Extending the Extended Model: Some Comments

ABSTRACT - This paper reviews the previous papers presented in this session. An attempt is made to clarify some misconceptions about "the extended model."


Martin Fishbein (1976) ,"Extending the Extended Model: Some Comments", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 03, eds. Beverlee B. Anderson, Cincinnati, OH : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 491-497.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 3, 1976      Pages 491-497


Martin Fishbein, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign


This paper reviews the previous papers presented in this session. An attempt is made to clarify some misconceptions about "the extended model."

It's always rewarding to find that other people are interested in your research, and it's even more rewarding when some of those other people turn out to be your ex-students. Since there is perhaps even more normative pressure to engage in discourse with ex-students than other colleagues, I'd like to try to answer some of the questions they've raised and, at the same time, try to clarify a few points about the so-called "extended model". Since a great many different issues have been raised in their papers, and since several of the papers focused on similar questions, I'd like to proceed by dealing with the issues, rather than by commenting on each paper individually.

Although nobody objected to the notion of an attitude toward an action, there were several questions raised about the appropriateness of the concept of "subjective norm". Further, there were some questions about how each of these more global concepts were related to their hypothetical determinants. Finally, there were also questions about the relative weights of these two "global" concepts as determinants of intentions and behaviors.

Generally speaking, in its most recent version, the model states that a person's intention to perform any behavior is a function of (1) his attitude toward performing that behavior (AB) and (2) his subjective norm concerning that behavior (SN). The model also suggests that these two variables may take on different weights in determining different intentions. That is, some intentions may be entirely under attitudinal control, other intentions may be entirely under normative control, and still other intentions may be influenced by both attitudinal and normative considerations. The relative weights of these two components as determinants of an intention are expected to vary as a function of the type of intentions being considered and individual difference variables. Further, the model suggests that, like any other attitude, the attitude toward the behavior can be viewed as a function of the person's salient beliefs (in this case about performing the behavior) and the evaluative aspects of those beliefs (AB . Sbiei ). Similarly, the subjective norm is viewed as a function of normative beliefs and the person's motivation to comply with relevant referents (SN . Sbjmj). These ideas have been outlined in the earlier papers presented in this session. The most complete statement of the model appears in Chapter 7 of the book I recently wrote with Icek Ajzen (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975).

The Attitudinal Component. Given the vast amount of literature that has been generated by the expectancy-value model (and various adaptations or modifications of it), I was somewhat surprised (and I must admit delighted), to find that relatively little attention was directed at this component in today's papers. Although there seems to be general agreement that attitude can be assessed by locating the attitude object on a bipolar evaluative dimension, Olli did raise one question about the conceptualization of the AB variable. He suggested that the appropriate attitude object should be the person's own performance of the behavior rather than "performing the behavior" per se. I agree with Olli, but I do not think that this distinction is always necessary. That is, empirically, it turns out that in most cases, a person's attitude toward "performing" a given behavior and his attitude toward "my performing" a given behavior are very highly correlated. In these cases, there is probably no need for the distinction. However, if you have any reason to suspect that these two attitudes are different, then the appropriate attitude would be the subject's attitude toward his or her performing the behavior. Icek and I (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1975) made this point in a recent review of the attitude-behavior literature. We came across two studies that used an expectancy-value model to predict women=s' contraceptive behaviors (Insko et al, 1970; Kothandapani, 1971), and one of these studies was much more successful than the other. As Olli suggested, this difference appeared to be primarily due to the attitude being measured. That is, in the Insko et al study the predictor variable was a woman's attitude toward "using a contraceptive" or while in the Kothandapani study her attitude toward "my using a contraceptive , was assessed. The latter measure yielded significantly better prediction.

Turning to the determinants of attitude, two very different types of questions have been raised. Ryan and Etzel were concerned with the question of how one identified salient beliefs, and Lutz raised some specific questions about the measurement of beliefs, as well as the combination rule underlying the expectancy-value model. Further, as I'm sure you all know, in an earlier paper (Ahtola, 1975) Olli also raised questions about belief measurement; in particular, the problem of distinguishing between belief strength and belief content.

There is unfortunately, relatively little I can say about the paper by Ryan and Etzel. Although I agree that the problem of identifying salient beliefs is a crucial one, I don't really see that their paper contributes very much to our current body of knowledge. What these investigators have shown is that when beliefs are elicited about different brands in the same product class, different beliefs may be salient for the different brands, and further, that the order (or frequency) of elicitation is not related to some independent estimate of the importance of the elicited attribute (or attribute dimension). Neither of these findings are new or exciting. Anthony Cowling (1973), as well as other investigators in Great Britain, has previously shown that different beliefs, or if you like, different attributes or attribute dimensions, are associated with different brands in the same product field. Similarly, Kalman Kaplan and I (Kaplan & Fishbein, 1969) provided evidence that judgments of attribute importance were not related to order of elicitation or frequency of elicitation of an attribute. In our recent book, however, Icek Ajzen and I (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975) suggested that an attribute's importance might be reflected in the strength of a person's belief that the product has the attribute, and/or in his evaluation of that attribute. That is, it seems reasonable to assume that in many cases the more important the attribute, the more information a person may have about it, and thus the more certain he should be that the product has (or does not have) the attribute in question. Similarly, in many cases, the more important the attribute, the more likely the evaluation of the attribute will be extreme (or polarized). However, people can hold strong beliefs about attributes they view as unimportant, and they ma}, evaluate unimportant attributes very favorably or unfavorably. Thus, we would not expect a strong relation between either belief strength and importance or evaluation and importance. However, the importance of a given attribute may be reflected in the absolute value of the biei score associated with the attribute in question. Since either bi or ei (or both) may be at an extreme when the attribute is important, the absolute value of the biei score should be higher when the attribute is important than when the attribute is unimportant. Please note that if this hypothesis is correct, it would provide strong evidence that "importance" is taken into account by the expectancy-value formulation, and we could do away with importance once and for all. On the other hand, if the hypothesis is not correct, it does not mean importance should be incorporated in the expectancy-value formulation. We already know that this will not improve prediction (see e.g., Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975, Ch. 6). Further, underlying my use of the expectancy-value formulation is the assumption that a person's salient beliefs are the "important" beliefs since they determine the attitude. It's for this reason that it is necessary to first identify salient beliefs if one wants to understand the determinants of a given attitude. I would like to see Ryan and Etzel reanalyze their data in the light of these considerations.

Although the Ryan and Etzel paper has not contributed anything new to our body of knowledge, I don't want to simply dismiss it offhand. I do think it's very important to recognize that the beliefs that determine a person's attitude toward one brand in a product class may be very different from the beliefs that determine his attitude toward another brand in the same product class. Although I have not thought this out in any great detail, findings like those of Ryan and Etzel may have important implications for models and approaches that assume that choice behavior is determined by a comparison of two or more brands along a common set of "relevant" or "important'' dimensions. I might buy A rather than B because I think buying A is better than buying B but if the reasons underlying these two attitudes are very different, how meaningful is it to ask respondents to compare the two brands (or the two behaviors) on a set of common scales? I don't know the answer to this question but I think it is one possible direction that Ryan and Etzel could take.

While the questions raised by Ryan and Etzel are not central to the model, Rich and Olli have raised questions about the expectancy-value formulation per se. Rich asks whether the measure of belief should be a measure of probability or a measure of association; Olli made a similar distinction in his earlier work by pointing to the difference between belief content and belief strength. While I do feel that this distinction is a valid and important one, I also feel that there is a great deal of confusion surrounding its relevance to an expectancy-value formulation. Olli's point is that the content of beliefs can differ; one person may believe that "X is slightly sweet" while another may believe that "X is quite sweet". Similarly, one person may believe that performing X leads to Y" while another may believe that "Performing X blocks Y". As Olli pointed out, these are different beliefs and a person might assign a high probability to the statement "X is slightly sweet" but a low probability to the statement "X is quite sweet". Thus, Olli has argued that an appropriate model must take both belief strength and belief content into account. Rich bases his argument on the fact that Rosenberg and I have used different scales to measure belief. That is, Rich points out that Rosenberg (1956) asked subjects whether a policy would "lead to" or "block" the attainment of a given outcome, while I have usually asked respondents whether it is "probable" or "improbable'' that a behavior will lead to a given outcome. I don't know how many times I've said this before, but let me say it again -- both Rosenberg and I agree that at a conceptual as well as an operation level, the central equations in our models (i.e., Sbiei versus SIiVi ) are identical. This is not to say that our theories are identical, for there are some very major differences between us, but the central equations and their operationalizations are identical. That is, both Rosenberg and I would agree that if we knew that a person believed that "X is quite sweet", we would both want to know the strength (probability) of this belief, and the evaluation of "quite sweet". Similarly, if we knew that a person believed that "Performing behavior X blocks Y", we would both want to know the strength (probability) of this belief and the evaluation of "blocking Y". To argue that our models are different because Rosenberg once used a "leads to - Block" scale and I usually use a "likely - unlikely" scale, ignores our theories and retries operations into conceptual definitions. While I agree that wording and scale formats are important, and while it's true that I may get somewhat different results if I use a "leads to - blocks" scale than if I use a "probable - improbable'' scale, it's also true that I'd get somewhat different results if I used a "likely - unlikely'' scale, but this would not mean that I had redefined the concept of belief.

I think the real question is not one of whether the belief measure should be an associative or probability measure, but rather a question of why both Rosenberg and I have used a bipolar belief measure if we're in agreement that belief strength or probability is what we're after. The answer to this question is relatively straightforward, and it's largely pragmatic.

I think it would be fair to say that both Rosenberg and I assumed that if a person believed that a given object did not have a negative attribute or if a given policy did not lead to (or blocked) a negative consequence this would imply a favorable attitude toward the object or policy. If beliefs were scored on a straight probability basis, (i.e., from 0 to 1), or on any unipolar scale, they could not reflect this double-negative. We both chose to measure our beliefs on a bipolar scale so that we could capture this double-negative property.

In retrospect, I have come to realize that the double-negative assumption is not necessary. More specifically, viewing beliefs as only associative rather than as associative or disassociative, forces one to reconsider the definition of the outcome or attribute associated with the object of belief. For example, consider the belief "X is not sweet". I can either view this as a belief that disassociates X and sweet or as a belief that associates X and "not sweet". Similarly, the belief that "X blocks Y" can either be viewed as a disassociation between X and "Y" or an association between X and "blocks Y". Viewing all beliefs as associative eliminates the need for a double-negative assumption, since the contribution of the belief to attitude will always be reflected in the evaluation of the associated attribute. Thus, as I indicated above, if the content of a person's belief is known, there is no question about how that belief should be measured -- I would want to measure the strength of that belief on a unipolar probability scale and the evaluative aspect of that belief on a bipolar evaluative scale. These measurements will tell me whether the belief is contributing positively or negatively to the overall attitude. For example, if someone believes that "Performing X blocks Y" and he thinks that "blocking Y" is "bad", I know this belief contributes negatively to this attitude. Similarly, if I know a person believes X leads to Y and that he positively evaluates Y, I know that this belief is contributing positively to his overall attitude. The problem comes when I don't know the content of the person's belief, i.e., when I don't know whether he believes that "performing X leads to or blocks Y". Consider the person described above who believes "X blocks Y" -- if I simply asked him to indicate how probable it was that "X leads to Y" he would indicate a low probability. Further, if I asked him to evaluate Y, he would evaluate it positively. Thus, if I scored the probability judgment from zero to one, I would infer that this belief was contributing positively to his attitude (e.g., .20 x +2 = .40). However, we have already seen that his belief is really that X blocks Y and he thinks that blocking Y is bad. Thus, this belief should contribute negatively to his attitude. By treating the belief dimension as a bipolar dimension (e.g., by subtracting .5 from the obtained probability) the negativity is captured (i.e., .2 - .5 = -.3 x +2 = -.6). What this procedure does not do is take into account the fact that the person's evaluation of (blocking Y) may not be the opposite of his evaluation of (Y). In our recent book, Icek Ajzen and I (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975) discussed these problems in detail, and we suggested that when one could not assume symmetry in evaluation, the appropriate procedure would be to measure both of these beliefs. Olli has carried this even further by suggesting that we ask the respondent to provide us with all of his beliefs along the attribute (or outcome) dimension. That is, we should ask people how probable it is that "Behavior X leads to Y", that "Behavior X is unrelated to Y", that "Behavior X blocks Y", etc. He wants to identify all possible positions on a given dimension, measure belief strength with respect to each position, and then measure the evaluation of each of these possible outcomes. That is, we should also ask them to evaluate "leads to Y", "does not lead to Y", 'blocks Y", etc.

To return to the main point however, the problem is not in knowing how to define belief, but in arriving at a measurement procedure that best represents the theory. Both Rosenberg and I relied on bipolar measures of belief and evaluation. As Rich's work shows, this does correspond quite well to the cognitive algebra used by subjects. To summarize briefly then, if you don't know the content of a person's belief and if you can only measure one belief per attribute dimension (or if you only want to measure one belief) the most appropriate thing to do is to treat the belief dimension as bipolar. However, if you know the content of a person's belief, then you should use a unipolar measure. Whether the benefits obtained from asking more than one question per attribute dimension (i.e., whether following a procedure such as the one Olli suggested) will outweigh the costs (in subject time and cooperation as well as in instrumentation) is an empirical question that can only be answered by additional research.

Rich raised one other question about the expectancy-value model -- he reopened the old problem of adding versus averaging. While time does not permit a complete discussion of this problem, let me just say that although the Bettman, Capon and Lutz (1975) studies are an improvement upon earlier studies of adding vs. averaging, they still fail to provide an adequate test for resolving the adding-averaging controversy. At this point in time I'm still convinced that the relevant data supports an additive model, and while I am not willing to completely rule out the possibility that there may be averaging on some occasions or in some situations, I will stick to adding until valid data suggests otherwise. For a more complete discussion of this problem, see Fishbein and Ajzen (1975, Ch. 6).

The Normative Component. Turning to the second component, let me first say that I am pleased that most of the questions raised today concern this part of the model since I am more than willing to admit that it is here that most work is needed. However, with the exception of Mike Glassman's paper, I'm afraid that most of the questions raised are more likely to be harmful (i.e., lead to fruitless research) than helpful (i.e., solve some basic problems). In order to respond to these questions, I think it's first necessary to provide some perspective. It should be recalled that until very recently, the normative component was comprised of normative beliefs (i.e., beliefs that specific referents think I should or should not engage in the behavior in question) weighted by motivation to comply with the referents. This Sbjmj value was thus viewed as an immediate determinant of the intention. More recently, however, the model has been revised to include a general normative concept which has been defined as a "subjective norm". That is, just as beliefs and their evaluative aspects are seen as contributing to a more general attitudinal concept, it was assumed that normative beliefs and motivations to comply contribute to a more general normative concept. Since it seemed reasonable to assume that people would have little or no motivation to comply with unimportant others, I felt that one way to express or define this concept was in terms of "most people who are important to me", and thus we predicted that this subjective norm, i.e., this belief that "most people who are important to me think I should (or should not) engage in the behavior" would influence intentions and would be determined by Sbjmj. Olli questions the validity of a concept such as "subjective norm". He states that he can't see people thinking in terms of "most people who are important to me". Rich, on the other hand, does not seem to object to a general theoretical concept like "subjective norm", but he questions whether defining it in terms of "important others" really takes the normative prescription of negative referents into account. Olli makes a similar point. Thus, while both Olli and Rich seem willing to accept the notion that people hold normative beliefs (i.e., beliefs that specific referents think they should or shout not perform the behavior, and while they both seem willing to accept the notion that people are differentially motivated to comply with a given referent, Olli doesn't think that this information can be summarized by a single global concept (whatever it's called). Rich thinks it can be represented at a general level, perhaps even by a concept of "subjective norm", but he questions my particular formulation or definition of the "subjective norm".

There is very little I can say in response to Olli, except to point out that respondents have no trouble answering questions about "most important others". Further, I agree with Olli that even if I believed that all referents thought I should perform a behavior (b = +1), and if I were motivated not to comply with all the referents (m = -1), I probably would still say that "most people who are important to me think I should engage in the behavior". That is, even though the Sbjmj score would be negative, the way I measure "subjective norm" would probably produce a positive score. However, I cannot conceive of a situation where I would be motivated not to comply with any referent. That is, although this may be a problem in the abstract, I don't think it presents a practical problem. What we're really talking about here is an empirical question, namely, how well does Sbjmj predict SN. Mike Glassman's paper provides some initial evidence that Sbjmj actually does quite well.

More important, I think Mike is using a viable approach to attack some of the real problems with the normative component and its determinants. In most of my early work with the model, motivation to comply contributed little, if anything, to the understanding of intentions. At first, it seemed to me that this might have to do with the level at which motivation to comply was measured. Mike's studies measuring motivation to comply at three different levels of specificity is an important first step in untangling this concept. Unfortunately, his data suggest that the level at which one measures motivation to comply really doesn't seem to matter. While I still think this problem has to be resolved, I now think the major problem resides in the instrument we have used to measure motivation to comply. Theoretically, I have assumed that if a person believed that a given referent didn't want him to engage in some behavior and if the person were motivated not to comply with that referent, this would increase his intention to perform the behavior. Thus, as in the case of belief and evaluation we have measured normative beliefs and motivation to comply on bipolar scales (e.g., from +3 to -3) in order to capture this double negativity. As Mike pointed out, it's only recently that we have come to realize that this bipolar scoring is probably inappropriate for a scale that ranges from "I want to" to "I want not to do what referent X thinks I should do. This wording is clearly unipolar, and consistent with this, when we went hack and rescored the motivation to comply measure from 1 to 7 or 0 to 6, we found that motivation did contribute something to prediction, although its contribution was still relatively small. Rich's data also demonstrates that, at least in its present form, the motivation to comply measure should have been scored in a unipolar fashion since people treat it unipolarly in their cognitive algebra. Unfortunately, this does not capture the underlying theoretical assumption, and I personally feel that as a next step we should measure motivation to comply on a true bipolar scale. A scale like "I want to do - I want to do the opposite of what referent X thinks I should do" would be more in keeping with our underlying assumptions and may give motivation to comply an opportunity to contribute more to prediction. If nothing else, this type of scale will at least lead to a multiplicative cognitive algebra. I will return to this problem below.

First however, let me turn to the more specific suggestions that were raised. Although Olli suggested doing away with a general normative concept, he did want to retain the sum of normative beliefs weighted by motivation to comply. However, he again tries to make a distinction between belief content and belief strength, and he proposes the use of a vector model for this component as well as for the attitudinal component. Although the vector model may have some use on the attitudinal side, I do not think that this will be the case on the normative side. The reason for this is that despite Olli's elaborate argument, I do not think there is a problem of belief content when it comes to normative beliefs. The distinction between belief strength and belief content is important on the attitudinal side, for even if I know a person's belief that "X leads to Y", I cannot predict his belief that "X blocks Y". I can, however, predict his belief that "X does not lead to Y." That is, P(X) = 1 - P(X). On the normative side, all we are interested in is whether the person believes that a given referent thinks he should [P(x)] or should not [P(X)] engage in a particular behavior. Further qualifications such as "Referent A thinks I always should, or Referent A thinks I sometimes should engage in the behavior" will be reflected in the probability measure P(X). What I'm trying to point out is that I will obtain essentially the same information whether I use a "should-should not" scale or a "probable-improbable" scale, as long as I treat the probability scale as bipolar. Olli's argument that my two different measures imply two different concepts leads him to make the same mistake Rich made earlier -- he's reifying operations into concepts without paying attention to theory.

Olli was correct however, when he pointed out that, in at least one study, I did use an operation which did, in fact, define a different concept. Asking someone to indicate what another person expects him to do, is not the same as asking him what that other person thinks he should do. Mistakes like this are serious ones, and here differences in measurement procedures do change the meaning of the concept. But notice I used the word mistakes, and I would like to take this opportunity to make a general point. We all make mistakes, and in trying to develop the model I did, once, make the mistake of measuring normative beliefs in terms of expectancies. But I realized this was a mistake, I realized that expectations are not the same as shoulds. It has been over seven years since that study was conducted, and in every paper since then, I have defined normative beliefs in terms of should . Similarly, as I pointed out earlier, many people have tried to make an issue out of the fact that Rosenberg measured instrumentality on a "block-attain" scale while I measure belief on a probability scale. But Rosenberg used that scale in 1956; in his later work, he, too, referred to beliefs in terms of probability. I think that if someone is going to criticize another person's work, or compare the work of two people, the least the critic can do is consider the person's current work. One purpose of research is to enable us to learn and modify our thinking. I don't feel we should be accused of inconsistency because of early mistakes that have been corrected in more recent work.

To return to the problem at hand, however, Olli had one other suggestion or comment -- namely he argued that the motivation to comply measure was not tapping all of the bases of social influence and he suggested some alternative measures. Olli may be right but at this stage he's merely speculating, and I think it's a serious mistake for anyone to suggest changes in someone else's measurement procedures without first providing empirical evidence that such changes are warranted. As I said earlier, I too think that motivation to comply has been badly measured, but I think that one is much more likely to resolve problems by doing the kind of work that Mike Glassman is doing than by introducing unsupported speculations into the literature. Unfortunately, I think this same criticism applies to many of Rich's suggestions. Since Rich has made several different suggestions, let me try to discuss them one by one.

First, I think it's worth noting that both Rich and Olli essentially objected to the definition of the subjective norm because they felt it did not capture situations in which m takes on negative values. That is, Olli argued that the way I have defined SN could produce a positive value in those cases where the referents thought the person should perform the behavior but the person was not (or was negatively) motivated to comply with the referents (i.e., where b x m is negative). Rich pointed to the opposite problem since he feels that the direct measure of SN might produce a negative value in those cases where the referents thought the person should not engage in the behavior but the person was motivated not to comply with the referents (i.e., where b. x m is positive). Although I can understand their theoretical arguments, I do think it's highly unlikely that we'll find very many instances where people are not motivated or are negatively motivated to comply with referents they view as important. That is, it seems reasonable to assume that the more important the referent is to the person, the more he will be motivated to comply with that referent. If this is the case, defining the subjective norm in terms of "most people who are important to me" will in fact be quite representative of the Sbjmj equation.

Further, it's interesting to note that, at this stage, Rich's own data invalidate his objection. That is, as I pointed out above, the objection is only valid if the measure of motivation to comply can take on negative values. Rich's data, as well as Mike Glassman's, point out that in all our research to date, motivation to comply has been measured as a unipolar construct. Rich, however, obviously does believe that motivation to comply can take on negative values. Indeed, he suggested that the subjective norm would be better defined in terms of a global motivation to comply. That is, by assuming that bj (normative beliefs) was analogous to bi (instrumental beliefs) and mj was analogous to ei, Rich arrived at a purely motivational description of the normative component and he suggested that SN could be measured by a scale such as: "With respect to performing behavior X, I want to -- I want not to do what other people think I should do." Unfortunately, as Rich himself points out, although he views this concept as bipolar, it is not directional with respect to the behavior. While a scale such as I want to -- I want to do the opposite" will better capture the bipolarity of the motivational concept, it will still not be directional with respect to the behavior, and despite his claim to the contrary, I really don't see how this nondirectional concept could contribute to prediction of a directional intention.

Further, I think it may be worth noting that had Rich viewed mj as analogous to bi and bj as analogous to ei , he would have argued that the subjective norm should be a general concept reflecting what others think we should or should not do. That is he would have arrived at essentially the same conception of subjective norm as the one I proposed. Further, he would have arrived at this conception even though motivation to comply could take on negative values. What I'm trying to point out is that the definition of SN in terms of most important others is in fact compatible with the Sbjmj formulation even if mj is truly bipolar. But conceptual comparability does not mean it will be correct empirically. Unfortunately, we will not be able to resolve this question until motivation to comply is measured on a truly bipolar scale.

Rich's alternative suggestion for improving the measure of the subjective norm was that it might be better defined as a "social attitude". This suggestion is just plain wrong. Dividing beliefs about performing a given behavior into two arbitrary categories will not solve any problems. In fact, what a procedure of this type will do is provide two different estimates of exactly the same attitude. Thus, rather than reducing the multicollinearity between the attitudinal and normative components, this procedure will actually increase it. More important, such a procedure would eliminate any consideration of normative pressure. Since Rich would merely have two different estimates of the person's attitude toward performing the behavior he would have no normative component at all. On the basis of a great deal of previous research in many different areas, I can assure you that, despite the fact that different types of beliefs may be used to estimate the attitude, the two estimates will be very highly correlated.

Perhaps at this point I should mention that at one time, I too felt that the second component might be attitudinal and, like Rich, I thought in terms of a social attitude. That is, I thought that since the first component was the person's own attitude toward performing the behavior, the second component could be his perception of the attitudes of relevant others. What this would mean is that in addition to asking a respondent to indicate his own beliefs about performing the behavior we could also ask him to provide us with his perception of others' beliefs about performing the behavior. Further, we could ask for his own evaluation of the association outcome as well as his perception of the way others would evaluate the related outcome. Fortunately, before spending a great deal of time on this idea, Icek Ajzen and I (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1972) looked at the relation between a person's normative belief (i.e., his belief that a given referent thought he should or should not engage in the behavior) and his perception of the referent's attitude toward engaging in the behavior. The results indicated that although the perception of the referent's attitude was related to the normative belief, it was not equivalent to the normative belief. That is, although people may use their perceptions of a referent's attitude as one basis for inferring a normative belief, there appear to be many other bases for the inference. Although I may believe that a referent positively evaluates the performance of a given act, I may still believe that he thinks I should not engage in the act. Since perceived attitudes of others did not predict normative beliefs we did not feel it would be fruitful to view the normative component as a perceived attitude. Mike Glassman's paper provides additional evidence for the inequality of normative beliefs and perceived attitudes of others. If you look at Tables 2 and 3 in Mike's paper, you will see rather large differences in the size of his obtained correlations between Sbjmj and SN. Note, however, that in Table 2, b was incorrectly measured in terms of the perceived attitude of the referent, while in Table 3, b was correctly measured, i.e., subjects indicated their belief that a given referent thought they should or should not engage in the behavior.

At this stage in the development of the theory, I do feel that there is some general normative concept that corresponds to the general attitudinal concept. Further, although I am not convinced that the best way to measure this is by asking whether "most important others think I should or should not perform the behavior", I think that this question still comes closest to capturing the meaning of the concept. Further, there is some fairly good evidence that when the normative concept is defined in this way, it is predictable from Sbjmj.. Unfortunately, this may largely be a function of the fact that m has been poorly measured. That is, as I tried to point out above, the notion of important others very adequately reflects Sbjmj when mj is treated in a uni-polar fashion. Although I don't know what will happen when mj is measured in a manner consistent with the theory, i.e., when m is measured in a true bipolar fashion, I am predicting that SN will continue to be well defined in terms of "important others." Needless to say, I see the motivation to comply concept as the weakest link in the theory. While a bipolar measure may help, this still will not resolve the question of the level at which the concept should be measured. I am convinced that it would be inappropriate to measure motivation to comply in terms of the subject's desire to perform the specific behavior prescribed the referent. Further, although Icek and I have most recently opted for s general measure of motivation to comply with the referent, I am now leaning toward the middle level, namely motivation to comply with the referent in a given behavioral domain. I think that the kind of research that Mike has been doing will be most helpful in resolving these questions, and I'd like to see a replication of his study where motivation to comply was again measured at different levels, but where the scale used was truly bipolar in nature.

The Relative Weights of the Two Components. The final set of problems relates to the meaning of the weights attached to the attitudinal and normative components as factors influencing intentions. Olli argues that since these weights are assumed to vary across individuals and behaviors, they are not parameters but variables, and thus multiple regression procedures for estimating the weights are inappropriate. Rich also questions the use of a regression approach as a means of estimating weights, hut on somewhat different grounds. He points out that since SN and AB are usually highly correlated, their multicollinearity raises serious questions about the reliability and validity of the obtained regression weights.

While there is some truth in what they say, I'm not quite sure what to do about it. One thing I do know, however, is that I do not want to ask people to tell me how much importance they place on each component in determining their intentions. There is already more than enough data coming from studies of cue utilization to demonstrate that people cannot provide accurate estimates of the relative weights they place on different cues in arriving at judgments.

Further, I must admit I am not terribly concerned about the "multicollinearity problem". That is, I think in most cases in the "real world" there are "true" correlations between subjective norms and attitudes toward behaviors, and I think that any attempt to eliminate this correlation would be inappropriate. My current position is that I view the weights as theoretical parameters (parameters can vary), and correctly or incorrectly, I see multiple regression as one way of estimating these parameters. Despite the many problems associated with the multiple regression procedure, we have been able to show that weights obtained through multiple regression analyses do covary in accordance with our theoretical predictions. For example, consistent with expectations, SN was found to be more important (received a higher regression weight) than AB in cooperative situations, while it was less important than AB in competitive situations. Similarly as predicted, authoritarians did tend to place more weight on the normative component than did egalitarians. Given findings like this, I feel that despite some obvious inadequacies, the use of multiple-regression procedures to estimate the relative weights of the two components has yielded useful and meaningful results and in the absence of a viable alternative I will continue to use this procedure. Let me make it clear however, that I would really like to find some independent method for estimating or measuring the weights for each individual with respect to any given behavior. Unfortunately, I don't know how this can be done at the present time, but I do think this is a very important area for research.

Before concluding, there is one additional point I would like to make. In the course of the session, both Mike and Olli referred to my concern with specificity. Olli said that if I was concerned with specificity I should measure attitudes toward "my performance" Of a behavior rather than "performing" the behavior per se, and Mike argued that to be consistent with my concern with specificity he feels that motivation to comply should be measured at the most specific level. Since I agree with Olli and disagree with Mike, it should be clear that my concern is not with specificity. However, many other people have also criticized the model for being too specific, and they have questioned the value of a "specific" concept such as an attitude toward an act. I would like to take this opportunity to point out that I am not now, nor have I ever been, concerned with specificity. What I am concerned with is correspondence. The model is a general model, and it is designed to account for people's intentions to perform any act. From a theoretical point of view, it makes no difference whether we are trying to predict a very specific intention (e.g., the intention to buy Crest toothpaste the next time I go shopping at my local A & P) or a very general intention (e.g., the intention to buy toothpaste). Once an intention has been identified, however, the model does state that all other measurements must correspond to that intention if one wants to obtain satisfactory prediction.

If I'm interested in a consumer's intentions to "buy toothpaste", then, according to the model, I must measure his or her attitude toward "buying toothpaste" and his or her subjective norm with respect to "buying toothpaste". Similarly, if I want to know the beliefs underlying this attitude or the subjective norm, I should be assessing his or her salient beliefs about "buying toothpaste" or his or her normative beliefs about "buying toothpaste". On the other hand, if I'm interested in a consumer's intention to "buy Crest toothpaste the next time I go shopping at my local A & P", the model says I must measure attitudes toward "buying Crest toothpaste the next time I go shopping at my local A & P" the subjective norm concerning "buying Crest toothpaste the next time I go shopping at my local A & P", etc. To put this somewhat differently, behavioral criteria and intentions can be described in terms of four elements: the action, the target the action is directed at, the situation or context in which the action occurs, and the time at which the action occurs. All four elements can vary along dimensions of specificity. For example, the target may be a specific brand (e.g., Wheaties) a relatively specific product class (e.g., dry cereals), a more general product class (breakfast cereals), a fairly global product class (food), or it can be left unspecified. The model doesn't care what level of specificity is adopted. However, once a behavioral criterion has been identified (i.e., defined in terms of the four elements), the intention must correspond directly to that criterion. Similarly, measures of beliefs, attitudes, and subjective norms must also correspond to the intention and the behavior. It is only under conditions of correspondence that maximal prediction can be expected. The actual level of specificity of the elements one deals with should be determined by the problem or behavior you are investigating.


O. T. Ahtola, "The Vector Model of Preferences: An Alternative to the Fishbein Model," Journal of Marketing Research, 12, 1975, 52-59.

I. Ajzen and M. Fishbein, "Attitudes and Normative Beliefs as Factors Influencing Behavioral Intentions" Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 21, 1973, 1-9.

I. Ajzen and M. Fishbein, "Attitude-behavior Relations: A Theoretical Analysis and Review of Empirical Research", unpublished manuscript, 1975.

J. R. Bettman, N. Capon, and R. J. Lutz, "Information Processing in Attitude Formation and Change", Communication Research, 2, 1975, 267-278.

A. Cowling, A. "Use of Elicitation Technique for Producing Dimensions of Brand Choice", Sixteenth annual conference papers, Market Research Society of Great Britain, 1973.

M. Fishbein and I. Ajzen, Belief, Attitude, Intention and Behavior: An Introduction to Theory and Research (Boston: Addison-Wesley, 1975)

C. A. Insko, R. R. Blake, R. B. Cialdini, and S. A. Mulaik, "Attitude Toward Birth Control and Cognitive Consistency: Theoretical and Practical Implications of Survey Data", Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 16, 1970, 228-237.

K. J. Kaplan and M. Fishbein, "The Source of Beliefs, Their Saliency and Prediction of Attitude", Journal of Social Psychology, 78, 1969, 63-74.

V. Kothandapani, "Validation of Feeling, Belief, and Intention to Act as Three Components of Attitude and Their Contribution to Prediction of Contraceptive Behavior," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 19, 1971, 321-333.

M. J. Rosenberg, "Cognitive Structure and Attitudinal Affect," Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 53, 1956, 367-372.



Martin Fishbein, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 03 | 1976

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