. Ullrich, and Oscar Tivis Nelson, Jr., “A
Comparison of Managers Entering or Reentering the Profit and
Nonprofit Sectors,” Academy of Management Journal, vol. 18
(September 1975), pp. 616-623.
32. Albert 0. Hirschman, Shifting Involvements: Private Interest and
Public Action (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982).
33. Idem.
34. See, for example, Marc Holzer and Jack Rabin, “Public Service:
Problems, Professionalism, and Policy Recommendations,” Public
Productivity Review, no. 43 (Fall 1987), pp. 3-12.
35. Arthur N. Turner and Paul R. Lawrence, Industrial Jobs and the
and the Patriotism of Benevolence,” Public Administration Review,
Worker (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Graduate School of Business
vol. 45 (September/October 1985), pp. 547-553.
18. See, for example, Anthony Downs, Inside Bureaucracy.
Administration, 1965); Clifford Hurston, “Job Reconstruction in
19. Gary L. Wamsley, Charles T. Goodsell, John A. Rohr, Camilla M.
Progress,” Management World, vol. 17 (March/April 1988), p. 19;
Stivers, Orion F. White, and James F. Wolf, “The Public
Y Fried and G. R. Ferris, “The Validity of the Job Characteristics
Administration and the Governance Process: Refocusing the
Model: A Review and Meta-analysis,” Personnel Psychology, vol.
American Dialogue,” in Ralph Clark Chandler, ed., A Centennial
40, (Summer 1987), pp. 287-322.
History of an American Administrative State (New York: The Free
Press, 1987), pp. 291-317.
36. Edgar H. Schein, “Organizational Socialization and the Profession
of Management,” Industrial Management Review, vol. 9 (Winter
20. Barry D. Karl, “Louis Brownlow,” Public Administration Review,
vol. 39 (November/December 1979), pp. 511-516.
21. Kenneth Lasson, Private Lives of Public Servants (Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 1978), pp. 81-133.
22. Bruce Buchanan II, “Red Tape and the Service Ethic: Some
Unexpected Differences Between Public and Private Managers,”
Administration and Society, vol. 4 (February 1975), pp. 423-444,
and Frederick C. Mosher, Democracy and the Public Service (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1968).
23. Hugh Heclo, A Government of Strangers: Executive Politics in
Washington (Washington: Brookings Institution, 1977).
24. H. George Frederickson, “Toward a New Public Administration,”
Toward a New Public Administration: The Minnowbrook
Perspective (Scranton, PA: Chandler Publishing, 1971), pp. 309331.
25. Stephen K. Blumberg, “Seven Decades of Public Administration:
A Tribute to Luther Gulick,” Public Administration Review, vol. 41
(March/April 1981), pp. 245-248.
26. Frederickson and Hart, “The Public Service and the Patriotism of
1968), pp. 1-15.
37. See Candace Hetzner, “Lessons for America One Hundred Years
After Pendleton,” Public Productivity Review, no. 43 (Fall 1987),
pp. 15-30, and Frederickson and Hart, “The Public Service and the
Patriotism of Benevolence.”
38. Patricia W. Ingraham and B. Guy Peters, “The Conundrum of
Reform: A Comparative Analysis,” Review of Public Personnel
Administration, vol. 8 (Summer 1988), pp. 3-16.
39. Hal G. Rainey, “Public Agencies and Private Firms: Incentive
Structures, Goals, and Individual Roles,” supra.
40. J. Norman Baldwin, “Are We Really Lazy,” supra.
41. Marc Holzer and Jack Rabin, “Public Service: Problems,
Professionalism and Policy Recommendations,” Public
Productivity Review, no. 43 (Fall 1987), pp. 3-13.
42. Twentieth Century Fund, The Government’s Managers: Report of
the Twentieth Century Fund Task Force on the Senior Executive
Service (New York: Priority Press, 1987).
43. Chester I. Barnard, The Functions of the Executive (Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press, 1938), pp. 150-152.
Benevolence,” supra.
27. Robert A. Caro, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of
New York (New York: Knopf, 1974), p. 85.
44. Tracy Kidder, The Soul of a New Machine (New York: Avon
Books, 1981).
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ORGANIZATIONAL
BEHAVIOR
AND
HUMAN
DECISION
PROCESSES
50,
179-211 (1991)
The Theory of Planned Behavior
ICEK AJZEN
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Research dealing with various aspects of the theory of planned behavior
(Ajzen, 1985, 1987)is reviewed, and some unresolved issues are discussed. In
broad terms, the theory is found to be well supported by empirical evidence.
Intentions to perform behaviors of different kinds can be predicted with high
accuracy from attitudes toward the behavior, subjective norms, and perceived
behavioral control; and these intentions, together with perceptions of behavioral control, account for considerable variance in actual behavior. Attitudes,
subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control are shown to be related to
appropriate sets of salient behavioral, normative, and control beliefs about the
behavior, but the exact nature of these relations is still uncertain. Expectancyvalue formulations are found to be only partly successful in dealing with these
relations. Optimal rescahng of expectancy and value measures is offered as a
means of dealing with measurement limitations. Finally, inclusion of past behavior in the prediction equation is shown to provide a means of testing the
theory’s sufficiency, another issue that remains unresolved. The limited available evidence concerning this question shows that the theory is predicting
behavior quite well in comparison to the ceiling imposed by behavioral reliability. 0 1991 Academic Press, Inc.
As every student of psychology knows, explaining human behavior in
all its complexity is a difficult task. It can be approached at many levels,
from concern with physiological processes at one extreme to concentration on social institutions at the other. Social and personality psychologists have tended to focus on an intermediate level, the fully functioning
individual whose processing of available information mediates the effects
of biological and environmental factors on behavior. Concepts referring
to behavioral dispositions, such as social attitude and personality trait,
have played an important role in these attempts to predict and explain
human behavior (see Ajzen, 1988; Campbell, 1963; Sherman & Fazio,
1983). Various theoretical frameworks have been proposed to deal with
the psychological processes involved. This special edition of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes concentrates on cogniI am very grateful to Nancy DeCourville, Richard Netemeyer, Michelle van Ryn, and
Amiram Vinokur for providing unpublished data sets for reanalysis, and to Edwin Locke for
his comments on an earlier draft of this article. Address correspondence and reprint requests
to Icek Ajzen, Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
01003-0034.
179
0749-5978/91$3.00
Copyright
0 1991 by Academic Press, Inc.
All rights of reproduction
in any form reserved.
180
ICEK AJZEN
tive self-regulation as an important aspect of human behavior. In the
pages below I deal with cognitive self-regulation in the context of a dispositional approach to the prediction of behavior. A brief examination of
past efforts at using measures of behavioral dispositions to predict behavior is followed by presentation of a theoretical model-the theory of
planned behavior-in which cognitive self-regulation plays an important
part. Recent research findings concerning various aspects of the theory
are discussed, with particular emphasis on unresolved issues.
DISPOSITIONAL PREDICTION OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR
Much has been made of the fact that general dispositions tend to be
poor predictors of behavior in specific situations. General attitudes have
been assessed with respect to organizations and institutions (the church,
public housing, student government, one’s job or employer), minority
groups (Blacks, Jews, Catholics), and particular individuals with whom a
person might interact (a Black person, a fellow student). (See Ajzen &
Fishbein, 1977, for a literature review.) The failure of such general attitudes to predict specific behaviors directed at the target of the attitude has
produced calls for abandoning the attitude concept (Wicker, 1969).
In a similar fashion, the low empirical relations between general personality traits and behavior in specific situations has led theorists to claim
that the trait concept, defined as a broad behavior disposition, is untenable (Mischel, 1968). Of particular interest for present purposes are attempts to relate generalized locus of control (Rotter, 1954, 1966) to behaviors in specific contexts. As with other personality traits, the results
have been disappointing. For example, perceived locus of control, as
assessed by Rotter’s scale, often fails to predict achievement-related behavior (see Warehime, 1972) or political involvement (see Levenson,
1981) in a systematic fashion; and somewhat more specialized measures,
such as health-locus of control and achievement-related locus of control,
have not fared much better (see Lefcourt, 1982; Wallston & Wallston,
1981).
One proposed remedy for the poor predictive validity of attitudes and
traits is the aggregation of specific behaviors across occasions, situations, and forms of action (Epstein, 1983; Fishbein & Ajzen, 1974). The
idea behind the principle of aggregation is the assumption that any single
sample of behavior reflects not only the influence of a relevant general
disposition, but also the influence of various other factors unique to the
particular occasion, situation, and action being observed. By aggregating
different behaviors, observed on different occasions and in different situations, these other sources of influence tend to cancel each other, with
the result that the aggregate represents a more valid measure of the underlying behavioral disposition than any single behavior. Many studies
THEORY
OF PLANNED
BEHAVIOR
181
performed in recent years have demonstrated the workings of the aggregation principle by showing that general attitudes and personality traits do
in fact predict behavioral aggregates much better than they predict specific behaviors. (See Ajzen, 1988, for a discussion of the aggregation
principle and for a review of empirical research.)
ACCOUNTING FOR ACTIONS IN SPECIFIC CONTEXTS:
THE THEORY OF PLANNED BEHAVIOR
The principle of aggregation, however, does not explain behavioral
variability across situations, nor does it permit prediction of a specific
behavior in a given situation. It was meant to demonstrate that general
attitudes and personality traits are implicated in human behavior, but that
their influence can be discerned only by looking at broad, aggregated,
valid samples of behavior. Their influence on specific actions in specific
situations is greatly attenuated by the presence of other, more immediate
factors. Indeed, it may be argued that broad attitudes and personality
traits have an impact on specific behaviors only indirectly by influencing
some of the factors that are more closely linked to the behavior in question (see Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980, Chap. 7). The present article deals with
the nature of these behavior-specific factors in the framework of the
theory of planned behavior, a theory designed to predict and explain
human behavior in specific contexts. Because the theory of planned behavior is described elsewhere (Ajzen, 1988), only brief summaries of its
various aspects are presented here. Relevant empirical findings are considered as each aspect of the theory is discussed.
Predicting Behavior: Intentions and Perceived Behavioral Control
The theory of planned behavior is an extension of the theory of reasoned action (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975) made
necessary by the original model’s limitations in dealing with behaviors
over which people have incomplete volitional control. Figure 1 depicts
the theory in the form of a structural diagram. For ease of presentation,
possible feedback effects of behavior on the antecedent variables are not
shown.
As in the original theory of reasoned action, a central factor in the
theory of planned behavior is the individual’s intention to perform a given
behavior. Intentions are assumed to capture the motivational factors that
influence 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. As a general rule, the stronger the intention to
engage in a behavior, the more likely should be its performance. It should
be clear, however, that a behavioral intention can lind expression in
behavior only if the behavior in question is under volitional control, i.e.,
182
ICEK AIZEN
FIG. 1. Theory of planned behavior.
if the person can decide at will to perform or not perform the behavior.
Although some behaviors may in fact meet this requirement quite well,
the performance of most depends at least to some degree on such nonmotivational factors as availability of requisite opportunities and resources (e.g., time, money, skills, cooperation of others; see Ajzen, 1985,
for a discussion). Collectively, these factors represent people’s actual
control over the behavior. To the extent that a person has the required
opportunities and resources, and intends to perform the behavior, he or
she should succeed in doing so.’
The idea that behavioral achievement depends jointly on motivation
(intention) and ability (behavioral control) is by no means new. It constitutes the basis for theorizing on such diverse issues as animal learning
(Hull, 1943), level of aspiration (Lewin, Dembo, Festinger, & Sears,
r The original derivation of the theory of planned behavior (Ajzen, 1985)defined intention
(and its other theoretical constructs) in terms of trying to perform a given behavior rather
than in relation to actual performance. However, early work with the model showed strong
correlations between measures of the model’s variables that asked about trying to perform
a given behavior and measures that dealt with actual performance of the behavior (Schifter
& Ajzen, 1985; Ajzen & Madden, 1986). Since the latter measures are less cumbersome,
they have been used in subsequent research, and the variables are now defined more simply
in relation to behavioral performance. See, however, Bagozzi and Warshaw (1990, in press)
for work on the concept of trying to attain a behavioral goal.
THEORY
OF PLANNED
BEHAVIOR
183
1944), performance on psychomotor and cognitive tasks (e.g., Fleishman,
1958; Locke, 1965; Vroom, 1964), and person perception and attribution
(e.g., Heider, 1944; Anderson, 1974). It has similarly been suggested that
some conception of behavioral control be included in our more general
models of human behavior, conceptions in the form of “facilitating
factors” (Triandis, 1977), “the context of opportunity” (Sarver, 1983),
“resources” (Liska, 1984), or “action control” (Kuhl, 1985). The assumption is usually made that motivation and ability interact in their
effects on behavioral achievement. Thus, intentions would be expected to
influence performance to the extent that the person has behavioral control, and performance should increase with behavioral control to the extent that the person is motivated to try. Interestingly, despite its intuitive
plausibility, the interaction hypothesis has received only limited empirical
support (see Locke, Mento, & Katcher, 1978). We will return to this issue
below.
Perceived behavioral control. The importance of actual behavioral control is self evident: The resources and opportunities available to a person
must to some extent dictate the likelihood of behavioral achievement. Of
greater psychological interest than actual control, however, is the perception of behavioral control and is impact on intentions and actions.
Perceived behavioral control plays an important part in the theory of
planned behavior. In fact, the theory of planned behavior differs from the
theory of reasoned action in its addition of perceived behavioral control.
Before considering the place of perceived behavioral control in the
prediction of intentions and actions, it is instructive to compare this construct to other conceptions of control. Importantly, perceived behavioral
control differs greatly from Rotter’s (1966) concept of perceived locus of
control. Consistent with an emphasis on factors that are directly linked to
a particular behavior, perceived behavioral control refers to people’s perception of the ease or difficulty of performing the behavior of interest.
Whereas locus of control is a generalized expectancy that remains stable
across situations and forms of action, perceived behavioral control can,
and usually does, vary across situations and actions. Thus, a person may
believe that, in general, her outcomes are determined by her own behavior (internal locus of control), yet at the same time she may also believe
that her chances of becoming a commercial airplane pilot are very slim
(low perceived behavioral control).
Another approach to perceived control can be found in Atkinson’s
(1964) theory of achievement motivation. An important factor in this theory is the expectancy of success, defined as the perceived probability of
succeeding at a given task. Clearly, this view is quite similar to perceived
behavioral control in that it refers to a specific behavioral context and not
to a generalized predisposition. Somewhat paradoxically, the motive to
184
ICEK AlZEN
achieve success is defined not as a motive to succeed at a given task but
in terms of a general disposition “which the individual carries about him
from one situation to another” (Atkinson, 1964, p. 242). This general
achievement motivation was assumed to combine multiplicatively with
the situational expectancy of success as well as with another situationspecific factor, the “incentive value” of success.
The present view of perceived behavioral control, however, is most
compatible with Bandura’s (1977, 1982)concept of perceived self-efficacy
which “is concerned with judgments of how well one can execute courses
of action required to deal with prospective situations” (Bandura, 1982, p.
122). Much of our knowledge about the role of perceived behavioral control comes from the systematic research program of Bandura and his
associates (e.g., Bandura, Adams, & Beyer, 1977; Bandura, Adams,
Hardy, & Howells, 1980). These investigations have shown that people’s
behavior is strongly influenced by their confidence in their ability to perform it (i.e., by perceived behavioral control). Self-efficacy beliefs can
influence choice of activities, preparation for an activity, effort expended
during performance, as well as thought patterns and emotional reactions
(see Bandura, 1982, 1991). The theory of planned behavior places the
construct of self-efficacy belief or perceived behavioral control within a
more general framework of the relations among beliefs, attitudes, intentions, and behavior.
According to the theory of planned behavior, perceived behavioral control, together with behavioral intention, can be used directly to predict
behavioral achievement. At least two rationales can be offered for this
hypothesis. First, holding intention constant, the effort expended to bring
a course of behavior to a successful conclusion is likely to increase with
perceived behavioral control. For instance, even if two individuals have
equally strong intentions to learn to ski, and both try to do so, the person
who is confident that he can master this activity is more likely to persevere than is the person who doubts his ability.2 The second reason for
expecting a direct link between perceived behavioral control and behavioral achievement is that perceived behavioral control can often be used
as a substitute for a measure of actual control. Whether a measure of
perceived behavioral control can substitute for a measure of actual control depends, of course, on the accuracy of the perceptions. Perceived
behavioral control may not be particularly realistic when a person has
* It may appear that the individual with high perceived behavioral control should also
have a stronger intention to learn skiing than the individual with low perceived control.
However, as we shall see below, intentions are influenced by additional factors, and it is
because of these other factors that two individuals with different perceptions of behavioral
control can have equally strong intentions.
THEORY
OF PLANNED
BEHAVIOR
185
relatively little information about the behavior, when requirements or
available resources have changed, or when new and unfamiliar elements
have entered into the situation. Under those conditions, a measure of
perceived behavioral control may add little to accuracy of behavioral
prediction. However, to the extent that perceived control is realistic, it
can be used to predict the probability of a successful behavioral attempt
(Ajzen, 1985).
Predicting Behavior: Empirical Findings
According to the theory of planned behavior, performance of a behavior is a joint function of intentions and perceived behavioral control. For
accurate prediction, several conditions have to be met. First, the measures of intention and of perceived behavioral control must correspond to
(Ajzen & Fishbein, 1977) or be compatible with (Ajzen, 1988) the behavior that is to be predicted. That is, intentions and perceptions of control
must be assessed in relation to the particular behavior of interest, and the
specified context must be the same as that in which the behavior is to
occur. For example, if the behavior to be predicted is “donating money to
the Red Cross,” then we must assess intentions “to donate money to the
Red Cross” (not intentions “to donate money” in general nor intentions
“to help the Red Cross”), as well as perceived control over “donating
money to the Red Cross.” The second condition for accurate behavioral
prediction is that intentions and perceived behavioral control must remain
stable in the interval between their assessment and observation of the
behavior. Intervening events may produce changes in intentions or in
perceptions of behavioral control, with the effect that the original measures of these variables no longer permit accurate prediction of behavior.
The third requirement for predictive validity has to do with the accuracy
of perceived behavioral control. As noted earlier, prediction of behavior
from perceived behavioral control should improve to the extent that perceptions of behavioral control realistically reflect actual control.
The relative importance of intentions and perceived behavioral control
in the prediction of behavior is expected to vary across situations and
across different behaviors. When the behavior/situation affords a person
complete control over behavioral performance, intentions alone should be
sufficient to predict behavior, as specified in the theory of reasoned action. The addition of perceived behavioral control should become increasingly useful as volitional control over the behavior declines. Both, intentions and perceptions of behavioral control, can make significant contributions to the prediction of behavior, but in any given application, one
may be more important than the other and, in fact, only one of the two
predictors may be needed.
Intentions and behavior. Evidence concerning the relation between
186
ICEK AJZEN
intentions and actions has been collected with respect to many different
types of behaviors, with much of the work done in the framework of the
theory of reasoned action. Reviews of this research can be found in a
variety of sources (e.g., Ajzen, 1988; Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; Canary &
Seibold, 1984; Sheppard, Hartwick, dz Warshaw, 1988). The behaviors
involved have ranged from very 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. As a general rule it is found that when behaviors pose no
serious problems of control, they can be predicted from intentions with
considerable accuracy (see Ajzen, 1988; Sheppard, Hartwick, & Warshaw, 1988). Good examples can be found in behaviors that involve a
choice among available alternatives. For example, people’s voting intentions, assessed a short time prior to a presidential election, tend to correlate with actual voting choice in the range of .75 to .80 (see Fishbein &
Ajzen, 1981). A different decision is at issue in a mother’s choice of
feeding method (breast versus bottle) for her newborn baby. This choice
was found to have a correlation of .82 with intentions expressed several
weeks prior to delivery (Manstead, Proffitt, & Smart, 1983).3
Perceived behavioral control and behavior. In this article, however, we
focus on situations in which it may be necessary to go beyond totally
controllable aspects of human behavior. We thus turn to research conducted in the framework of the theory of planned behavior, research that
has tried to predict behavior by combining intentions and perceived behavioral control. Table 1 summarizes the results of several recent studies
that have dealt with a great variety of activities, from playing video games
and losing weight to cheating, shoplifting, and lying.
Looking at the first four columns of data, it can be seen that both
predictors, intentions and perceived behavioral control, correlate quite
well with behavioral performance. The regression coefficients show that
in the first five studies, each of the two antecedent variables made a
signiticant contribution to the prediction of behavior. In most of the remaining studies, intentions proved the more important of the two predictors; only in the case of weight loss (Netemeyer, Burton, & Johnston,
1990; Schifter & Ajzen, 1985) did perceived behavioral control overshadow the contribution of intention.
The overall predictive validity of the theory of planned behavior is
shown by the multiple correlations in the last column of Table 1. It can be
seen that the combination of intentions and perceived behavioral control
3 Intention-behavior correlations are, of course, not always as high as this. Lower correlations can be the result of unreliable or invalid measures (see Sheppard, Hartwick, &
Warshaw, 1988) or, as we shall see below, due to problems of volitional control.
THEORY
OF PLANNED
187
BEHAVIOR
TABLE 1
PREDICTION OF BEHAVIOR (B) FROM INTENTION (0 AND PERCEIVED
BEHAVIORAL CONTROL (PBC)
Correlations
Study
Activity
Job search, IO-activity index
l-month behavior post-test”
Playing six video games
Doll & Ajzen (1990)
Mean within-subjects
Problem drinking-frequency
Schlegel ef al. (1990)
-quantity
Ajzen & Driver (in press, a) Five leisure activities
Mean within-subjects
Performance on cognitive task”
Locke et al. (1984)b
Watters (1989)
Election participation
Voting choice
Election participation”
Netemeyer, Burton,
Losing weight”
& Johnston (1990)
Schifter & Ajzen (1985)
Losing weight
10 common activities
Madden, Ellen, & Ajzen
Mean within-subjects
(in press)
Ajzen & Madden (1986)
Attending class
Getting an ‘A’ in a course
Beginning of semester
End of semester
Beck & Ajzen (in press)
Cheating, shoplifting, lying-mean
Giving a gift-mean
Netemeyer, Andrews,
over five items
& Durvasula (1990)
van Ryn & Vinokur (1990)

I
Regression
coeflicients
PBC
I
.41
.20
.38
.13
.42
.49
.47
.41
.48
A8
.60
.14
.28
.29
.I2
.32
.43
.51
.53
54
.75
Sl
.45
x4
.41
.18
.25
.I3
.61
.31
.I6
.I5
.22
.41
.46
.34
.39
.80
.52
.08*
.09*
.37
.42
.I9
.05*
.18*
.18
.39
.78
.66
.49
34
.43
.23
.44
.38
.36
.28
.28
.34
.30
.I7
.llf
.42
.37
.26
.39
.52
.11*
.38
.44
.26
.27
.46
.Ol*
.26
.08*
.26
.45
.53
.52
.24
.52
,021 .53

PBC
R
* Not significant; all other coefficients significant at p < .05. a Not a direct test of the theory of planned behavior. b Secondary analysis. permitted significant prediction of behavior in each case, and that many of the multiple correlations were of substantial magnitude. The multiple correlations ranged from .20 to .78, with an average of .5 1. Interestingly, the weakest predictions were found with respect to losing weight and getting an ‘A’ in a course. Of all the behaviors considered, these two would seem to be the most problematic in terms of volitional control, and in terms of the correspondence between perceived and actual control. Some confirmation of this speculation can be found in the study on academic performance (Ajzen & Madden, 1986) in which the predictive validity of perceived behavioral control improved from the beginning to the end of the semester, presumably because perceptions of ability to get an ‘A’ in the course became more realistic. Another interesting pattern of results occurred with respect to political behavior. Voting choice in the 1988 presidential election (among respondents who participated in the election) was highly consistent (r = .84) with previously expressed intentions (Watters, 1989). Voting choice, of course, poses no problems in terms of volitional control, and perceptions 188 ICEK AJZEN of behavioral control were found to be largely irrelevant. In contrast, participating in an election can be subject to problems of control even if only registered voters are considered: lack of transportation, being ill, and other unforeseen events can make participation in an election relatively difficult. In Watters’s (1989) study of the 1988 presidential election, perceived behavioral control indeed had a significant regression coefftcient, although this was not found to be the case in a study of participation in a gubernatorial election primary (Netemeyer ef al., 1990). Intention x control interaction. We noted earlier that past theory as well as intuition would lead us to expect an interaction between motivation and control. In the context of the theory of planned behavior, this expectation implies that intentions and perceptions of behavioral control should interact in the prediction of behavior. Seven of the studies shown in Table 1 included tests of this hypothesis (Doll & Ajzen, 1990; Ajzen & Driver, in press, a; Watters, 1989; Schifter & Ajzen, 1985; Ajzen & Madden, 1986; Beck & Ajzen, 1990). Of these studies, only one (Schifter & Ajzen, 1985) obtained a marginally significant (p < .lO) linear x linear interaction between intentions to lose weight and perceptions of control over this behavioral goal. In the remaining six studies there was no evidence for an interaction of this kind. It is not clear why significant interactions failed to emerge in these studies, but it is worth noting that linear models are generally found to account quite well for psychological data, even when the data set is known to have been generated by a multiplicative model (Bimbaum, 1972; Busemeyer & Jones, 1983). Predicting Intentions: Attitudes, Subjective Norms, and Perceived Behavioral Control The theory of planned behavior postulates three conceptually independent determinants of intention. The first is the attitude toward the behavior and refers to the degree to which a person has a favorable or unfavorable evaluation or appraisal of the behavior in question. The second predictor is a social factor termed subjective norm; it refers to the perceived social pressure to perform or not to perform the behavior. The third antecedent of intention is the degree of perceived behavioral control which, as we saw earlier, refers to the perceived ease or difficulty of performing the behavior and it is assumed to reflect past experience as well as anticipated impediments and obstacles. As a general rule, the more favorable the attitude and subjective norm with respect to a behavior, and the greater the perceived behavioral control, the stronger should be an individual’s intention to perform the behavior under consideration. The relative importance of attitude, subjective norm, and perceived behavioral control in the prediction of intention is expected to vary across behaviors and situations. Thus, in some applications it may be found that THEORY OF PLANNED BEHAVIOR 189 only attitudes have a significant impact on intentions, in others that attitudes and perceived behavioral control are sufftcient to account for intentions, and in still others that all three predictors make independent contributions. Predicting Intentions: Empirical Findings A number of investigators have begun to rely on the theory of planned behavior in their attempts to predict and understand people’s intentions to engage in various activities. Table 2 summarizes the results of 16 studies that have been conducted in the past 5 years. Some of these studies were already mentioned earlier in the context of predicting behavior from intentions and perceptions of control (see Table 1); the added investigations in Table 2 assessed attitudes, subjective norms, perceived behavioral control, and intentions, but they contained no measure of behavior. Inspection of the last column in Table 2 reveals that a considerable amount of variance in intentions can be accounted for by the three predictors in the theory of planned behavior. The multiple correlations ranged from a low of .43 to a high of .94, with an average correlation of .71. Equally important, the addition of perceived behavioral control to the model led to considerable improvements in the prediction of intentions; the regression coefftcients of perceived behavioral control were significant in every study. Note also that, with only one exception, attitudes toward the various behaviors made significant contributions to the prediction of intentions, whereas the results for subjective norms were mixed, with no clearly discernible pattern. This finding suggests that, for the behaviors considered, personal considerations tended to overshadow the influence of perceived social pressure. THE ROLE OF BELIEFS IN HUMAN BEHAVIOR True to its goal of explaining human behavior, not merely predicting it, the theory of planned behavior deals with the antecedents of attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control, antecedents which in the final analysis determine intentions and actions. At the most basic level of explanation, the theory postulates that behavior is a function of salient information, or beliefs, relevant to the behavior. People can hold a great many beliefs about any given behavior, but they can attend to only a relatively small number at any given moment (see Miller, 1956). It is these salient beliefs that are considered to be the prevailing determinants of a person’s intentions and actions. Three kinds of salient beliefs are distinguished: behavioral beliefs which are assumed to influence attitudes toward the behavior, normative beliefs which constitute the underlying determinants of subjective norms, and control beliefs which provide the basis for perceptions of behavioral control. significant Use condoms“ at p < .05. .62 .42 - .01* .13* .40 .50 .42 after giving birth” after coronary” A8 Exercise Exercise .36 .35 .11* .52 .51 .48 .48 .33 .70 .13* .67 .34 .14 .44 .59 .39 .91 .33 .33 .62 .26 .41 .54 .41 .92 .63 .38 .55 .63 .51 * Not significant; aU other coefficient’s D Secondary analysis. b B@ming of semester. ’ Cmtro?group, secondinter%iew, Beale & Manstead (1991) Godin, Vezina, Kc Leclerc (1989) Godin et al. (1990) Otis, Godin, t Lambert (in press) Netemeyer, Andrews, & Durvasula (1990) Parker et al. (1990) Beck & Ajzen (in press) Netemeyer, Burton, & Johnston (1990) Schifter & Ajzen (1985) Madden, Ellen, & Ajzen (in press) Ajzen & Madden (1986) Watters (1989) Schlegel er al. (1990) Ajzen C Driver (in press, a) van Ryn & Vinokur (1990) Doll & Ajzen (1990) SN 43 Search for a job” Play six video games Mean within-subjects Get drunk” Five leisure intentions Mean within-subjects Participate in election Voting choice Participate in election” Lose weight0 Lose weight 10 common activities Mean within-subjects Attend class Get an ‘A’ in a courseb Cheat, shoplift, lie Mean Give a gift Mean over five items” Commit traffic violations Mean over four violations” Limit infants’ sugar intake’ Intention Study Correlations .29 .60 .50 .44 .52 .44 .77 .37 .57 .44 .80 .30 .89 .62 .51 .36 .87 .58 .20 PBC .52 .76 .25 .15 .26 .36 .29 .43 .32 .50 .28 .32 .54 .10* .24 .79 46 .41 .48 -43 .17 .I5 .35 SN coefftcients - -24 .01* .28 .16* .08* .05* .22 .16 - .09* .09* .03* .06* .10* - .02* .17 Regression TABLE 2 PREDICTION OF INTENTION (I) FROM ATTITUDE TOWARD THE BEHAVIOR (A&. SU~ECTIVE NORM (SN), AND PERCEIVED BEHAVIORAL CONTROL (PBC) .17 .84 .39 .33 A0 .20 .59 .26 44 .45 .62 .20 .39 .54 .47 .30 .43 .36 .07 PBC .69 24 .55 ho .60 .56 .81 .63 .68 .65 .85 .43 94 .64 .56 .74 .94 .72 .71 R E ii e w Z THEORY OF PLANNED BEHAVIOR 191 Behavioral Beliefs and Attitudes toward Behaviors Most contemporary social psychologists take a cognitive or information-processing approach to attitude formation. This approach is exemplified by Fishbein and Ajzen’s (1975) expectancy-value model of attitudes. According to this model, attitudes develop reasonably from the beliefs people hold about the object of the attitude. Generally speaking, we form beliefs about an object by associating it with certain attributes, i.e., with other objects, characteristics, or events. In the case of attitudes toward a behavior, each belief links the behavior to a certain outcome, or to some other attribute such as the cost incurred by performing the behavior. Since the attributes that come to be linked to the behavior are already valued positively or negatively, we automatically and simultaneously acquire an attitude toward the behavior. In this fashion, we learn to favor behaviors we believe have largely desirable consequences and we form unfavorable attitudes toward behaviors we associate with mostly undesirable consequences. Specifically, the outcome’s subjective value contributes to the attitude in direct proportion to the strength of the belief, i.e., the subjective A O:i biei (1) i=l probability that the behavior will produce the outcome in question. As shown in Eq. (l), the strength of each salient belief (b) is combined in a multiplicative fashion with the subjective evaluation (e) of the beliefs attribute, and the resulting products are summed over the n salient beliefs. A person’s attitude (A) is directly proportional (a) to this summative belief index. We can explore an attitude’s informational foundation by eliciting salient beliefs about the attitude object and assessing the subjective probabilities and values associated with the different beliefs. In addition, by combining the observed values in accordance with Eq. (I), we obtain an estimate of the attitude itself, an estimate that represents the respondent’s evaluation of the object or behavior under consideration. Since this estimate is based on salient beliefs about the attitude object, it may be termed a belief-based measure of attitude. If the expectancy-value model specified in Eq. (1) is valid, the belief-based measure of attitude should correlate well with a standard measure of the same attitude. A great number of studies have, over the years, tested the general expectancy-value model of attitude as well as its application to behavior. In a typical study, a standard, global measure of attitude is obtained, usually by means of an evaluative semantic differential, and this standard 192 ICEKAJZEN measure is then correlated with an estimate of the same attitude based on salient beliefs (e.g., Ajzen, 1974; Fishbein, 1963, Fishbein & Ajzen, 1981; Jaccard & Davidson, 1972; Godin & Shephard, 1987; Insko, Blake, Cialdini, & Mulaik, 1970; Rosenberg, 1956). The results have generally supported the hypothesized relation between salient beliefs and attitudes, although the magnitude of this relation has sometimes been disappointing. Various factors may be responsible for relatively low correlations between salient beliefs and attitudes. First, of course, there is the possibility that the expectancy-value model is an inadequate description of the way attitudes are formed and structured. For example, some investigators (e.g., Valiquette, Valois, Desharnais, & Godin, 1988)have questioned the multiplicative combination of beliefs and evaluations in the expectancyvalue model of attitude. Most discussions of the model, however, have focused on methodological issues. Belief salience. It is not always recognized that the expectancy-value model of attitude embodied in the theories of reasoned action and planned behavior postulates a relation between a person’s salient beliefs about the behavior and his or her attitude toward that behavior. These salient beliefs must be elicited from the respondents themselves, or in pilot work from a sample of respondents that is representative of the research population. An arbitrarily or intuitively selected set of belief statements will tend to include many associations to the behavior that are not salient in the population, and a measure of attitude based on responses to such statements need not correlate highly with a standard measure of the attitude in question. Generally speaking, results of empirical investigations suggest that when attitudes are estimated on the basis of salient beliefs, correlations with a standard measure tend to be higher than when they are estimated on the basis of an intuitively selected set of beliefs (see Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975, Chap. 6, for a discussion). Nevertheless, as we will see below, correlations between standard and belief-based measures are sometimes of only moderate magnitude even when salient beliefs are used. Optimal scaling. A methodological issue of considerable importance that has not received sufficient attention has to do with the scaling of belief and evaluation items. In most applications of the theory of planned behavior, belief strength is assessed by means of a 7-point graphic scale (e.g., likely-unlikely) and evaluation by means of a 7-point evaluative scale (e.g., good-bad). There is nothing in the theory, however, to inform us whether responses to these scales should be scored in a unipolur fashion (e.g., from 1 to 7, or from 0 to 6) or in a bipolar fashion (e.g., from - 3 to +3). Belief strength (6) is defined as the subjective probability that a given behavior will produce a certain outcome (see Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975). In light of this definition, it would seem reasonable to subject the THEORY OF PLANNED BEHAVIOR 193 measure of belief strength to unipolar scoring, analogous to the O-to-l scale of objective probabilities. In contrast, evaluations (e), like attitudes, are usually assumed to form a bipolar continuum, from a negative evaluation on one end to a positive evaluation on the other (see Pratkanis, 1989, for a discussion of unipolar versus bipolar attitude structures). From a measurement perspective, however, either type of scoring could be applied with equal justification. Rating scales of the kind used in research on the expectancy-value model can at best be assumed to meet the requirements of equal-interval measures. As such, it is permissible to apply any linear transformation to the respondents’ ratings without altering the measure’s scale properties (see, e.g., Dawes, 1972). Going from a bipolar to a unipolar scale, or vice versa, is of course a simple linear transformation in which we add or subtract a constant from the obtained values4 There is thus no rational a priori criterion we can use to decide how the belief and evaluation scales should be scored (cf., Schmidt, 1973). A relatively easy solution to this problem was suggested by Holbrook (1977; see also Orth, 1985). Let B represent the constant to be added or subtracted in the resealing of belief strength, and E the constant to be added or subtracted in the resealing of outcome evaluations. The expectancyvalue model shown in Eq. (1) can then be rewritten as n A m c (bi + B)(ei + E)i=l Expanded, this becomes A O:Cbiei + B%i + EIibi + BE and, disregarding the constant BE, we can write A a Xbiei + BCei + ECbi. To estimate the resealing parameters B and E, we regress the standard attitude measure, which serves as the criterion, on Zbiei, ~bi, and Zei, and then divide the unstandardized regression coefficients of 26, and Ze, by the coefficient obtained for Zb,e,. The resulting value for the coefftcient of I&i provides a least-squares estimate of B, the resealing constant for belief strength, and the value for the coefficient of Zbi serves as a least-squares estimate of E, the resealing constant for outcome evaluation. 4 Note, however, that a linear transformation of tion of the b x e product term. b or e results in a nonlinear transforma- 194 ICEK AJZEN An empirical illustration. To illustrate the use of optimal resealing coefficients, we turn to a recent study on leisure behavior (Ajzen & Driver, in press, b). In this study, college students completed a questionnaire concerning five different leisure activities: spending time at the beach, outdoor jogging or running, mountain climbing, boating, and biking. A standard semantic differential scale was used to assessglobal evaluations of each activity. For the belief-based attitude measures,pilot subjects had been asked to list costs and benefits of each leisure activity. The most frequently mentioned beliefs were retained for the main study. With respect to spending time at the beach, for example, the salient beliefs included such costs and benefits as developing skin cancer and meeting people of the opposite sex. The first column in Table 3 provides baseline correlations between the semantic differential a.ndthe belief-basedattitude measuresfor the case of scoring b from 1 to 7 and e from - 3 to + 3. The correlations in the second column were obtained when b and e were both scaled in a bipolar fashion. The third column presents the correlations that are obtained after optimal resealing, and the last two columns contain the optimal resealing parameters B and E for the case of unipolar belief strength and bipolar evaluation. Note first that bipolar scoring of belief strength (in addition to bipolar scoring of evaluations) produced stronger correlations with the global attitude measure than did unipolar scoring of beliefs. Inspection of the resealing constants similarly shows the need to move to bipolar scoring of belief strength, and to leave intact the bipolar scoring of evaluaTABLE 3 EFFECTOFOPTIMALRESCALING OFBELIEFSTRENGTHAND OUTCOMEEVALUATION ON THE RELATION BETWEENBELIEFS AND ATTITUDES A - Z&e, correlations Activity Spending time at the beach Outdoor jogging or running Mountain climbing Boating Biking b: unipolar e: bipolar b: bipolar e: bipolar After optimal resealing Resealing constants B E .06* ..54 .57 -.70 .26 .34 .25 .24 .09* .35 Sl .44 .35 .41 3 .45 .37 - .43 -4.22 - 4.43 -31 1.02 .15 .12 .38 Nore. A = semantic differential measure of attitude, Xb,e, = belief-based measure of attitude, b = belief strength, e = outcome evaluation, B = optimal resealing constant for belief strength, E = optimal resealing constant for outcome evaluation. * Not significant; all other correlations p < .0.5. THEORY OF PLANNED BEHAVIOR 195 tions. These findings are consistent with the usual practice of scoring both belief strength and attribute evaluations in a bipolar fashion (see Ajzen 8r. Fishbein, 1980). In fact, applying the optimal resealing constants greatly improved the correlations when the original belief strength was unipolar, but rarely raised the correlations above the level obtained with bipolar scoring of beliefs. It is worth noting, however, that even with optimally resealed belief and evaluation measures, the correlations between the semantic differential and the belief-based estimates of attitude were of only moderate magnitude. The expectancy model was, at best, able to explain between 10 and 36% of the variance in the standard attitude measures. This finding is quite consistent with other recent attempts to improve the correlation between global and belief-based measures of attitude by means of optimal resealing of beliefs and evaluations (see Doll, Ajzen, & Madden, in press). Normative Beliefs and Subjective Norms Normative beliefs are concerned with the likelihood that important referent individuals or groups approve or disapprove of performing a given behavior. The strength of each normative belief(n) is multiplied by the person’s motivation to comply (m) with the referent in question, and the subjective norm (SN) is directly proportional to the sum of the resulting products across the n salient referents, as in Eq. (2): i=l A global measure of SN is usually obtained by asking respondents to rate the extent to which “important others” would approve or disapprove of their performing a given behavior. Empirical investigations have shown that the best correspondence between such global measures of subjective norm and belief-based measures is usually obtained with bipolar scoring of normative beliefs and unipolar scoring of motivation to comply (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980). With such scoring, correlations between belief-based and global estimates of subjective norm are generally in the range of .40 to .80, not unlike the findings with respect to attitudes (see, e.g., Ajzen & Madden, 1986; Fishbein & Ajzen, 1981; Otis, Godin, & Lambert, in press). As an illustration we turn again to the study on leisure behavior (Ajzen & Driver, in press, b). The salient referents for the five leisure activities elicited in the pilot study were friends, parents, boyfriend/girlfriend, brothers/sisters, and other family members. With respect to each referent, respondents rated, on a 7-point scale, the degree to which the refer- 196 ICEK AJZEN ent would approve or disapprove of their engaging in a given leisure activity. These normative beliefs were multiplied by motivation to comply with the referent, a rating of how much the respondents cared whether the referent approved or disapproved of their leisure activities. The first row in Table 4 presents the correlations between the global and belief-based measures of subjective norm. It can be seen that, as in the case of attitudes, the correlations-although significant-were of only moderate magnitude. As is sometimes found to be the case (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1969, 1970), the motivation to comply measure did not add predictive power; in fact it tended to suppress the correlations. When motivation to comply was omitted, the sum of normative beliefs (%z,) correlated with the global measure of subjective norm at a level close to the correlations obtained after optimal resealing of the normative belief and motivation to comply ratings (see Rows 2 and 3 in Table 4). Control Beliefs and Perceived Behavioral Control Among the beliefs that ultimately determine intention and action there is, according to the theory of planned behavior, a set that deals with the presence or absence of requisite resources and opportunities. These control beliefs may be based in part on past experience with the behavior, but they will usually also be influenced by second-hand information about the behavior, by the experiences of acquaintances and friends, and by other factors that increase or reduce the perceived difficulty of performing the behavior in question. The more resources and opportunities individuals believe they possess, and the fewer obstacles or impediments they anticipate, the greater should be their perceived control over the behavior. Specifically, as shown in Eq. (3), each control belief (c) is multiplied by the perceived power @) of the particular control factor to facilitate or inhibit performance of the behavior, and the resulting products are TABLE 4 CORRELATIONS BETWEEN GLOBAL AND BELIEF-BASED (SN) AND PERCEIVED BEHAVIORAL MEASURES OF SUBJECTIVE CONTROL (PBC) NORM Leisure activity Global Global After Global After SN - Xn,m, SN - Xn, optimal resealing PBC - Zcipi optimal resealing Beach Jogging .47 .60 .61 .24 .41 .60 .70 .71 .46 .65 Mountain climbing .58 .65 .65 56 .72 Boating Biking .47 .61 .64 .70 .73 .35 .50 .52 .45 .48 Note. SN = Global measure of subjective norm, Pn,m, = belief-based measure of subjective norm, &zi = belief-based measure of subjective norm without motivation to comply, PBC = global measure of perceived behavioral control, Xc,p, = belief-based measure of perceived behavioral control. THEORY OF PLANNED BEHAVIOR 197 summed across the n salient control beliefs to produce the perception of behavioral control (PBC). Thus, just as beliefs concerning consequences of a behavior are viewed as determining attitudes toward the behavior, and normative beliefs are viewed as determining subjective norms, so beliefs about resources and opportunities are i=l viewed as underlying perceived behavioral control. As of today, only a handful of studies have examined the relation between specific control beliefs and perceived behavioral control (e.g., Ajzen & Madden, 1986). The last two rows in Table 4 present relevant data for the study on leisure activities (Ajzen & Driver, in press, b). Global assessments of the perceived ease or difficulty of engaging in each of the five leisure activities were correlated with belief-based measures of perceived behavioral control. With respect to outdoor running or jogging, for example, control factors included being in poor physical shape and living in an area with good jogging weather. In computing the correlations in Row 4 of Table 4, bipolar scoring was used for control beliefs (c) as well as for the perceived power of the control factor under consideration @>. This scoring proved satisfactory
for three of the five activities (mountain climbing, boating, and biking), as
can be seen by comparing the correlations with and without optimal rescoring (Rows 5 and 4, respectively). With regards to spending time at the
beach, the optimal scoring analysis indicated that the perceived power
components would better be scored in a unipolar fashion; and with respect to outdoor jogging or running, unipolar scoring would have to be
applied to both the ratings of control belief strength and the ratings of the
perceived power of control factors.
In conclusion, inquiries into the role of beliefs as the foundation of
attitude toward a behavior, subjective norm, and perceived behavioral
control have been only partly successful. Most troubling are the generally
moderate correlations between belief-based indices and other, more global measures of each variable, even when the components of the multiplicative terms are optimally restored. Note that responding to the belief
and valuation items may require more careful deliberations than does
responding to the global rating scales. It is, therefore, possible that the
global measures evoke a relatively automatic reaction whereas the beliefrelated items evoke a relatively reasoned response. Some evidence, not
dealing directly with expectancy-value models, is available in a study on
the prediction of intentions in the context of the theory of reasoned action
198
ICEK AJZEN
(Ellen & Madden, 1990). The study manipulated the degree to which
respondents had to concentrate on their ratings of attitudes, subjective
norms, and intentions with respect to a variety of different behaviors.
This was done by presenting the questionnaire items organized by behavior or in random order, and by using a paper and pencil instrument versus
a computer-administered format. The prediction of intentions from attitudes and subjective norms was better under conditions that required
careful responding (random order of items, computer-administered) than
in the comparison conditions.’
Our discussion of the relation between global and belief-based measures of attitudes is not meant to question the general idea that attitudes
are influenced by beliefs about the attitude object. This idea is well supported, especially by experimental research in the area of persuasive
communication: A persuasive message that attacks beliefs about an object is typically found to produce changes in attitudes toward the object
(see McGuire, 1985; Petty & Cacioppo, 1986). By the same token, it is
highly likely that persuasive communications directed at particular normative or control beliefs will influence subjective norms and perceived
behavioral control. Rather than questioning the idea that beliefs have a
causal effect on attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral
control, the moderate correlations between global and belief-based measures suggest that the expectancy-value formulation may fail adequately
to describe the process whereby individual beliefs combine to produce the
global response. Efforts need to be directed toward developing alternative
models that could be used better to describe the relations between beliefs
on one hand and the global constructs on the other. In the pages below,
we consider several other unresolved issues related to the theory of
planned behavior.
THE SUFFICIENCY OF THE THEORY OF PLANNED BEHAVIOR
The theory of planned behavior distinguishes between three types of
beliefs-behavioral,
normative, and control-and between the related
constructs of attitude, subjective norm, and perceived behavioral control.
The necessity of these distinctions, especially the distinction between
behavioral and normative beliefs (and between attitudes and subjective
norms) has sometimes been questioned (e.g., Miniard &zCohen, 1981). It
can reasonably be argued that all beliefs associate the behavior of interest
with an attribute of some kind, be it an outcome, a normative expectation,
’ Interestingly, this study failed to replicate the results of Budd’s (1987) experiment in
which randomization of items drastically reduced the correlations among the constructs in
the theory of planned behavior. A recent study by van den Futte and Hoogstraten (1990) also
failed to corroborate Budd’s findings.
THEORY OF PLANNED
BEHAVIOR
199
or a resource needed to perform the behavior. It should thus be possible
to integrate all beliefs about a given behavior under a single summation to
obtain a measure of the overall behavioral disposition.
The primary objection to such an approach is that it blurs distinctions
that are of interest, both from a theoretical and from a practical point of
view. Theoretically, personal evaluation of a behavior (attitude), socially
expected mode of conduct (subjective norm), and self-efficacy with respect to the behavior (perceived behavioral control) are very different
concepts each of which has an important place in social and behavioral
research. Moreover, the large number of studies on the theory of reasoned action and on the theory of planned behavior have clearly established the utility of the distinctions by showing that the different constructs stand in predictable relations to intentions and behavior.6
Perhaps of greater importance is the possibility of making further distinctions among additional kinds of beliefs and related dispositions. The
theory of planned behavior is, in principle, open to the inclusion of additional predictors if it can be shown that they capture a significant proportion of the variance in intention or behavior after the theory’s current
variables have been taken into account. The theory of planned behavior
in fact expanded the original theory of reasoned action by adding the
concept of perceived behavioral control.
Personal or Moral Norms
It has sometimes been suggested that, at least in certain contexts, we
need to consider not only perceived social pressures but also personal
feelings of moral obligation or responsibility to perform, or refuse to
perform, a certain behavior (Gorsuch & Ortberg, 1983; Pomazal & Jaccard, 1976; Schwartz & Tessler, 1972). Such moral obligations would be
expected to influence intentions, in parallel with attitudes, subjective (social) norms and perceptions of behavioral control. In a recent study of
college students (Beck & Ajzen, in press), we investigated this issue in the
context of three unethical behaviors: cheating on a test or exam, shoplifting, and lying to get out of taking a test or turning in an assignment on
time. It seemed reasonable to suggest that moral issues may take on
added salience with respect to behaviors of this kind and that a measure
of perceived moral obligation could add predictive power to the model.
Participants in the study completed a questionnaire that assessed the
6 Of course, even as we accept the proposed distinctions, we can imagine other kinds of
relations among the different theoretical constructs. For example, it has been suggested
that, in certain situations, perceived behavioral control functions as a precursor to attitudes
and subjective norms (van Ryn & Vinokur, 1990) or that attitudes not only intluence intentions but also have a direct effect on behavior (Bentler & Speckart, 1979).
200
ICEK AJZEN
TABLE 5
PREDICTIONOF UNETHICAL INTENTIONS
Cheating
r
b
Shoplifting
Rr
b
Lying
Rr
b
Step I-Theory of planned behavior
Attitude
Subjective norm…
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