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Theory of Reasoned Action

Explanation of Theory:

This theory is designed to make statistical generalizations predicting people's behavior.  People make conscious choices based on two factors: 1.  how strongly they perceive the benefits to lead to a positive outcome, and 2.  the social norms, risks, and rewards they associate with that choice.  This theory predicts the attitudes and behaviors of large groups of people. 

Theorists: Fishbein and Azjen

Date:  1975

Primary Article:

  Fishbein, M., and I. Azjen. 1975. Belief, Attitude, Intention and Behavior: An Introduction to Theory and Research. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Individual Interpretations:

The Theory of Reasoned Action basically discusses how people decide to perform a certain behavior.  The theory reasons that people consider their actions before they decide to perform or not perform a certain behavior.  Intention is a major component of this theory.  The Theory of Reasoned Action assumes that individuals 
will usually act upon their intentions.  These specific intentions are comprised of two major attributes: an individualís attitude toward a behavior, basically whether it is right or wrong; and an individualís beliefs regarding social pressures to either perform or not
perform the behavior.

Metatheoretical Assumptions:

We believe that the Theory of Reasoned Action is a scientific theory.  Our belief is based on each of the theoryís metatheoretical assumptions.  Here is a brief list of our findings...

Epistemology:  This theory is comprised of mainly one truth because it applies to most all individuals.
Ontology:  This theory relies mainly on determinism because the reactions and behaviors involved are decided by situations.
Axiology:  This theory is value-conscious because beliefs and values do play somewhat of a role within this framework.


We feel that the Theory of Reasoned Action is definitely rooted in the scientific perspective because this theory has the ability to explain and predict the behaviors it involves.  Therefore, we used Chaffee and Bergerís Scientific Criteria for this analysis.

Explanatory Power:  Strong; this theory has the ability to provide plausible explanations for the phenomena it involves.  However, we donít feel that the range of phenomena explained is very great.
Parsimony:  It is a simple theory that still has the ability to predict and explain.
Organizing Power:  This theory fits well with knowledge that has already been learned.

According to these criteria, the theory of Reasoned Action is a solid and effective 
scientific theory.

Ideas and Implications:

One possible implication for this theory would be to use the framework to analyze why adolescents decide to use or not use drugs.


Following the framework of the Theory of Reasoned Action, one could study the intentions of adolescents towards using or not using a particular drug such as marijuana.  The study could look at how different populations of adolescents view the behavior of smoking marijuana and how these same populations perceive the social pressures surrounding this 

Relevant Research:

    Azjen, I., & Fishbein, M. (1980). Understanding attitudes and predicting social behavior. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

     Mullen, P.D., Hersey, J.C., & Iverson, D.C. (1987). Health behavior models compared. Social Science Medicine, 24(11), 973-981.

     Salazar, M.K. (1991). Comparison of four behavioral theories: A literature review.
AAOHN Journal, 39(3): 128-135.

Location in Eight (8) Primary Communication Theory Textbooks:

    Anderson, R., & Ross, V. (1998). Questions of communication: A practical introduction to theory (2nd ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. N/A

     Cragan, J. F., & Shields, D.C. (1998). Understanding communication theory: The communicative forces for human action. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. N/A

     Griffin, E. (2000). A first look at communication theory (4th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill. N/A

     Griffin, E. (1997). A first look at communication theory (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. N/A

      Infante, D. A., Rancer, A. S., & Womack, D. F. (1997). Building communication theory (3rd ed.). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press. N/A

      Littlejohn, S. W. (1999). Theories of human communication (6th ed). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. N/A

      West, R., & Turner, L. H. (2000). Introducing communication theory: Analysis and application. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield. N/A

       Wood, J. T. (1997). Communication theories in action: An introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. N/A