Attitude and behaviour

To make good decisions, it is often helpful to understand why the group that will be affected by those decisions behaves in the way it does. The attempt to understand behaviour brings us to a consideration of attitudes. An attitude is 'a predisposition to act in a particular way'. Knowing attitudes can therefore be useful in predicting what people are likely to do, as well as explaining what they have done. Indeed, it was the belief that individuals with favourable attitudes towards products or services were more likely to buy them that led to the importance of attitude measurement as a method of data collection. Unfortunately for decision makers, attitudes do not operate quite this simply or directly in influencing behaviour. Strong personal or social influences may cause an individual not to act in accordance with his or her general attitude. When the behaviour is relatively unimportant to the individual he or she may act first and form an attitude later, based on the outcome of the action. However, for actions that are costly or important to the individual there is evidence that attitudes often precede behaviour. Hence the management decision maker's interest in attitude measurement.

For example, a factory manager may believe a fire safety manufacturer's claims that its products will reduce the risk of fire in the factory. He may feel a greater sense of security and less anxiety if safety equipment were installed. This would make him favourably disposed towards the idea of installing the equipment. He may not do so, of course. The cost or disruption of installing the equipment may be too high, or his levels of anxiety about fire risk may be too low, and prevent him taking any action at all. Bringing the factory manager to the point of being favourably disposed towards the idea of installing fire safety equipment is a first step for the equipment manufacturer, who will want to measure what the factory manager's beliefs about the efficiency of the equipment are and how he feels about the idea of installing it._

This example illustrates the three components to attitude:

Attitude-. Affective component; Wliat tile individual Conative component; liow the individual is

An important assumption of attitude measurement techniques is that 'attitudes' are multidimensional. That is to say, we notice more than one aspect about most objects, and our decisions to buy are often a compromise between the different aspects that make up our attitudes. The researcher is interested in uncovering all the relevant aspects of attitude towards a particular brand or service, and identifying which will be most important in a particular choice situation. For this reason, attitude measurement often involves the use of scales that measure many dimensions of attitude to the same object, be it a product, brand, service or act. Two of the scaling techniques commonly used in attitude measurement are Likert scales and semantic differential scales.

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