Theory of reasoned action

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The theory of reasoned action, is a model for the prediction of behavioral intention, spanning predictions of attitude and predictions of behavior. The subsequent separation of behavioral intention from behavior allows for explanation of limiting factors on attitudinal influence (Ajzen, 1980). The Theory of Reasoned Action was developed by Martin Fishbein and Icek Ajzen (1975, 1980), derived from previous research that started out as the theory of attitude, which led to the study of attitude and behavior. The theory was "born largely out of frustration with traditional attitude–behavior research, much of which found weak correlations between attitude measures and performance of volitional behaviors" (Hale, Householder & Greene, 2002, p. 259).


The theory of reasoned action has "received considerable and, for the most part, justifiable attention within the field of consumer behavior ... not only does the model appear to predict consumer intentions and behavior quite well, it also provides a relatively simple basis for identifying where and how to target consumers' behavioral change attempts" (Sheppard, Hartwick & Warshaw, 1988, p. 325).

Hale et al. (2002) say the TRA has been tested in numerous studies across many areas including dieting (Sejwacz, Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980), using condoms (Greene, Hale & Rubin, 1997), consuming genetically engineered foods (Sparks, Shepherd & Frewer, 1995), and limiting sun exposure (Hoffman, 1999).


In its simplest form, the TRA can be expressed as the following equation:

BI {{=}} (AB)W_1 + (SN)W_2\,\!


  • BI = behavioral intention
  • (AB) = one's attitude toward performing the behavior
  • W = empirically derived weights
  • SN = one's subjective norm related to performing the behavior

(Source: Hale, 2002)


As a behavioral process, an expanded TRA flow model can be expressed as follows:

Belief toward an outcome Attitude Intention Behavior
Evaluation of the outcome
Beliefs of what others think Subjective norm
What experts think
Motivation to comply with others
Source: Ajzen, 1980

Theory revision[edit]

The theory has even been revised and extended by Ajzen himself into the theory of planned behavior. "This extension involves the addition of one major predictor, perceived behavioral control, to the model. This addition was made to account for times when people have the intention of carrying out a behavior, but the actual behavior is thwarted because they lack confidence or control over behavior" (Miller, 2005, p. 127).

Ajzen's revised conceptual model, accounting for actual behavioral control, can be expressed as follows:

Behavioral Beliefs Attitude Toward the Behavior Intention Behavior
Normative Beliefs Subjective Norm
Control Beliefs Perceived Behavioral Control
Actual Behavioral Control
(Source: Ajzen, 1991)

Since then, Fishbein and Ajzen have together developed the Reasoned Action Approach.

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