The Theory of Planned Behaviour: Organizational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes


This article elaborates on the nature of behaviour-specific factors in Ajzen’s framework: Theory of Planned Behaviour. Following limitations in accounting for behaviours in which people do not have complete volitional control, the Theory of Reasoned Action model was refined to include perceived behavioural control that improves the predictive power of behaviours.

The causal chain (attitudes -> intentions -> behaviours) recognizes attitudes as a poor gauge of behaviour in specific situations although they influence intentions and can affect the final outcome.


Perceived behavioural control plays an important role in shaping behavioural intentions, thus the motivation to commit a specific act. It refers to how easy or difficult an individual perceives a potential behaviour to be — based on availability of mandatory opportunities and resources. Factors such as time, skills and/or cooperation of others etc collectively represent the individual’s actual control over the behaviour of interest. I understand this as where the required circumstances are present, and a strong intention to perform the behaviour is exerted, an individual is very likely to succeed in doing so.

It is important to note that perceived behavioural control is dependent of two aspects:

(1)   degree to which individuals conceptualize themselves as sufficiently knowledgeable, skilful, disciplined, and able to perform some act

(2)   extent to which individuals feel that other factors, such as cooperation of colleagues, resources or time constraints, could inhibit or facilitate the behaviour

Critical Analysis

The Theory of Planned Behaviour emphasizes that behavioural intentions are function of not just personal attitudes towards consequences, social norms but also our inherent sense of control.

I will use the example of a campaign against drink-driving to analyze the various components. An individual’s (let’s call him Mickey) chain of thoughts:

  • Attitude

Beliefs about the outcome of the behaviour – Drink-driving is very dangerous.

Evaluation of expected outcomes – By drink-driving, I am a hazard to society. By not drink-driving, I fulfil my role as a responsible citizen.

Attitudes bring about positive or negative feelings relating to the specific behaviour.

  • Normative Beliefs

Contribution of “V.I.P” opinions – Family and friends do not want me to drink and drive.

Compliance – I need to do what they want me to do. I need to listen to their wishes.

Motivation to avoid an undesirable behaviour is weighted on an individual’s perception of whether people important to him/her believe the behaviour should be performed. Mickey’s close family and friends would definitely reject the idea of his drink-driving.

  • Control Beliefs

I have enough self-discipline to refrain from alcohol. It will not be difficult to avoid drink-driving.

Mickey’s high perceived behavioural control is the extent to which he assumes he can refrain from alcohol. Perceived behavioural control bases on the concept of self efficacy. However this internal locus of control conflicts with external control where there is lack of cooperation from others, for e.g. when he is peer-pressured into drinking, giving into the temptation of drinking as part of a social group.

Mickey was oblivious to factors that would obstruct the intended behaviour of refraining from alcohol. This explains why perceived and actual behavioural controls sometimes diverge, affecting the extent to which intentions are associated with corresponding behaviours (Armitage & Conner, 2001).


Ajzen’s suggests that the link in the above diagram should ideally be between behaviour and actual behavioural control (rather than perceived). However the difficulty of assessing actual control has led to perceived behavioural control as an approximate. I infer that the accuracy of an individual’s perception results in the final deviance.

By understanding the Theory of Planned Behaviour, communication strategies are drawn up to target the affecting factors. Of course the relative importance of each component can vary across individuals and contexts (Ajzen, 1991). The Theory of Planned Behavior is one of the most predictive persuasion theories.

How would you then, as a media professional, use knowledge of this framework to attempt to alter Mickey’s behaviour?

Reference: Ajzen, I. (1991). The Theory of Planned Behaviour. Organizational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes, 50, 179-211.

by: elephroll


6 comments so far

  1. tefaifoxhunter on

    After reading this blog post, i gather a few things:

    1) To be able to predict what an individuals final behaviour is, it is imperative that we include external control factors (such as peer pressure or the wishes of those around us) to actually predict what the individual will do.

    2) Attitudes are a major part of whether we actually choose to do something or not, but because of other factors, we tend to go against these attitudes because of certain factors that occur before we do it (like if Mickey were to meet old friends who exert peer pressure on him to drink, and end up with him drink driving)

    Although this theory has been pointed out as being the most accurate way to predict behaviour, my question is this: the variety of choices is immense! How then does a person advertise something and be assured that the expected behaviour takes place?

    I might be wrong with my understanding, but if I am, some help in clarification would be awesome. haha 🙂

  2. yyeweii on

    I feel that the Ajzen’s Theory of Planned Behavior effectively communicates how people seeks control over their beliefs and attitudes, and turn in stop their own intentions to commit certain behaviours. I agree that the presence of a perceived behaviour control is highly dependent on the availability of opportunities, resources and also other factors such as time, skills and support of others. In my opinion, cooperation/support from others (subjective norms) plays an important role in the shaping of the perceived behaviour control.

    As a media professional and using this framework, I would first present the recent drink driving death statistics during the campaign to extend the beliefs in individuals such as Mickey that drink-driving is indeed dangerous and cannot be condone.

    A series of video portraits of direct and indirect drink driving victims will also be shown during the campaign to establish the normative beliefs in the targeted individuals. These victims of drink driving may come from different backgrounds with different stories; some may have lost their sons in a drink -driving accident, others who survived the accidents but lost their loves ones etc. These real stories may help to remind Mickey of his own family and friends who do not wish for him to drink and drive. Previous drink-driving offenders can also be invited to share their stories and experiences to refrain from drink-driving through one to one interactions.

    Games and families activities can also be planned to show the families’ support and cooperation for individuals like Mickey. The families’ trust and belief in the individual will play a strong role in helping to shape better perceived behaviour control.

  3. leothg on

    I totally agree with what elephroll said that by understanding the Theory of Planned Behavior, one can come out with an effective communication strategy on their targeted audiences or consumers. As it is fairly important for one understand the perceived intention of their targeted group, their would-be behaviors and actions so to predict which course of action the targeted would took.

    To deal with cases such as Micky, I will recommend a Drink-no-Drive campaign. Since Micky already knows the danger of drink driving, I will design a series of commercials that emphasize on the respective dangers and outcome of drink and drive. Such as consequences, the risks involves and the worst outcome that will affect the families and friends. However, I do not want these commercials to be too serious or ‘dark’, I want to end it with a lighter conclusion maybe the lead actor wakes up and found out it was a dream or somewhere along the line.

  4. janesxm on

    Many campaigns are accompanied with advertisements to try and change behaviour of the masses. Most advertisements that I have seen tend to play with the emotions of the driver, create an impact (shock) in the minds of the masses. Here are some examples:

    Shock –

    A little bit of humour –

    The advertisements are a combination of the framework – the impact of the advertisements can change the attitude of Mickey as it highlights the obvious danger of drink-driving. At the same time, it involves the people that are important to the driver.

    With such advertisements, the danger of drink-driving will emerge as top-of-mind recall for the drivers, and they will think twice about drink-driving.

  5. slky87 on

    According to the Channel news Asia on 7th October 2012 (Link attached below), there has been a slight increase in the arrest of drink drivers in the first 9 months of 2012 (around 2100 people). Hence, this can show that the Anti-Drink Driving campaigns conducted by the Singapore media are not very effective in shaping the actual behavioural control of people like Mickey. In my opinion, I feel that most people are aware about the danger of drink-driving (with many campaigns) but they still commit the mistake they perceived. Why is this so?

    As a media professional, I agreed with Ajzen’s suggestion that the link in the framework should be between behaviour and actual behavioural control. I feel that the crux of the problem is in the actual behavioural control of individual. For my campaign, I will create an advertisement with the re-enactment of past accident with strong emphasis on the alcohol consumption part; Mickey as protagonist. This is the crucial part (root cause) that will lead to the accident. The video will show how a ‘cool’ drinker becomes a ‘dead’ drinker. This will induce the fear element in individual and altered his actual behaviour. I believed that the actual behavioural control is the action and it is the action that will lead to the danger (end behaviour).

  6. tarrycher on

    From Ajzen’s Theory of Planned Behavior, I understand that human action is guided by 3 kinds of considerations: behavioral, normative and control beliefs which are explained clearly in the post. They are important in projects/circumstances/programs what target to change the behavior of people.

    Referring to slky87’s comment on the ineffective campaigns by Singapore media, I strongly believe that such campaigns that merely providing information of drink driving and the consequences do not work. This is due to the fact that increasing knowledge alone does not help to change behavior very much.

    As a media professional, in order to change such behavior of drink driving and apply TPB to its fullest, we have to design campaigns that aim at the attitudes, perceived norms and control in making the change to achieve better result.

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