Can Attitude Theory Improve Rational Choice Theory or Vice Versa?

A Comparison and Integration of the Theory of Planned Behavior and Value-Expectancy Theory
  • Karl-Dieter OppEmail author


There are two theories that are widely used in the social sciences in different disciplines: one is the attitude theory by M. Fishbein and I. Ajzen, the other is rational choice theory (RCT). There is so far no detailed comparison of the theories that includes a proposal for integrating them. Such a comparison and integration is the goal of the present paper.

There are two versions of Fishbein and Ajzen’s attitude theory. This essay focuses on the theory of planned behavior (TPB) by Ajzen which is a more recent and improved version of the earlier theory of reasoned action. The version of RCT analyzed is value-expectancy theory (VET), sometimes also called expectancy-value theory or subjective expected utility theory. In a first step, the theories to be compared are exposed so that it is clear what is to be compared. In a next step, their differences and similarities are outlined and discussed (see the summary in Table 1). In particular, RCT does not contain intentions and attitudes, and does not explain preferences. In TPB, subjective utility maximization is not a explicit component of the theory. Finally, an integration of both theories is proposed (see the summary in Figure 2).

In the integrated model, it is suggested, among other things, to add intentions to RCT and to include hypotheses about the explanation of preferences and beliefs of TPB in RCT. A major difference between both theories is that TPB focuses on attitudes and not on goals, whereas VET assumes that behavior is goal-oriented. We add goals and a link between attitudes (and other variables) and goals. Another component of the new model is the claim that a condition for any behavior to be performed is the existence of actual behavioral control. Internalized norms that are omitted in TPB are included. The analysis indicates that TPB implicitly assumes utility maximization, which becomes part of the integrated theory.


Erklärung von Einstellungen „rational choice“-Theorie Fishbein-Ajzen-Theorie Theorie geplanten Verhaltens Erklärung sozialen Handelns 


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© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, ein Teil von Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.HamburgDeutschland

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