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The Many Sides of Attitude: A Comparative Evaluation of Attitude in Terms of Cognitive Dissonance Theory and the Theory of Planned Behaviour.

The Many Sides of Attitude: A Comparative Evaluation of Attitude in Terms of Cognitive Dissonance Theory and the Theory of Planned Behaviour.

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Michele Burns. Originally submitted for BA Psychology and Sociology at University of Limerick, with lecturer Dr. Lauren Hamel in the category of Medical Sciences
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Michele Burns. Originally submitted for BA Psychology and Sociology at University of Limerick, with lecturer Dr. Lauren Hamel in the category of Medical Sciences

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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12/05/2013

 
Attitude: A Comparative Evaluation 1The Many Sides of Attitude: A Comparative Evaluation of Attitude in Terms of CognitiveDissonance Theory and the Theory of Planned Behaviour.
 
Attitude: A Comparative Evaluation 2
The Many Sides of Attitude: A Comparative Evaluation of Attitude in Terms of Cognitive Dissonance Theory and the Theory of Planned Behaviour.
The term attitude is a controversial one. Despite being one of the most researchedpsychological constructs to date, no conclusive definition of attitudes exists. In the 1950
s,attitudes were perceived as central to the study of psychology. The term attitude encompasseda vast array of processes, including emotional, motivational, evaluation and cognitiveelements. Attitudes
were thought to be enduring, and relatively stable throughout one’s
lifetime (Schwarz & Bohner, 2001). However, the importance of attitude as a construct hasradically declined in the last thirty years. Currently, attitudes are viewed primarily as anevaluative construct, with little other value. This is largely due to empirical evidence whichsuggests attitudes are flexible and highly context-dependent (Schwarz & Bohner, 2001).Nonetheless, attitudes remain central
to some of psychology’s most prominent and powerfultheories. This essay will discuss two such theories: Festinger’s (1957) C
ognitive DissonanceTheory
and Ajzen’s (1985) Theory of Planned Behaviour.
Attitude will be examined by exploring its role in both cognitive dissonance theoryand the theory of planned behaviour. The similarities and differences in relation to attitude inboth theories will be discussed in terms of four key areas. Firstly, the definition andconceptualisation of attitudes employed by each theory will be discussed. The majority of thepaper will then focus on the perceived relationship between attitude and behaviour, as theprediction of human behaviour is of primary interest to psychologists. This will be followedby a consideration of the position of attitudes in each theoretical framework. Finally, themeasurement of attitude will be briefly explored. It is hoped that this essay will provide aninformative account of the vast discrepancies which exist between various psychological
 
Attitude: A Comparative Evaluation 3theories in terms of their construction of attitudes. It should be clear that both theories differgreatly in their understanding of attitudes.The Theory of Planned Behaviour is an influential predictive theory. It has been mostdominant in the field of health psychology
where it is used to predict an individual’s
likelihood to engage in a specific positive health behaviour. In this area, the theory of plannedbehaviour has been employed to predict a multitude of behaviours such as condom useamong women (Fazekas, Senn & Ledgerwood, 2001), likelihood of weight loss (Schifter &Ajzen, 1985), and likelihood of smoking cessation (Norman, Conner & Bell, 1999). Theessence of the theory of planned behaviour
’s predictive
ability is based on a causalrelationship where three factors; attitude, subjective norm, and perceived behavioural control,all influence behavioural intentions. Behavioural intentions in turn predict behaviour (Ajzen,1991).Cognitive dissonance theory proposes that individuals constantly seek cognitiveconsistency. However, because individuals
lives are impacted by many environmental
factors, inconsistencies inevitably arise between one’s various cognitive elements and
behaviour (Festinger, 1957). These inconsistencies lead to a form of cognitive tension whichFestinger coined dissonance. Once dissonance is present, pressure is exerted on the individualto reduce it; the aim is to achieve consonance (Festinger, 1957). Cognitive dissonance theoryhas profoundly influenced the way psychologists understand and explain human behaviour.The theory of planned behaviour
defines an attitude as the summation of one’s behavioural beliefs about the outcome of a certain behaviour, along with the individual’
sevaluation of that behaviour. (Ajzen, 1985). More specifically, an attitude can be determined
 by multiplying a person’s behavioural beliefs with their evaluations of the behavioural
outcomes (Fazekas et al, 2001). This attitude in turn influences behaviour. For example,

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