Attitudes As Predictor of What?: Exploring the Structure of Product-Related Behaviors


Alain Cousineau and Peter L. Wright (1972) ,"Attitudes As Predictor of What?: Exploring the Structure of Product-Related Behaviors", in SV - Proceedings of the Third Annual Conference of the Association for Consumer Research, eds. M. Venkatesan, Chicago, IL : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 796-799.

Proceedings of the Third Annual Conference of the Association for Consumer Research, 1972      Pages 796-799


Alain Cousineau, University of Sherbrooke

Peter L. Wright, University of Illinois

[Alain Cousineau is on the faculty at Sherbrooke University (Canada) and is presently on leave to complete doctoral work at the University of Illinois. Peter L. Wright is Assistant Professor, Department of Business Administration. University of Illinois.]

Perhaps no other concept has generated more theorizing and experimentation in the history of social psychology than the concept of attitude (Allport, 1935, 1954) and it is not surprising that it came to play an increasingly important role in most of the behavioral sciences and the applied disciplines, marketing and consumer research being no exception. The popularity of the attitude construct among behavioral scientists and the consumer research community is probably best explained by the basic assumption underlying most of its proposed definitions: an attitude, being essentially a learned predisposition to respond toward an object in a consistently favorable or unfavorable manner (Allport, 1935), should be functionally related to behavior and, to that extent, should provide a sound theoretical basis for explaining and predicting that behavior.

However, as was the case for social psychologists (LaPierre, 1934; Bray, 1950; Kutner, Wilkins and Yarrow, 1952; Berg, 1966; etc.), consumer researchers have often found little evidence of a strong attitude-behavior relationship. Fishbein (1967) has pointed out that there are at least two reasons for these poor results. First, attitudes are often measured with respect to a general class of objects rather than a specific object. Second, the behavior predicted may be only partially related to attitude. That is, various responses may be learned for any given attitude so that two persons may learn to hold the same attitude toward a given stimulus but they may also learn to make different responses given the learned attitude (Doob, 1947). Because of these considerations, Fishbein (1967) has argued that if prediction and explanation of behavior is the focus of interest, then the orientation taken to the concept of attitude and the means of measurement and analysis used must be consistent with that focus. Accordingly, Fishbein (1967) has proposed to measure attitudes toward specific actions rather than toward the objects which provide the occasion for behaving. Ajzen and Fishbein (1970) have provided evidence to support the notions that these two types of attitude are not necessarily related and that attitudes toward specific actions are better predictors of behavioral intentions.

However appealing this orientation to the concept of attitude may be from a theoretical perspective, a number of objections can be raised against it. While consumer researchers are mostly interested in predicting and explaining purchase behavior, they are also concerned with a host of other product-related behaviors (e.g., communication behaviors, usage behaviors). According to the suggested orientation, no single index of attitude will provide a valid basis for predicting all these behaviors of interest since an attitude toward a given product-related behavior to be performed in a specific context (e.g., private use of a product) is not expected to be a good predictor of the same behavior occurring in a different context (e.g., public use of the product) or of a different product-related behavior (e.g., giving advice to a friend about the product). Furthermore, the set of salient consequences perceived by a consumer to be the likely results of the performance of a given product-related behavior -- which is assumed to be a major determinant of his attitude toward that behavior -- will probably not remain invariant across behaviors and contexts. If it does, the consequences are expected to carry different weights in determining the various attitudes. From these considerations it follows that if attitudinal data of the kinds suggested by Fishbein (1967) are to be used to predict and explain how consumers behave globally toward a given product or brand, researchers are faced, at least theoretically, with the impractical task of having to obtain measures of attitudes toward each possible combination of behaviors and contexts involving the product or brand, and having to define, for each of these combinations, a set of salient consequences.

These objections do not invalidate the notion of using attitudes toward specific actions as a means of predicting and explaining specific product-related behaviors occurring within specific contexts. Rather they point out to some of the problems involved in trying to predict and explain how consumers behave in a more global fashion toward products since no single index of attitude toward an act is likely to be very useful in considering all possible behaviors and contexts involving a given product. Clearly means of coping with this problem must be sought. Perhaps one way of dealing with this issue is to look more closely at the dependent variable, that is, the behavior with respect to a product. Much of the research emphasis until now has focused on issues related to the structure of attitudes (Pessemier and Wilkie, 1972). Little research, if at all, has been done on what we mean by "behavior with respect to a product," or, more importantly, what is means psychologically for the consumer. Clearly, by understanding better this construct -- behavior with respect to a product -- we will be able to solve some of the problems raised earlier.

For instance, it may be the case that not all the behaviors that one could engage in with respect to a given product are psychologically "pure" or independent of each other in the mind of the consumer, thus suggesting the possibility of identifying those behaviors or groups of behaviors which are perceived as psychologically equivalent. The identification of such clusters or groups of behaviors, each one presumably reflecting a more fundamental dimension of behavior, would then make it unnecessary to specify all the possible behaviors that one could engage in with respect to a product and would allow us to limit the analysis to a (hopefully) small subset of more fundamental dimensions of behavior.

It may also be the case, as was suggested by Cohen and Ahtola (1971) that a small number of situational contexts might be specified in advance for each of these fundamental dimensions of behavior which could then be incorporated into the measurement procedure and used in prediction after the assignment of appropriate probabilities of occurrence.

An exploratory investigation, dealing with these issues, is currently under way. Essentially, this investigation seeks to uncover the factor structure underlying the construct "behavior with respect to a product," that is, it explores the possibility of identifying a few independent behavioral tendencies that could adequately describe this construct.

The methodology used is essentially similar to the one employed by Triandis (1964) to explore the factor structure of the behavioral components of social attitudes. The variables used in this exploratory study create a matrix of data. One face of this matrix consists of a set of 16 hypothetical products that are described solely in terms of four attributes: conspicuousness, relatedness to self-image, familiarity and expensiveness. The second face of the matrix consists of 30 behaviors that a consumer might undertake in relations to such stimulus products, for example, purchase them on a trial basis, seek information from a salesman about them, ask for them as a gift from a good friend. A typical judgment made by a subject is exemplified by the following item:

conspicuous, very familiar, inexpensive, closely related to my self-image

would: _ : _ : _ : _ : _ : _ : _ : _ :would not

make a special trip to purchase it

The matrix of data thus generated will then be analyzed through factor analytic procedures to determine if a simple structure can be identified that could adequately describe the construct "behavior with respect to a product." The isolation of dimensions underlying the construct "behavior with respect to a product" has several advantages. It permits clearer analysis and, hence, better understanding of the theoretical construct. It permits to identify explicitly the dimensions underlying the construct, through a few behavioral tendencies that are independent of each other. Finally, it may help us solve some of the problems involved in using attitudes toward specifications as a means of predicting and explaining how consumers behave in a more global fashion toward products and brands.


Ajzen, I. & Fishbein, M. Attitudinal and normative variables as predictors of specific behaviors: a review of research generated by a theoretical model. Paper presented at the Workshop on Attitude Research and Consumer Behavior, University of Illinois, December, 1970.

Allport, G. W. Attitudes. In C. Murehison (ed.), A handbook of social psychology. Worcester, Mass.: Clark University Press, 1935.

Allport, G. W. The historical background to modern social psychology. In G. Lindzey (ed.), Handbook of social psychology, Vol. 1, Theory and method. Cambridge, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1954.

Berg, K. E. Ethnic attitudes and agreement with a negro person. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1966, 4, 215-220.

Bray, D. W. The prediction of behavior from two attitudes scales. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1950, 45, 64-84.

Cohen, J. B. & Ahtola, 0. T. An expectancy x value analysis of the relationship between consumer attitudes and behavior. In D. M. Gardner (ed.), Proceedings, Association for Consumer Research, 1971, 344-362.

Doob, L. The behavior of attitudes. Psychological Review, 54, 135-156.

Fishbein, M. Attitude and the prediction of behavior. In M. Fishbein (ed.), Readings in attitude theory and measurement. New York: Wiley, 1967, 477-492.

Kutner, B., Wilkins, C., and Yarrow, P. R. Verbal attitudes and overt behavior involving racial prejudice. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1952, 47, 649-652.

LaPierre, R. T. Attitudes vs. actions. Social Forces, 1934, 13, 230-237.

Pessemier, E. A. and Wilkie, W. L. Multi-attribute choice theory - a review and analysis. Institute Paper No. 372, Institute for Research in the behavioral, Economic and Management Sciences, Purdue University. September, 1972.

Triandis, H. C. Exploratory factor analyses of the behavioral component of social attitudes. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1964, 68, 420-430.



Alain Cousineau, University of Sherbrooke
Peter L. Wright, University of Illinois


SV - Proceedings of the Third Annual Conference of the Association for Consumer Research | 1972

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