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Understanding Attitudes and Behavior Essay

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The results support three out of the four hypotheses. The subscales knowledge, affect, intended behaviour and actual behaviour have a significant correlation, that is a change in one generates changes in another. Finding that knowledge is significant could be because the participants are University students and are likely to have a greater depth of general knowledge that the norm. On the other hand having a low knowledge score could be irrelevant to the actual behaviour. This is the conclusion of Maloney et als` study.

Another consideration is maybe the hypothesis is wrong; knowledge could be significant in the ecological behaviour of an individual. Maloney et al did not find a correlation but Yule and Knussen (1998) did although to a lesser degree than the other subscales. It might be that it is not the specific knowledge across the spectrum of ecological issues that prompts to action. The items used may have had no relevance in the pro environmental attitude of the participant.

Breadth of knowledge may lack significance however having a general, superficial knowledge of the subject or a deep knowledge of a specific area might correlate.

In psychology it is generally regarded that knowledge of a subject has no significance with actual behaviour however it is unlikely that one would act to preserve the environment without some knowledge however unclear to prompt to action, especially in areas where recycling involves more effort than separating the items and putting them out for collection. Although there may be a smaller correlation with the other subscales it could be that knowledge is indeed significant but results may be forthcoming only when the inventory tackles the areas the pro-environmentalist is interested in and has a greater knowledge, e.g. a person may decide to recycle because they wish to conserve earths natural resources whereas another may do so because pollution kills.

Both may recycle but for different reasons and their knowledge could be in-depth in separate but related areas. Possible behaviour needs a certain amount of knowledge to motivate but knowledge in itself does not necessarily activate behaviour. Ajzen and Fishbein concluded, from their studies, that traditional methods of attitude measurements were flawed but possibly modern attitude and behaviour measurements are also flawed.

Perhaps when building the items to be used for the attitude measurement there would be a need to fit the items to particular social groups e. g. lower working class or long term unemployed may not buy environmentally friendly products as they are too expensive for a limited budget. Perhaps their contribution to recycling goes as far as reusing supermarket carriers as nappy sacks, using empty jars for home made jam, buying second hand goods, or using food scraps for humus in the garden but it is still recycling and is not included in CALECOL.

Likewise a person with limited finances may have no way to get any items to a recycling point as a lot of local councils do not have collection days for recyclable goods. Their actual behaviour score would be reduced as a result of this biased slant to those that are financially able to buy environmentally friendly products. In the CALECOL Inventory (see appendix ii) there are a few items that may be irrelevant to certain areas of the population and as a result give a distorted score. For example ‘actual behaviour’ subscale item 4 and ‘intended’ behaviour item 9 &12 mentions politics and environmental issues.

Some religions actually prohibit voting for political parties and this item would affect the scoring. Transport difficulties mean taking items to be recycled is not possible for a lot of people(Item 9, ‘actual behaviour’. This Inventory is also biased towards the able bodied. Some environmentalists are disabled and unable to get out to clean up, use public transport, deliver leaflets or take items to a recycling point. This highlights the problems with measuring attitudes using inventories. The items used cannot be measured on everyone and therefore gives an unrealistic evaluation of their attitudes and the relationship to their behaviour.

Age may affect the scores as most young people live at home and their actual behaviour may largely be under the control of their parents. So they may have the knowledge, strength of feeling and intention to be ecological but lack the means e. g. they will not usually decide which products to buy for the home or whether to recycle items. Age may also be a significant factor in revealing a correlation between the subscales. It would be interesting to find out if say the 18 – 24 age group subscales scores are significantly lower than the 36 – 44 age group.

The evidence from this small study was that it might be as it was mostly the older members of the class that had the highest scores. This could be because as one ages one might ponder on the consequences of ones actions more. Pollution could be directly affecting their children and parents might want to make a contribution to their offsprings future environment. Another area that could be investigated is location. Do rural areas recycle more than towns or cities? What role does local social norms play in recycling behaviour?

Measurement scales could be tailored to suit a particular class of individual, whether grouped by area, social class, disabled etc, to gain a more realistic measurement of their attitude. As attitudes are hypothetical constructs, theories and investigations will continue to be made. Through time, no doubt, measurement scales will grow more sophisticated in their search to accurately measure attitude components and their links with actual behaviour but without “tailoring” it is unlikely that all the items in an attitude inventory will apply to all participants in equal measure.


Ajzen, I. , & Fishbein, M. (1982). Understanding Attitudes and Behavior, Theoretical Implications. In J. C. Brigham, L. S. Wrightsman (ED. ), Contemporary Issues in Psychology (4th ED), pp127 – 137. Monterey, California, Brooks/Cole Publishing Company. Aijzen, I. , & Fishbein, M. (1980). Understanding attitudes and predicting social behaviour. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Cited in Zimbargo and Leippe, (1991). The Psychology of Attitude and Social Influence. United States of America, McGraw – Hill Maloney, M. P. , Ward, M. O. & Braucht, C. N. (1975). A revised scale for the measurement of ecological attitudes and knowledge. American Psychologist, 30, 787-790

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