Is it Time to Retire the Theory of
PY0770 HEALTH PSYCHOLOGY IN THEORY AND PRACTICE SEMESTER 1
Calhoun, Farley I.
Word Count 2400
The theory of Planned Behavior
tends to explain human behaviors by relating them to planned behaviors. There
are four variables that explain the planned behaviors in health science; the
variables include attitude, Subjective norm, behavior intention and the
beliefs. However, current studies have criticized the arguments on the basis of
the number of explanatory measures as well as the assumptions of the study.
Conceptual Basis of Theory of Planned Behavior
The Theory of Planned Behavior
links the behavior of individuals with their beliefs. The model was suggested
by Icek Ajzen with the aim of forecasting the power of the theory of reasoned
action through including the understood behavioral control (Ajzen, 1991). Over
the years the model has been used to study human relations, beliefs, behavioral
intentions as well as the attitude of a person. The theory states that the
disposition of the mind towards behavior, perceived behavior control as well as
the subjective norms, sum up to shape a person’s behavior and behavioral
intentions. There are various studies that have been carried out to test the
correlation of attitude and subjective norms. The studies show a positive
correlation between those attitudes of an individual and the subjective norms
to the behavioral course of action that an individual intends to follow.
Based on the Theory of Planned
Behavior, there are two scenarios that result to more significant intention
which is referred to motivations. Firstly, in cases where individuals examine
the proposed behaviors to be positive which is referred to the attitude.
Secondly, in cases where people think that their superiors want them to
showcase the behavior which is called the subjective norm. The theory of
Planned Behavior together with the attitudes and the subjective norms, the
model also incorporated the concept of behavioral control which is perceived.
The concept of behavioral control originated from the self-efficacy theory
which was suggested by Bandura. According to the Self-Efficacy Theory, some
human expectation such as performance, motivation as well as frustration which
are direct, indirectly or inversely connected to recurring failure is the
determinants of the effect and the human reaction to a cause of action.
Therefore, the Theory of Planned Behavior suggests that self-efficacy is the
most significant prior condition for behavioral transformation, because it
determines the origin of copied mannerisms. The concept of Self-efficacy has
allowed the Theory of Planned Behavior to be applicable on health-related areas
which included physical activities and mental health issues mainly in persons
before the adolescent age.
How the Theory of Planned Behavior Conceptualizes Behavior
and Behavior Change
The Theory of Planned Behavior
proposes that the beliefs determine the behavior of a person or even an animal
about behavior which is also called the attitudes, the intentions of an
individual as well as the subjective norms. The theory suggests that the
behavior control which is defined to be the belief of an individual’s
capability to perform a behavior and the intentions of a given behavior to be
the determinants of behavior.
Subjective norms are constructed
in analogous notion to the injunctive reinforcement property of other social
reinforcement theories and are one that is made operational by the more general
construct of social reinforcement. Therefore, subjective norm refers to the way
people that are related to us feel about our specific behavior. For instance,
most people that are related to some a given student perceive that the student
should not smoke a cigarette. Therefore, if most people in one’s life
disapprove of them smoking, then they are likely not to smoke a cigarette,
therefore, according to Theory of Planned Behavior subjective norms majors on
the reference group. The behavior perceived by an individual is one dependent
on the perceiver’s behavior and not the general behavior of an individual.
Injunctive and subjective norms share most of the components. However,
injunctive norms are consistent with the social impact theory. Therefore,
stipulations pertaining the behavior of the perceiver and the reference group
are not included in the injunctive norms.
In addition, an individual’s
behavior is determined by the intention of the individual to engage in a given
behavior. The desire for individual behavior is also influenced by the
significance by which an individual put on the behavior. For instance, a
student may choose to study medicine in college due to the significant he/she
places on human health.
What is more, according to the
theory of planned behavior, an individual’s behavior and/or change in behavior
is also influenced by the ease to portray a certain behavior. The ability to
perform a task using less effort influences the individual’s desire to perform
a certain task. An alternative to an easier way to perform a certain task
influences a person to change the behavior with preference to the easier one.
For instance, while one is listening to an important speech, they would choose
to record the speech rather than writing it in a booklet.
Empirical Evidence for the Theory of Planned Behavior and
The issue of using
contraceptives which is the intentional means of preventing pregnancy is an
issue of concern in the world. Studies have shown that more than 130 million
women who are between 15 and 49 years of age who are in a union or married have
unsatisfied desire for family planning. The issue of unmet needs of family
planning is mainly evidenced in developing countries such as Uganda. Family
planning education can be a solution to unwanted pregnancies (Kiene, Hopwood,
Lule, & Wanyenze, 2014). One of the major model that has been used to
explain the use of contraceptives most especially condom use is Theory of
In 2014, an empirical based test
was carried out to investigate the Theory of Planned Behavior that is applied
to the use of contraceptives in rural areas of Uganda. There are other factors
affecting individual-level components that are addressed by the Theory of
Planned Behavior. Also, other social cognitive conceptual representation used
to explain the working of a real-world system. Structural components which are
not addressed by Theory of Planned Behavior are also a major factor that
contributes to the use of contraceptives. According to the Theory of Planned
Behavior, insufficient family planning services and health care services are
the major causes of abortion and unwanted pregnancies.
A sample of 253 women ranging
between 20-46 years was used in the study. 92% of the women were married or in
the union. 81% of the women were education or rather have received some
schooling. The three behaviors that were used in the study were whether the
women discuss family planning issues with their husbands, couples that went for
counseling regarding family planning as well as couples that used family
planning methods. The questions related to attitude were formatted as ‘how
would you feel about…’ The questions related to perceiving behavior control
were formatted as ‘how difficult or easy would it be for you to…’ The responses
in the two circumstances were having a range of 5 points. In addition, the team
on intention had the questions reading as ‘In the future, do you intend to…’
The response was a ‘no’ or ‘yes’ answer.
The model was found to be a good
fit to explain reasons why there is the low usage of contraceptives in
non-western countries. The mode also predicted some behaviors related to
contraceptive usage in Uganda. Perceived behavioral control, norms as well as
attitude were found to be the significant predictors of the use of
contraceptives. Perceived behavioral control was the major predictor intention
in the empirical test.
Other Factors Related with Equal Significance in Determining
Behavior that are not Include in the Theory of Planned Behavior
The Theory of Planned Behavior
has successfully been used to explain various health behaviors including
smoking, drinking as well as breastfeeding. There are three factors that are
addressed by the model that explain health behaviors. These factors include
attitudes, behavioral intention, social norms, perceived behavioral control as well
as the subjective norms. However, other significant factors are equally
important in determining behaviors. Nonetheless, the model does not address
these factors. The components either determine the behavior of an individual, a
group and or the population.
Firstly, the model does not
account for behaviors that are mostly influenced by fear more than the
determinants of behavior and behavior change. Fear may influence the behavior
of an individual, a group and/or population. For instance, a lactating mother
may choose not to breastfeed a baby with the fear of losing their body shape.
However, the model does not factor in the factor of fear in the model.
Secondly, the past experience of
a group, an individual and/or population can influence their behavior. A
recurrent of a behavior or an event can influence the operation of a person.
The model, however, does not account for the variables connected to past
experiences. For instance, an individual may choose to quit drinking in cases
where they learn that their parents died in a road accident while driving under
the influence of alcohol.
The model also does not account
for behaviors that are related to threats. Some behaviors portrayed by an
individual might be solely dependent on a threat made to an individual.
However, the model does not give an account for of such a factor. What is more,
some human operations may be solely related to the moods of an individual. For
instance, one may decide to drink also alcohol solely because they are feeling
sad or while they are celebrating.
The model does not address the
time frame between the intent and the behavioral action. The time frame of the
model is a significant factor that requires being addressed by the model. The
time span between the intent and the behavior action might be a significant
factor related to the behavior an individual output (Ogden, 2015). The model
assumes that the behavior of a person is dependent on a linear process of
decision making. However, some behaviors are as a result of change over time.
Some outcomes of a given intent are the cause action of the time between intent
and the behavioral action.
What is more, the model does not
address behavior action of a person, a group or a given population due to that
is related to the environment surrounding or the economic factors. The model
considers the normative factors that influence behaviors.
Does the Theory of Planned Behavior Meet the Criteria of a
Various studies have been done concerning the validity of
the Theory of Planned Behavior to meet the qualities of a good theory. The
major issue of concern is whether a volitional theory is adequately elaborated
using only four explanatory variables. To be precise, the theory focusses on
rational reasoning and ignores unconscious control on human behavior such as
fear (Conner, Gaston, Sheeran, & Germain, 2013). What is more, the theory
does not explain future behaviors as well as the impact of the behaviors on the
process of knowing (McEachan et al., 2011). Other researchers also question the
openness of the model to falsification of the empirical evidence. Also, the
model does not explain the hypothesis of the study is based on essential common
senses. Therefore, they can be falsified.
Reviews also indicate that the
majority of variability in identified behavior is not credited for by the
variables of the Theory of Planned Behavior. The concern of the validity of the
theory raises issues related to the conflict of the evidence. The assumptions
of the theory conflict with the evidence of the model. For instance, believes
over predicts the behavior of an individual (Gardner, De Bruijn, & Lally,
2011). Therefore, the model is not a ‘good’ theory. The model requires some
modification to provide an extension of the Theory of Planned Behavior.
The human behavior is different,
and people always consider situations from different perspectives. Therefore, a
theory can also be useful even if it is not entirely accurate. The model can be
a phenomenon that has been observed reliably in a systematic empirical
research. A failure to produce the similar outcomes during the initial testing
of the model and the replication differs in some important way from the initial
study. Consider the theory on the reflection of the multistore model of the
memory of an individual. The theory is cited in books and by researchers
despite the fact that it is known to be inaccurate. The theory can be used to
organize old phenomena as well as forecasting new phenomena. Therefore, a
theory that is considered not to be ‘good’ can be used to organize other
theories with significant efficiency and clarity. Secondly, an inaccurate
theory has some factual basis that can be used to test new situations. What is
more, the theory can be used to generate a new model or an investigation by
giving rise to more questions.
How other researches and theory in other fields contradict
Other researches have provided
contradicting evidence on the Theory of Planned Behavior. Firstly, the
religiosity affects the pro-social behaviors by strengthening positive
attitude. Research also shows that religion does not affect the pro-social
behaviors. Therefore, the issue of religiosity contradicts the aspect of
planned behavior that forecasts that attitude fosters behavior.
In addition, the theory ignores
the independent thoughts of an individual portraying a certain behavior. For
instance, some reactions are merely out of thoughts of a person and not any
planned behavior. Also, the theory does not address the issue of people who
react to a situation due to cases related to a nervous breakdown or mentally
retarded persons. In the case of a mentally retarded person, they tend to
output some behaviors due to their surrounding or the influence of a specific
drug. However, the research does not provide information on such behavior of a
person that is influenced by drugs or a disease.
What is more, the Theory of
Planned Behavior has lost its usefulness. Three decades after the model was
suggested, it does not help the health practitioners get an intervention in the
emerging issues. The theory does not provide an explanatory measure that
differs from other theories.
In conclusion, the Theory of
Planned Behavior has various unexplained variations. However, the study should
not be allowed to retire yet. Instead, modifications can be done on the model
which allows it to be useful in the evolving world. Other than retiring, the
model can also be used in future researches and theories.
Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior.” Organizational behavior and human decision
processes 50(2), 179-211.
Conner, M., Godin, G., Sheeran, P., & Germain, M.
(2013). Some feelings are more important:
Cognitive attitudes, anticipated
affect, and blood donation. Health
Psychology, 32(3), 264.
Gardner, B., de Bruijin, G. J., & Lally, P. (2011). A
systematic review and meta-analysis of
applications of the self-report
habit index to nutrition and physical activity behavior. Annals of behavioral medicine, 42(2), 174-187.
Kiene, S. M., Hopwood, S., Lule, H., & Wanyenze, R. K.
(2014). An empirical test of the
Theory of Planned Behavior
apllied to the contraceptive use in rural Uganda. Journal of health psychology, 19(12), 1564-1575.
McEachan, R. R. C., Conner, M., Taylor, N. J., & Lawton,
R. J. (2011). Prospective prediction of
behavior: A meta-analysis. Health
Psychology Review, 5(2), 97-144.
Ogden, J. (2015). Time to retire the theory of planned behavior?
one of us will have to go! A
commentary on Sniehotta,
Presseau and Araujo-soares. Health
psychology review, 9(2), 165-167.