The link between behaviour and attitude is a common controversial topic in social psychology. Behaviour can simply be defined as the way one acts towards themselves and their surroundings. The term attitude, however, does not have one simple definition that all psychologists agree on, though it can be defined as ones feelings and opinions of a person or object. Hoggs and Vaughan (1995) describe attitudes as 'a general sense or evaluation about persons, objects or issues as well as a relatively enduring organisation of beliefs, feelings and behavioural tendencies towards socially significant groups, evens or symbols'. This particular definition suggests attitude and behaviour is closely linked.
Theories predicting the relationship between attitude and behaviour date back to early 19th century. A key theory suggests that 'attitudes could explain human behaviour' (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980) which then became the first point of when psychologists are starting noticing and showing an interest in the attitude and behaviour link.
Petty and Cacioppo (1996) – as well as other psychologists – reinforced with the traditional view, suggesting that one's views were based on how they felt about someone or something, however other psychologists such as Eiser (1986) argues that attitudes is the outcome of eternal events. This essay aims to discuss that attitudes may not always predict behaviour, and a number of other factors should also be considered. This essay will also go on to suggest ways in which the attitude-behaviour link can be improved. .
Daniel Katz (1960) identified four functions of attitude; Knowledge, Utilitarian, Value-expressive and Ego-defence. Knowledge helps a person understand the world around them, by allowing them to make predictions about their surroundings and makes them feel in control. Utilitarian/Instrumental helps a person gain rewards and avoid punishments; if a person expresses social acceptable attitudes, they will easily adapt to particular social groups and may be rewards will approval or social acceptance.