Tobacco Smoking: Theory of Reasoned Action
The theory of reasoned action in tobacco reviews (Ajzen and Fishbein, 1980) is another behavioural theory that is useful in understanding factors that influence smoking behaviour. A key difference in the theory of reasoned action and other behavioural theories is in the ultimate measurement of behaviour. Actual behaviours are usually observed or reported following interventions, but this theory suggestsmeasuring the person’s intention to perform a behaviour rather than the behaviour itself (Ajzen and Fishbein, 1980).
This idea is especially useful when studying be haviours a person may not have yet experienced. Intentions are viewed as the immediate determinant of a specific behaviour.
Ajzen and Fishbein (1989) stressed that although there is not always perfect correspondence between intentions and behaviours, a person will usually act in accordance with his or her intentions. This has been supported by research on cigarette and smokeless tobacco use in middle school males (Brubaker &Loftin, 19i87); Normal &Tedeschi, 1989).
The conceptualization of the intention to smoke, as well as self-reported actual smoking behaviours is useful when studying youths. Because of their younger age, it could be expected that many preteens would not have expiremented with smoking. Their intention to smoke, therefore, can be used as a short-term indicator of probable future smoking behaviour.
According to (Ajzen and Fishbein, 1980) intention is a function of two determinants; attitude and subjective norm. Attitude toward a behaviour is a personal evaluation that performing a behaviour is positive, negative, or somewhere in between. Subjective norm, which is social in nature, is the person’s perception of social pressures to perform or not perform a behaviour.
According to this theory, an individual will generally intend to perform a behaviour he or she evaluates positively and believes significant others think he or she perform. Both of these determinants of intentions are influenced by a belief system. Behaviour beliefs underlie and determine a person’s attitudes. Attitude is, therefore, personal in nature and a function of the individual’s beliefs about outcomes of a behaviour and his or her positive or negative evaluation of those outcomes.
Subjective norms are a function of the person’s beliefs that specific significant individuals or groups thing he or she should or should not perform the behaviour. The subjective norm is a function of these beliefs as well as the individual’s motivation to comply with the perceived wishes of their significant others. The individual’s evaluation of the outcomes of behaviour and motivation to comply with the perceived wishes of significant others are similar to Bandura’s conceptualization of incentives.
Although more widely seen in relation to adults, the theory of reasoned action has been utilized in the literature to examine tobacco and smoking-related attitudes, beliefs, intentions, and behaviours in adolescents aged 12-18 (Flay et al; 1994, Goddard, 19992), children in fifth grade (Brubaker and Lofton, 1987; Vollone 1992), and children in sixth grade (Chassin, Pressono, Sherman, Corty, and Olshavsky, 1994; Norman and Tedeschi, 1989). M. Fishbein (Personal communication, August 4, 1996) asserted that the ability to think abstractly is not an assumption of this theory and not necessary for it to be useful. He maintained that it would be appropriate for use with students in upper elementary school grades, as well as in middle school and high school grades.
It may be more difficult, however, to utilize this theory with young people who are not yet in the formal operational stage of cognitive development. Preteens not yet in this stage may find it harder to think about things to come. Researchers must be careful not to have young subjects try to anticipate their intention to smoke beyond a point that has concrete meaning for them.
We also have other theories which are the rational and non-rational theories of smoking.