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Reframing the Attitude-Behavior Debate

The Case of Meat-Abstinence in Vegetarian Student Cooperatives

by James A. Kitts

Paperback e-Book PDF
Institution: University of Michigan
Advisor(s): Patrick C. West, Max A. Heirich
Degree: MS in Natural Resources and Environment
Year: 1995
Volume: 130 pages
ISBN-10: 1581120052
ISBN-13: 9781581120059


This thesis proposes a reconceptualization of the "attitude" as a multidimensional latent process, which may be unstable across situations, individuals, and time. A review of the literature in light of this reconceptualization reveals aspects of the survey situation that may systematically influence measures of attitudes, behaviors, and social norms. This suggests that contradictory findings regarding attitude-behavior consistency may be partly due to specific inadequacies of conventional measures. A reflexive research strategy is proposed, which supplements survey methods with both quantitative and qualitative assessments of measurement validity.

This strategy is applied in a case study of attitudes, norms, and diet in five vegetarian student cooperative houses. Analyses test the sufficiency of a revised Model of Reasoned Action for predicting members' intentions to abstain from eating beef, chicken, or fish. Throughout the analyses, several methodological issues are explored in an effort to optimize validity: elicitation and fixed response items, generality of referents and expected consequences, subjective and objective measures of social norms, allowance for composite behavioral intentions, and specification of regression models. Implications for future theoretical research and the design of reflexive behavioral interventions are discussed.