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Testing the bi-dimensional effects of attitudes on behavioural intentions and subsequent behaviour

Elliott, Mark A. and Brewster, Sarah E. and Thomson, James A. and Malcolm, Carly and Rasmussen, Susan (2015) Testing the bi-dimensional effects of attitudes on behavioural intentions and subsequent behaviour. British Journal of Psychology, 106 (4). pp. 656-674. ISSN 0007-1269

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Abstract

Attitudes are typically treated as unidimensional predictors of both behavioural intentions and subsequent behaviour. On the basis of previous research showing that attitudes comprise two independent, positive and negative dimensions, we hypothesised that attitudes would be bi-dimensional predictors of both behavioural intentions and subsequent behaviour. We focused on health-risk behaviours. We therefore also hypothesised that the positive dimension of attitude (evaluations of positive behavioural outcomes) would better predict both behavioural intentions and subsequent behaviour than would the negative dimension, consistent with the positivity bias/offset principle. In study 1 (cross sectional design), N=109 university students completed questionnaire measures of their intentions to binge-drink and the positive and negative dimensions of attitude. Consistent with the hypotheses, both attitude dimensions independently predicted behavioural intentions and the positive dimension was a significantly better predictor than was the negative dimension. The same pattern of findings emerged in study 2 (cross sectional design; N = 186 university students) when we predicted intentions to binge-drink, smoke and consume a high-fat diet. Similarly, in study 3 (prospective design; N = 1232 speed limit offenders), both the positive and negative dimensions of attitude predicted subsequent (6-month post-baseline) speeding behaviour on two different road types and the positive dimension was the better predictor. The implications for understanding the motivation of behaviour and the development of behaviour-change interventions are discussed.