Understanding the psychology of attitudes: A review of attitudes research guided by theories of behavioral intention and dual-process models

Jarim Kim, Xiaoli Nan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)


This chapter provides an integrative review of two lines of attitudes research guided by theories of behavioral intention (i.e., the theory of reasoned action and theory of planned behavior) and dual-process models (i.e., the elaboration likelihood model and the heuristic-systematic model). These theories are chosen because they are among the most prominent theories in attitudes research, continuously evolving over time (Atkin and Freimuth, 2001). The theory of reasoned action (TRA; Ajzen and Fishbein, 1970; Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975), later elaborated to the theory of planned behavior (TPB; Ajzen, 1985), has contributed to the realm of attitudes research by introducing the concept of intention which links attitude and behavior (O'Keefe, 2002). Prior to the TRA, there was little research that supported strong correlations between attitude and behaviors; in fact, considerable research had shown only weak relationships. The TRA was initially designed to work under an individual's volitional behavior, but by incorporating the concept of behavioral control, the theory extended its application to non-volitional behaviors. In spite of existing criticisms, the TRA has been acknowledged to be one of the most effective theories for predicting behaviors from attitudes in multiple contexts. Dual-process models such as the elaboration likelihood model (ELM; Petty and Cacioppo, 1986) and the heuristic-systematic model (HSM; Chaiken, 1980) posit that there exist two distinct routes for information processing: central route (i.e., systematic processing in the HSM; Chaiken, 1980) and peripheral route (i.e., heuristic processing in the HSM; Chaiken, 1980). Dual-process theories are distinct from the previous research with its "process-oriented" approach. By focusing on the process, the ELM and HSM are able to integrate diverse variables, including source, message, receiver, and contexts into a cohesive model as well as acknowledging important concepts such as issue involvement. Even though there are still controversies over the dimensions of information processing (i.e., dual- vs. uni-model) or involvement, the ELM and HSM have provided scholars with an integrated tool by explaining "when, why, and how variables would make an impact" (Petty, Cacioppo, Kasmer, and Haugtvedt, 1987, p. 258). This chapter provides a literature review of attitudes research guided by the two groups of theories, focusing on comparing and contrasting the two lines of research, historical development of the theories, their contributions to the field, as well as criticisms that have been made about them. The theories' practical implications and future research directions are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPsychology of Attitudes
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages25
ISBN (Print)9781620811948
Publication statusPublished - 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine
  • General Psychology


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