Theory of Planned Behavior in Changing Behavior

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Behavior is characterized by actions and manners performed by people, animals, systems, and other entities in a compound with their environments or themselves. Besides, it may include activities related to another object and interaction between the actor and the surrounding environment. Various sociological, social, and psychological theories attempt to explain the motives underlying a person’s behavior or group of people. In the scopes of health, environment, education, and criminology, behavioral theories considerably influence scientists’ attempts to understand the psychological component of behavior (Hagger, Moyers, et al., 2020). Scientists created many theories and attempted to approach the reasons for changing behavior; this paper will consider the theory of planned behavior. It is vital to examine the theory of planned behavior to discover how this model can be applied to the determination of behavioral reasons and see which factors influence a choice of behavior.

If one speaks about changing behavior in the animal world, it is feasible to notice the shift when a particular situation occurs. For instance, a wild animal will behave in an aggressive way when someone wants to approach its territory. During the mating season, beasts act another way; thus, there are many reasons animals change their behavior. However, it is vital to consider that beats are guided by instincts, not thoughts and other cognitive processes (Dugatkin, 2020). It is essential to determine the types of behaviors that humans have. Animals are not able to plan their actions, and this is what differentiates them from people. The scientific world has seen many attempts to explain the causes of human behavior, and the theory of planned action is one of these attempts. The concept was generated by Icek Ajzen and is successfully used in various research related to studying people’s behavior.

There are many types of behavior that can apply to people. It is crucial to consider prosocial behavior characterized by an attitude beneficial to other people (Dovidio et al., 2017). For example, a person who chooses prosocial behavior can donate money to charity, help older people to cross the road, and take other actions to benefit society. On the contrary, deviant behavior suggests destroying the influence on other people and the person himself (Goode, 2019). Abnormal behavior is characterized by an inclination from society’s commonly accepted standard of conduct.

Moreover, the person can choose many other types of behavior. However, it is vital to note that a human can choose and change his behavior in particular circumstances; for example, one who abuses drug usage will never make it in front of his parents and relatives. Another example is a person who swears and smokes; he might conceal his harmful habits from his family. What is more, the behavior may shift from prosocial to deviant depending on circumstances.

In identifying any model of behavior change, it is essential to consider motivation. This concept refers to internal processes that facilitate goal-related activities and lead to such outcomes as choices, achievements, efforts, and decisions (Schunk & DiBenedetto, 2020). Motivation is a psychophysiological process that controls behavior and sets its direction. It controls actions and can be constrained by humans compared to animals, who cannot control their instincts.

Moreover, changing behavior occurs only when motivation exists. For instance, one who wants to lose weight should be motivated to reach the final goal. If there is motivation, a person would change his eating habits, shift to healthy food, visit the gym, and do physical exercises (Gardner & Rebar, 2019). Motivation drives the person’s thoughts and makes him complete actions to reach the aim. Without it, there will be no single action, as desire is not followed by motivation.

In recent years, scientists began to express an increased interest in human behavior and its determination. The high degree of concern provoked many scientific works and research that attempted to examine the human motives for behavioral shifts. Besides commonly accepted norms of behavior that shape other people’s behavior, scientists came to study the exact reasons and tried to put it in the determined timeframe. Previous theories supposed many concepts that helped identify the motives for changing behavior. For instance, the social cognitive theory offered by American psychologists Albert Bandura suggested that the external environment provokes changes in behavior (Schunk & DiBenedetto, 2020). However, the area of application of this theory is extensive, and the scientific world requires a model that will be limited to a particular time and place.

The theory of planned behavior was introduced in 1980 to determine changing behavior in its specific meaning. The idea strives to limit the decision of a person’s behavior to a particular time and place. The theory of planned behavior was to predict the behavioral intentions of people. This theory was successfully applied to predict behavior in such concepts as health care, consumer behavior, and technology adoption (Hagger et al., 2020). The essence of the theory of planned behavior complies with the principle of compatibility, which includes target, action, context, and time frame. These components should correlate with a chosen type of behavior and constitute the intent of the behavior. In addition, according to the theory, people’s behavior depends on three components. These are beliefs about the results of one’s behavior, thoughts about handling this behavior, and ideas about other people’s opinions (Ajzen, 2020). As a result, the theory of planned action is based on three constructs: perception of society and a person’s intentions.

It is also essential that the theory of planned behavior consists of six components. Attitude is the first construct and relates to a person’s evaluation of the chosen behavior. A human may pick a favorable or unfavorable type of behavior and decide whether they are interested in it. It will be a crucial determinant in the further actions of a person. For instance, the human might choose the behavior he would like to follow (e.g., prosocial or deviant) and behave according to the selected sort. It is also essential to note that according to the theory of planned behavior, a person can be limited by his perception of norms and will behave according to them.

The next component is the behavioral intention, which refers to motivational features that impact the choice of behavior. For instance, the stronger will of a person invokes a more decisive attitude towards favorable behavior. It may be demonstrative in the example with small kids. For example, the child primarily expresses himself as calm and obedient but wants to steal and eat the prohibited chocolate. If his desire for the chocolate increases, he inclines towards deviant behavior. Subjective norms constitute the third construct; these norms explain how other people react to the chosen behavior and refer to social approval (Si et al., 2020). A similar construct is the definition of social norms, which are standards of acceptable behavior within society. Social norms usually restrain people from doing everything they want. Existing societal norms, accepted standards of conduct, and other people’s opinions are determinants in the theory of planned behavior.

Next, the perceived power is connected to factors that enable a person to perform the chosen behavior or, on the contrary, prohibit exposing it. It is closely related to perceived behavioral control, where people perceive the situation and decide whether to perform the chosen behavior. For example, a human may be obsessed with singing; he can expose this activity at home. However, when he is in the street, surrounded by crowds of people, he realizes that his singing may be uncomfortable for other people. Therefore, he chooses to stay silent to keep other people calm.

Interestingly, the theory of planned behavior is often compared to the view of reasoned action because these models contain relatively similar constructs. However, the idea of reasoned action suggests that their intentions determine people’s behavior, and the choices are, in turn, determined by behavior (Ajzen, 2020). Some critics prove that many theories have certain boundaries and do not let scientists apply these theories to practice. However, with the idea of planned action, it is seen that each component of the concept applies to real-life examples.

What is more, researchers compare this theory to self-efficacy, offered by Albert Bandura. The self-efficacy theory is based on a person’s belief in handling some action effectively (Picha et al., 2018). For example, a human should be sure in his attempts to change behavior and think in a “positive” way. It can refer to a person’s desire to quit smoking, and he should persuade himself that his life will be better without this habit. According to self-efficacy theory, participants should write down their results in special diaries, which will help trace and measure the efficiency of actions. However, the theory of planned behavior does not limit tracking to writing down the results. Instead, it follows each component of the planned activity and controls the outcomes during the process.

Moreover, the framework of the theory of planning action has a substantial impact on changing behavior. For example, the theory was permanently used for creating research on changing behavior and evaluating the effect of interventions in the scope of health and medicine (Ajzen, 2020). The approach identifies its determinants and can measure the results effectively. It allows for setting concise objectives, for instance, “setting (action) business (target) in the next year (time)” (Ajzen, 2020). According to multiple sources, other theories are not specific to such a degree in measuring results. It is seen that the sentence contains intention and a particular frame of time.

In conclusion, many theories attempt to examine the reasons for changing people’s behavior. The discussed theory of planned behavior clearly shows that there are multiple components. These constructs shape and influence the way a person behaves. It is seen that the theory of planned action suggests the strong influence from outside sources, such as standards, norms, and other people’s perceptions, which impacts a person’s choice of behavior.


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Si, H., Shi, J. G., Tang, D., Wu, G., & Lan, J. (2020). Understanding intention and behavior toward sustainable usage of bike sharing by extending the theory of planned behavior. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 152, 1-11.

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