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Effects of a Brief Intervention Based on the Theory of Planned Behavior on Leisure-Time Physical Activity Participation

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Abstract

Two persuasive communications were developed to assess the utility of an intervention based on the Theory of Planned Behavior in promoting physical activity attitudes, intentions, and behavior. One persuasive communication targeted modal salient behavioral beliefs (salient belief condition) while the other persuasive communication targeted nonsalient behavioral beliefs (nonsalient belief condition). Results of an intervention study conducted on young people (N = 83, mean age 14.60 yrs, SD = .47) indicated that participants who were presented with the persuasive message targeting modal salient behavioral beliefs reported more positive attitudes (p < .05) and stronger intentions (p = .059) than those presented with the message targeting nonsalient behavioral beliefs. However, neither communication influenced physical activity participation (p > .05). Path analysis also indicated that the effects of the persuasive communication on intentions were mediated by attitudes and not by perceived behavioral control or subjective norms.
Theory of Planned Behavior
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Running Head: THEORY OF PLANNED BEHAVIOR
Effects of a Brief Intervention Based on the Theory of Planned Behavior on Leisure Time Physical
Activity Participation
Nikos L. D. Chatzisarantis
University of Exeter, UK
&
Martin S. Hagger
University of Essex, UK
Full citation: Chatzisarantis, N. L. D., & Hagger, M. S. (2005). Effects of a brief intervention based
on the theory of planned behavior on leisure time physical activity participation. Journal of Sport
and Exercise Psychology, 27, 470-487. http://dx.doi.org/10.1123/jsep.27.4.470
Manuscript re-submitted: 25 April, 2005
Correspondence: Dr. Nikos Chatzisarantis
School of Health and Exercise Sciences
University of Exeter, Heavitree Road
Exeter, EX1 2LU, UK
Email: n.chatzisarantis@exeter.ac.uk
Theory of Planned Behavior
ii
Effects of a Brief Intervention Based on the Theory of Planned Behavior on Leisure Time Physical
Activity Participation
Theory of Planned Behavior
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Abstract
Two persuasive communications were developed to assess the utility of an intervention based on the
theory of planned behavior in promoting physical activity attitudes, intentions, and behavior. One
persuasive communication targeted modal salient behavioral beliefs (salient belief condition) and
another persuasive communication targeted non-salient behavioral beliefs (non-salient belief
condition). Results of an intervention study conducted on young people (N = 83, Mean Age =
14.60, SD = .47) indicated that participants presented with the persuasive message targeting modal
salient behavioral beliefs reported more positive attitudes (p < .05) and stronger intentions (p =
.059) than participants presented with the message targeting non-salient behavioral beliefs.
However, neither communication influenced physical activity participation (p > .05). Path analysis
also indicated that the effects of the persuasive communication on intentions were mediated by
attitudes and not by perceived behavioral control or subjective norms.
Keywords: Intervention; beliefs, persuasive communication, attitudes, mediation
Theory of Planned Behavior
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Effects of a Brief Intervention Based on the Theory of Planned Behavior on Leisure Time Physical
Activity Participation
In response to studies that have highlighted increased juvenile obesity rates in the United
States and many European countries, researchers have highlighted the importance of regular
participation in physical activities to control weight and maintain health (Hagger & Chatzisarantis,
2005). However, as Hagger and Chatzisarantis (2005) have pointed out, even the most effective
interventions do not lead to substantial improvements in adherence to physical activity (see also
Haynes, McKibbon, & Kanani, 1996). Such a disappointing trend may be due to the fact that
physical activity interventions are not directly related to theories of social behavior despite that
these theories have been shown to successfully predict and explain health behavior (Hardeman,
Johnston, Johnston, & Bonetti, et al., 2002). Therefore, theory-based interventions may be the first
important step toward developing successful interventions. The present study uses tenets of the
theory of planned behavior to develop and evaluate effectiveness of a brief intervention in changing
young people’s perceptions about physical activity and physical activity behavior. The study
targeted young people because of the increased obesity rates that characterize this population.
The Theory of Planned Behavior
The theory of planned behavior proposes that behavior can be best predicted from a person’s
intention, which is an indicator of how hard people are willing to try and how much effort people
plan to exert toward performance of behavior (Ajzen, 1991). The theory also proposes that intention
is function of three variables: attitudes (positive or negative evaluation of performing the behavior),
subjective norms (perceived influences that significant others may exert on the execution of
behavior), and perceived behavioral control (the extent to which people believe that they can
control performance of social behavior)1. For Ajzen (1991), the relative importance that each of
these variables has on intentions can vary from individual to individual and from behavior to
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behavior. Any effort to change behavioral intentions should take into consideration whether
attitudes, subjective norms, and/or perceived behavioral control carry the most weight in
determining intentions and behavior.
The theory of planned behavior also deals with antecedents of attitudes, subjective norms,
and perceived behavioral control using an expectancy x value model (Hagger & Chatzisarantis,
2005). The theory proposes that attitudes arise out of a combination (multiplicative function) of
beliefs that behavior will lead to certain consequences (behavioral beliefs) and evaluations of these
consequences (Ajzen, 1991). Subjective norms and perceived behavioral control are also proposed
to have similar origins. Subjective norms are determined by a combination of normative
expectations of specific referent groups (normative beliefs) and a motivation to comply with those
groups (Ajzen, 1991). Perceived behavioral control is determined by beliefs about the presence of
factors that may facilitate or impede performance of behavior (control beliefs) and a perceived
power of these facilitative and/or constraining factors (Ajzen, 1991). Overall, according to the
theory of planned behavior, physical activity behavior and intentions can change through attitudes,
subjective norms, or perceptions of control and/or by changing a combination of these three
variables.
Persuasive Communication as a Strategy for Behavioral Change
Persuasive communication is a strategy of behavioral change favored by proponents of the
theory of planned behavior (Ajzen, 2003). According to Bright, Manfredo, Fishbein, and Bath
(1993), for a persuasive communication to effectively change intentions and physical activity
behavior, it must provide belief-targeted messages that target behavioral, normative, and/or control
beliefs. Development of belief-targeted messages involves the selection of statements that
ultimately affect the beliefs that serve as the foundation for attitudes, subjective norms, and
perceived behavioral control held by the group intended to receive the communication (Ajzen &
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Fishbein, 1980). However, according to the theory of planned behavior, only the five to eight of the
wide range of modal salient beliefs that people hold are considered to influence attitudes, subjective
norms, and perceived behavioral control (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980). Therefore, the key to changing
attitudes, subjective norms, and/or perceived behavioral control is to change the modal salient
behavioral, normative, and control beliefs underlying these constructs.
It is important to note here that modal salient beliefs are not the same as important beliefs
(van der Pligt & Eiser, 1984). While modal salient behavioral beliefs are the most popular beliefs
(consensual beliefs) endorsed by a group of individuals, important behavioral beliefs are
idiosyncratic beliefs that individuals consider as being personally important. The two types of
beliefs are different because modal salient beliefs account for less than 20% of the total number of
beliefs generated by individuals (Haddock & Zanna, 1998). Nevertheless, a common characteristic
of modal salient beliefs and important beliefs is that both types of beliefs are accessible (van der
Harreveld, van der Pligt, & de Vries, 2000).
Ajzen and Fishbein (1980) also proposed that the actual structure of belief-targeted
messages should consist of two parts. First, it should include a set of arguments that are in favor of
the target behavior like physical activity. Second the message should aim to enhance the credibility
of the arguments and/or include factual evidence designed to support the arguments (Ajzen &
Fishbein, 1980). The rationale behind enhancing credibility of arguments is that credibility leads to
acceptance of the message and acceptance of the message in turns leads to belief change (Ajzen &
Fishbein, 1980).
Applications of the Theory of Planned Behavior to Physical Activity and Health
The theory of planned behavior has been one of the most influential and widely cited models
of intentional behavior in social psychology (Armitage & Conner, 2001). However, at present, there
is insufficient evidence in health psychology and physical activity domains to judge whether the
Theory of Planned Behavior
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theory of planned behavior can be used to facilitate intention and behavioral change. This is
because, the majority of applications of the theory of planned behavior aim to identify proximal
determinants of health behavior (Armitage & Conner, 2001) and very few studies used the theory to
develop interventions and facilitate change (Hardeman et al., 2002). Although studies applying the
theory of planned behavior to understand exercise behavior are necessary before interventions can
be undertaken (Ajzen, 1991), the next step in theory of planned behavior research is to develop and
evaluate theory-based interventions.
Recently, however, Jones, Courneya, Fairey, and Mackey (2005) did develop and evaluate a
physical activity intervention that was based on the theory of planned behavior. In that intervention,
Jones et al. (2005) manipulated salient normative beliefs by having an oncologist recommend
physical activity to breast cancer survivors. Their study showed that participants who received an
oncologist’s recommendation to exercise reported more positive attitudes, stronger subjective
norms, perceptions of control, intentions to exercise and reported more regular participation in
physical activities than participants (in a control group) who received usual treatment and no
exercise recommendation or exercise referral (see also Jones, Courneya, Fairey, & Mackey, 2004).
However, it can be argued that Jones et al. study did not provide a rigorous test of the theory of
planned behavior because their intervention did not compare manipulations that targeted salient
beliefs against manipulations that targeted non-salient beliefs. This is because participants (in the
control group) who received a usual treatment did not receive a recommendation to exercise from a
person who did not feature in the salient normative beliefs of cancer survivors (see also Jones, &
Courneya, et al., 2005; Lechner & de Vries, 1995). In addition, because in Jones et al. (2005),
participants in the control group were not recommended exercise, it is unclear from Jones et al.
whether it is the manipulation of salient beliefs (i.e., the oncologists recommendation) or simply
asking people exercise that changes intentions and behavior (Jackson, Lawton, Knapp, Raynor, &
Theory of Planned Behavior
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Conner et al., in press). From both theoretical and practical points of view, providing rigorous tests
of interventions based on the theory of planned behavior is important considering that according to
Fishbein (1993): “ the ultimate test of the theory rests upon its ability to guide the development of
effective behavioral change interventions” (p. 24).
Overview of the Study and Research Hypotheses
The present study built upon previous applications of the theory of planned behavior to
develop and evaluate utility of a persuasive message that targeted modal salient behavioral beliefs
in changing attitudes, intentions, and the physical activity behavior of young people. We targeted
modal salient behavioral beliefs because at the core of the theory of planned behavior is the
assumption that messages that target modal salient beliefs are more effective in changing attitudes
and intentions than messages that target non-salient behavioral beliefs (Ajzen, 2003). Because
previous physical activity research has predominantly focused on non-salient beliefs (Hardman et
al., 2002), the present study also evaluated the message that targeted modal salient behavioral
beliefs against a message that targeted non-salient behavioral beliefs. Therefore, a unique
contribution of the present study is concerned with comparison of effectiveness of an intervention
that targeted modal salient behavioral beliefs against an intervention that targeted non-salient
behavioral beliefs. It was hypothesized that participants who were exposed to a persuasive message
that targeted modal salient behavioral beliefs would report more positive attitudes and intentions,
and will be more likely to participate in physical activities than control participants who were
exposed to a message that targeted non-salient behavioral beliefs (H1).
The present study also focused on attitudes alone because previous physical activity research
has shown attitudes to carry the strongest weight in determining intentions (Hagger, Chatzisarantis,
& Biddle, 2002). In addition, an attitude-specific intervention can show impact effects and whether
manipulation of behavioral beliefs influences intentions via theoretically hypothesized processes
Theory of Planned Behavior
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(i.e. via attitudes). According to Ajzen (2003), impact effects refer to the extent to which change in
one variable (i.e. attitudes), produced by a persuasive communication, is offset by an unanticipated
change in another variable (i.e. perceived behavioral control). Thus, pupils who are persuaded that
exercising regularly is desirable because it leads to enhanced health and well being may also come
to believe that exercising regularly is difficult to achieve because it prevents them from engaging in
other interesting activities. Only when the persuasive communication shifts antecedents of
intentions in the desired direction can the persuasive communication be expected to have a positive
effect on physical activity intentions. Therefore, from a theoretical perceptive, the examination of
impact effects, through an attitude-specific intervention is important considering that, according to
the theory of planned behavior, manipulations of behavioral beliefs should influence intentions via
attitudes and not via subjective norms or perceptions of control (Ajzen, 1991). An intervention that
combined manipulations of all three antecedents of intentions could not test more specific
hypothesis related to the processes by which behavioral beliefs influenced intentions because
combined interventions muddle together different manipulations. Because our persuasive appeal
targeted behavioral beliefs and not normative beliefs or control beliefs, it was hypothesized that our
persuasive appeal would influence intentions via attitudes and not via perceived behavioral control
and or via subjective norms (H2) (Ajzen, 1991).
Method
Research Participants and Research Design
Participants were 83 students (Male = 41, Female = 42, Age = 14.60, SD = .47) recruited
from two comprehensive schools. Prior to data collection, we obtained informed consent from the
head teachers of the schools who were asked to act in loco parentais, in accordance with the
Psychological Association’s ethical guidelines. The experiment employed an one-way factorial
design with two conditions. In the first condition (non salient belief/control group), participants (N
Theory of Planned Behavior
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= 41, Male = 22, Female = 19, Age = 14.62, SD = .47) were asked to participate in physical
activities over the next five weeks and also studied a message that targeted non-salient behavioral
beliefs. In the second condition (salient belief group), participants (N = 42, Male = 19, Female = 23,
Age = 14.60, SD = .47) were asked to participate in physical activities the next five weeks and also
studied a message that targeted modal salient beliefs.
Procedure
The experiment was run in small groups of less than five students. After participants arrived,
the experimenter explained that s/he was interested in students’ opinion about several health issues
including physical activity. After these remarks, each participant read a definition of leisure time
physical activity adopted from Godin and Shephard (1985). This definition explains the meaning of
mild, moderate, and vigorous physical activity. At this point, it was made clear to participants that
we were interested in the amount of physical activity that they undertook during their leisure time
and not during school time. Participants were also asked to give examples of leisure time physical
activities and were encouraged to ask questions about the distinction between leisure time and
school-time physical activity.
After explaining the definition of leisure time physical activity, all participants completed
measures of past behavior. Immediately afterwards, the experimenter informed the participants that
the study required them to actually engage in vigorous physical activities during leisure time for 4
days per week and for at least 40 minutes each time over the next five weeks. Thereafter, the
experimental manipulations were conducted. Manipulations took the form of written text contained
in a questionnaire. It is important to stress that participants in the non salient belief group, were
prompted to study a persuasive message as opposed to not studying any message, in order to reduce
the likelihood that the effects of the experimental group could be attributed to non-specific features
of the methodology such as demand characteristics and/or Hawthorne effect (see Jackson, &
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Lawton et al., in press). Participants were randomly assigned to the conditions on the basis of a
draw.
Finally, after five weeks, participation in physical activity during leisure-time was measured
through Godin and Shephard's (1985) Leisure-Time Exercise Questionnaire. Participants reported
their physical activity behavior in small groups of less than five. The experimenter reminded
participants that they had been asked to consider the amount of vigorous physical activity they
undertook during their leisure time only, and not physical activity done during school time.
Participants were also asked to give examples of vigorous physical activities that had undertaken
outside school time and they were encouraged to ask questions about leisure time physical activity.
Interventions
Communication that targeted modal salient beliefs (salient belief group). Development of
the persuasive communication that targeted modal salient beliefs was based on Hagger,
Chatzisarantis, and Biddle’s (2001) study that identified modal salient behavioral beliefs for leisure-
time physical activity in a large sample of young people. In addition, we conducted a small pilot
study to confirm that students in our targeted schools displayed similar behavioral beliefs (n = 40,
Male = 23, Female = 17, Age = 14.2). In accordance with Ajzen’s (2003) guidelines, we elicited
modal salient behavioral beliefs by distributing an open ended questionnaire that asked participants
report advantages and disadvantages associated with participation in physical activities.
Specifically, the questionnaire asked participants to report (i) the advantages of engaging in active
sports and/or vigorous physical activities during their leisure time for at least 40 minutes and for at
least four days per week, over the next five weeks, (ii) the disadvantages of engaging in active
sports and/or vigorous physical activities during their leisure time for at least 40 minutes and for at
least four days per week, over the next five weeks and (iii) if there was anything else that
participants associate with engaging in active sports and/or vigorous physical activities during their
Theory of Planned Behavior
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leisure time for at least 40 minutes and for at least four days per week, over the next five weeks.
Modal salient behavioral beliefs were determined by counting the frequency with which behavioral
beliefs featured in participants’ responses (Ajzen, 2003). The three to five most frequently
mentioned beliefs constituted the modal salient behavioral beliefs of participants (van der Pligt, &
Eiser, 1984). Results from our pilot study were very similar to Hagger et al.’s (2001) findings and
indicated that the most popular behavioral beliefs endorsed by young people were related to “have
fun”, “stay fit”, “improve skills”, “getting an injury”, and “feeling hot and sweaty”.
In accordance with Ajzen and Fishbein’s (1980) recommendations, the actual structure of
the message that targeted salient behavioral beliefs consisted of arguments that were in favor of
physical activity behavior and of credible evidence designed to support the arguments. Specifically,
participants in the salient belief condition studied the following message for five minutes2:
Scientific studies have indicated that participating in vigorous physical activities outside of
your PE lessons (during your leisure time) for at least 40 minutes a time, 4 days per week,
helps you get fit and stay in shape. Research has also shown that by exercising regularly you
can improve your physical skills (i.e. coordination, strength) and fitness levels. Experts in
the area of physical activity and health have also documented that if you exercise with care,
you can reduce considerably the risk of getting an injury. In addition, you can avoid feeling
hot and sweaty if you exercise for an appropriate duration (i.e. 40 minutes at a time).
Overall, exercising during your leisure time is great fun and worthwhile doing on a regular
basis.
Communication that targeted non- salient beliefs (non salient belief group). Development of
the persuasive appeal that targeted non-salient behavioral beliefs was based on previous physical
activity research that measured non-salient behavioral beliefs of young people (Wankel, Mummery,
Stephens, & Craig, 1994). Specifically, we targeted five non-salient behavioral beliefs: “feeling
Theory of Planned Behavior
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better mentally”, “relaxing and forgetting about cares”, “looking better”, “interference with daily
routine”, and “having a health condition aggravated”. As with the message that targeted salient
behavioral beliefs, the actual structure of the message that targeted non-salient behavioral beliefs
consisted of arguments that were in favor of physical activity behavior and a second part that
included credible evidence designed to support the arguments. Specifically, participants in the non-
salient/control group were prompted to study the following message for five minutes:
Scientific studies have indicated that participating in vigorous physical activities outside of
your PE lessons (during your leisure time) for at least 40 minutes a time, 4 days per week,
makes you look better. Research has also shown that exercising regularly helps you relax
and forget about cares of daily routine. Experts in the area of physical activity and health
have also documented that if you exercise with care, you can considerably reduce the risk of
developing a health condition like heart disease. In addition, if you organize your time, you
will discover that exercising during leisure time will not interfere with your daily routine.
Overall, exercising during your leisure time helps you feel better physically and mentally
and is worthwhile doing on a regular basis.
Participants in both groups were asked to study the messages, not simply read them.
According to Petty and Cacioppo (1986) people are more likely to assimilate and accept
information contained in a message when contents of a message are carefully studied than when
they are read in a superficial manner (see also Quine, Rutter, & Arnold, 2001).
Measures of the Theory of Planned Behavior
Three items drawn from Ajzen, (1991) were used to measure behavioral intentions. The first
intention item read: “I intend to do active sports and/or vigorous physical activities, for at least 40
minutes, four days per week, during my leisure time, over the next five weeks”. The second
intention item read: “I plan to do active sports and/or vigorous physical activities, for at least 40
Theory of Planned Behavior
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minutes, four days per week, during my leisure time, over the next five weeks “. The third intention
item read: “I am determined to do active sports and/or vigorous physical activities, for at least 40
minutes, four days per week, during my leisure time, over the next five weeks”. All indicators of
intention were measured on 7-point scales anchored by “strongly disagree” (1) to “strongly agree”
(7). The alpha coefficient for the intention measure was satisfactory (
= .895).
Subjective norms were measured through two items, and on 7-point scales ranging from
“strongly disagree” (1) to “strongly agree” (7). The first item read: “Others who are important to me
pressure me to do active sports and/or vigorous physical activities for at least 40 minutes, four days
per week, during my leisure time, over the next five weeks.” The second item read: “Other people
whose opinion I value would approve of my doing active sports and/or vigorous physical activities
for at least 40 minutes, four days per week, during my leisure time, over the next five weeks”. The
alpha coefficient for the subjective norms measure was below the widely accepted minimum of .70
(
= .544), an artifact that has been noted in many studies using these measures (Hagger et al.,
2002).
Attitudes were assessed through five bipolar adjectives. One adjective reflected moral
evaluations (bad/good), two adjectives reflected instrumental evaluations (useful/useless,
harmful/beneficial), and two adjectives reflected affective evaluations (unenjoyable/enjoyable,
interesting/boring). All adjectives were measured on 7-point semantic differential scales (Ajzen,
1991). An example was: “For me, doing active sports and/or vigorous physical activities for at least
40 minutes, four days per week, during my leisure time, over the next five weeks….”. The alpha
coefficient for the attitude measure was satisfactory (
= .904).
Perceived behavioral control was assessed through three items on 7-point scales (Ajzen,
1991). The first item and the second item were measured on a 7-point scales ranging from (7)
“strongly agree” to (1) “strongly disagree”. The first item read: “I feel in complete control over
Theory of Planned Behavior
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whether I exercise for at least 40 minutes, four days per week, during my leisure time, over the next
five weeks”. The second item read: “It is mostly up to me whether or not I will engage in active
sports and/or vigorous physical activities for at least 40 minutes, four days per week, during my
leisure time, over the next five weeks”. The third item was measured on a 7-point scale ranging
from (1) “no control” to (7) “complete control”: “How much control do you believe you have over
doing active sports and/or vigorous physical activities for at least 40 minutes, four days per week,
during your leisure time, over the next five weeks. The alpha coefficient for the perceived
behavioral control measure was satisfactory (
= .756). Finally, we measured past behavior in order
to assess whether participants in the salient and non-salient/control groups had equivalent levels of
past experience with physical activity. Past behavior was assessed on a 6-point scale, ranging from
“not at all” (1) to “most of the days per week” (6) (Bagozzi & Kimmel, 1995). Participants were
asked to report how often they had been doing active sports, and/or vigorous physical activities for
at least 40 minutes, during their leisure time, over the past 6 months.
Measurement of Physical Activity Behavior
We used Godin and Shephard’s (1985) Leisure-Time Exercise Questionnaire in measuring
physical activity. Independent evaluations of this questionnaire found it to be valid, reliable, easy to
administer, and to display concurrent validity with objective activities and fitness indexes (Jacobs,
Ainsworth, Hartman, & Leon, 1993). In addition, the Leisure Time Exercise questionnaire has been
used successfully with young people (Biddle, Goudas, & Page, 1994). The instrument contains
three open-ended questions capturing the frequency of mild, moderate, and vigorous physical
activity. Because the present study targeted vigorous physical activity only, participants were asked
to report the extent to which they engaged in vigorous physical activity the last five weeks.
Participants reported frequency with which they exercised the past five weeks on a seven point
scale ranging from “not at all” (1) to “most of the days per week” (7).
Theory of Planned Behavior
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Results
Preliminary Analysis
An analysis of variance revealed that individuals who were assigned to the “salient belief”
group did not differ from those who were assigned to the “non-salient/control” group on past
behavior, (F = 1.450, p > .05). In addition, boys did not differ from girls on past behavior (F = .073,
p > .05). Further, our sample did not consist of more girls than boys (x2 = .012, pasympt > .05). These
results support the randomization of participants in experimental and control conditions. Table 1
presents descriptive statistics of psychological variables. Participants reported that they exercised an
average of 3.98 days per week before and after the intervention. In accordance with assumptions
underlying the theory of planned behavior (Hagger et al., 2002), Pearson’s correlations supported
positive relationships between intentions and physical activity participation, between perceived
behavioral control and physical activity behavior, between attitudes and intentions, and between
intentions and perceived behavioral control. Subjective norms were not associated physical activity
intentions.
Main Analysis
In partial support of the first hypothesis (H1), a multivariate analysis of variance revealed a
significant multivariate effect of persuasive communication (F = 2.784, p < .05, h2 = .153) on
attitudes (F = 7.154, p < .05, h2 = .081) and a marginally significant effect on intentions (F = 3.665,
p = .059, h2 = .043). However, contrary to initial hypothesis (H1) the effect of persuasive
communication on physical activity behavior was not significant (F = .009, p > .05, h2= .000). Pair-
wise comparisons revealed that participants in the salient belief condition reported more positive
attitudes (t = 2.675, p < .05) and stronger intentions (t = 1.914, p < .05) than control participants
(see Table 2). In accordance with the second hypothesis (H2), the multivariate analysis of variance
did not reveal any impact effects of persuasive communication on perceived behavioral control (F =
Theory of Planned Behavior
14
2.305, p > .05, h2 = .023) and subjective norms (F = .655, p > .05, h2 = .008) (see Table 2).
We conducted a path analysis to examine utility of attitudes in mediating effects of the
experimental manipulation on intentions. In particular, we estimated a model that was identical to
the model proposed by the theory of planned behavior except that it estimated indirect effects (via
attitudes, perceived behavioral control, and subjective norms) from persuasive communication to
intentions. In addition, the hypothesized model specified effects from past behavior to all constructs
derived from the theory of planned behavior and physical activity behavior. It can be suggested that
the persuasive communication exerts indirect effects via attitudes, and not via subjective norms or
perceived behavioral control, if (i) the hypothesized model exceeds recent criteria of good fit (Hu &
Bentler, 1999), (ii) the persuasive communication exerts statistically significant indirect effects on
intentions via attitudes and (iv) the indirect effect of persuasive communication on intentions via
perceived behavioral control and subjective norms are not statistically significant (Mulaik &
Millsap, 2000).
The fit of the model was evaluated on the basis of Comparative Fit Index (CFI) and
Standardized Root Mean Square Residual (SRMSR) because previous research has shown that these
fit indices displayed restricted random variation under various conditions of model misspecification,
sample size, and estimation methods (Fan, Thomposon, & Wang, 1999). A cutoff value close to .95
for the CFI and a cut-off value close to .08 for the SRMSR were used to evaluate the adequacy of
models because the Type I and II error rates associated with these criteria are low (Hu & Bentler,
1999). The hypothesized model was estimated using maximum likelihood method (Bentler, 1989).
Results from this analysis revealed the hypothesized model to exceed recent criteria of good
fit because the CFI and SRMSR were .973 and .060 respectively (x2 (6) = 8.823, p = .112).
Parameters of the model (see Figure 1) also revealed that intentions predicted physical activity
behavior, whereas attitudes and perceived behavioral control predicted intentions. In accordance
Theory of Planned Behavior
15
with initial hypotheses, parameter estimates revealed that the persuasive communication targeting
salient behavioral beliefs exerted a statistically significant direct effect on attitudes (beta = .206, p <
.05) and a statistically significant total indirect effect on intentions (beta = .111, p < .05). In
accordance with initial hypothesis (H2), Sobel tests indicated that while the indirect effects of
persuasive communication targeting salient behavioral beliefs on intentions via attitudes was
statistically significant (test statistic = 2.52, p < .05), this was not necessarily the case for indirect
effects of persuasive communication on intentions via subjective norms (test statistic = .082, p >
.05) or via perceive behavioral control (test statistic = .982, p > .05) (Sobel, 1982).
Discussion
The present study represents one of the first attempts to evaluate utility of a persuasive
communication directly derived form the theory of planned behavior to bring about measurable
changes in young people’s physical activity attitudes, intentions, and behavior. The content of the
persuasive message was informed by a pilot study and by earlier empirical work that had identified
modal salient behavioral beliefs in the domain of physical activity (Hagger et al., 2001). The results
suggest that young people who studied a persuasive message that targeted modal salient behavioral
beliefs reported more positive attitudes and stronger intentions than participants who studied non-
salient behavioral beliefs. Notably, these results cannot be attributed to human tendency to behave
in a socially desirable manner or demand characteristics because like participants in the salient
group, participants in the non-salient group read persuasive communications and were prompted to
engage in physical activities (Jackson et al., in press). These findings confirm Ajzen’s (2003)
original proposition that interventions can produce change in attitudes and intentions by addressing
modal salient beliefs.
In addition to replicating previous research findings (Bright, et al., 1993), the present study
extends previous research on physical activity and health in several ways. Specifically, the present
Theory of Planned Behavior
16
study is one of the few studies that provided a rigorous evaluation of an intervention that was
directly derived from the theory of planned behavior in the domain of physical activity. Previous
research in exercise and health psychology did not provide rigorous tests of theory of planned
behavior because past interventions did not compare messages that targeted salient beliefs against
messages that targeted non-salient beliefs (i.e. Courneya & McAuley, 1995; Estbrooks & Carron,
1998; Jones et al., 2005). For example, Jones et al. (2005) and Quine et al. (2001) demonstrated that
interventions targeting modal salient beliefs, in the form of oncologist’s recommendation or
persuasive communication, produced more positive attitudes toward health behavior than
interventions that did not target any belief. However, these authors did not implement an
intervention that targeted non-salient beliefs, as a control intervention. As a consequence, their
research design did not provide a very rigorous test of the theory of planned behavior simply
because interventions that target beliefs expose people to more information and demands than
interventions that do not target any belief (Hawthorne effect). Therefore, a unique contribution of
the present study is the demonstration of beneficial effects of messages that target modal salient
beliefs above and beyond messages that target non-salient beliefs. The practical implication of this
finding is that greater attitude change can be produced by addressing salient beliefs than by
introducing non-salient beliefs. Indeed, as Hardman et al. (2002) pointed out past interventions
produced small to medium effects sizes (i.e. Apodaca, Woodruff, & Candelarien et al., 1997),
whereas the effect sizes of our intervention, which targeted modal salient beliefs, ranged from
medium to large (.042 < h2 < .154).3
Another unique contribution of the present study is concerned with investigation of impact
effects and of the processes by which the persuasive communication influenced intentions. The
multivariate analysis of variance revealed that our persuasive communication influenced attitudes
and not subjective norms or perceived behavioral control (see Figure 1). Further, the path analysis
Theory of Planned Behavior
17
and Sobel tests indicated that the effects of the persuasive communication on intentions were
indirect being mediated by attitudes and not by subjective norms and/or perceived behavioral
control (see Figure 1). Theoretically, these results are very consistent with tenets of the theory of
planned behavior that postulate that messages targeting behavioral beliefs should influence
intentions via attitudes and not via perceived behavioral control and/or subjective norms (Ajzen,
2003). The mediating role of attitudes is also consistent with a number of previous studies that
supported utility of the theory of planned behavior in explaining effects of interventions. For
example, Bamberg, Ajzen, and Schmidt (2003) demonstrated that introduction of a bus ticket
influenced intentions to use bus via attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control
(see also Brubaker & Fowler, 1990; Sanderson & Jemmott, 1996). However, an important
difference between the present study and previous research is that previous studies have
communicated messages aiming to enhance all the underlying determinants of intentions (i.e.
attitudes, subjective norms, and/or perceived behavioral control) whereas our study targeted
attitudes only. The issue has theoretical importance because, as has already been explained in the
introduction, interventions that manipulate all antecedents of intentions cannot shed light upon the
processes by which attitudes influence intentions. Therefore, another unique contribution of the
present study is concerned with delineation of the processes by which messages that target modal
salient behavioral beliefs influence physical activity intentions.
Although the salient belief-based persuasive communication was successful in changing
attitudes and intentions, it did not facilitate changes in physical activity participation. This may be
due to a combination of five factors. First, according to the theory of planned behavior the effects of
persuasive communications on behavior are mediated by two blocks of variables (see Figure 1):
attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control on the one hand and intentions on the
other hand (Ajzen, 1991). Therefore, it can be expected that persuasive communications will have a
Theory of Planned Behavior
18
greater impact on attitudes and a reduced impact on intentions and physical activity behavior. This
is because indirect effects are always smaller than direct effects (Bentler, 1989). Consequently, the
finding that our persuasive communication exerted stronger effects on attitudes (h2 = .081) than on
intentions (h2 = .043) and physical activity behavior (h2 = .00) is very much in accordance with
theoretical tenets of the theory of planned behavior.
Second, the present intervention targeted attitudes but not subjective norms or perceived
behavioral control. Although the attitude-specific intervention allowed us investigate the impact of
the effects of an intervention that focused on attitudes in isolation, the tenets of the theory of
planned behavior postulate that maximal changes on physical activity intentions and behavior can
be facilitated by interventions that affect all three of the determinants of intentions rather than
attitudes alone (Ajzen, 1991, 2003). This is particular germane for physical activity intentions
considering that previous research has shown the effects of perceived behavioral control and
attitudes on intentions to be additive (Hagger et al., 2002). Indeed, Jones et al. (2005) showed that a
physical activity intervention influenced behavior via perceived behavioral control. Therefore, the
present study might have not found changes in physical activity participation because subjective
norms and/or perceived behavioral control were not manipulated. Future studies might usefully
target subjective norms by having persuasive communications being delivered by people who figure
in the modal salient normative beliefs of young people (i.e. friends, family members, teachers;
Hagger et al., 2001). Perceived behavioral control can be manipulated by creating conditions that
facilitate participation in physical activities (i.e. providing easy access to exercise facilities).
Alternatively, perceived behavioral control can be increased through persuasive communications
that target modal salient control beliefs.
Third, the present intervention targeted modal salient beliefs and not important or
idiosyncratic beliefs (van der Pligt & Eiser, 1984). Although modal salient behavioral beliefs and
Theory of Planned Behavior
19
important beliefs are highly accessible (van der Harreveld et al., 2000), important beliefs may be
more effective in promoting physical activity behavior because they evoke behavioral responses in
a spontaneous manner (see Perugini, in press), that is, without the individuals’ active consideration
of attitudes and without individuals’ awareness of the influence of that attitude (Fazio, 1990).
Fourth, Fishbein and Ajzen (in press) have recently suggested that the purpose of the theory of
planned behavior is to explain intentions and not necessarily behavior. For example, interventions
based on this theory can produce positive intentions among non-intenders by changing behavioral
beliefs, normative beliefs and/or control beliefs but the theory of planned behavior cannot help
people carry out their strong intentions (Fishbein & Ajzen, in press). Therefore, it is important to
realize that the theory of planned behavior is a motivational theory that can only facilitate positive
intentions among people who do not contemplate engagement in physical activities or among
people who are disinclined to do so. This theory is not a volitional theory and therefore cannot
facilitate enactment of behavioral intentions. The theory of planned behavior can facilitate
enactment of behavioral intentions when it is applied alongside volitional techniques such as
implementation intentions (see Gollwitzer, 1999; Prestwich et al., 2003; Sheeran & Silverman,
2003) and continuation intentions (Chatzisarantis, Hagger, Smith, & Phoenix, 2004). Therefore, the
absence of an intervention effect on physical activity behavior is very much in line with purposes of
the theory of planned behavior that aim to facilitate intentions and not necessarily behavior.
Fifth, it is possible that manipulation of modal salient behavioral beliefs might have
produced positive effects on physical activity behavior which however might have been unstable
and therefore ‘washed out’ after five weeks (Ajzen, 1991). Consequently, we might not have
observed any effects of the intervention on physical activity behavior because behavior was not
measured over a short interval of time (i.e. two weeks). The implications of such unstable effects
for practice is that interventions based on the theory of planned behavior should be accompanied by
Theory of Planned Behavior
20
booster sessions (Hennessy et al., 1999; Chatzisarantis, Hagger, Biddle & Smith, 2005). In general,
booster sessions can prevent undesirable change in attitudes and intentions because they are smaller
doses of the original intervention that are usually delivered at a specific time soon after
commencement of the intervention (Hennessy et al., 1999). In the domain of physical activity,
research has suggested that interventions based on the theory of planned behavior should deliver
booster sessions within five weeks interval from the commencement of the intervention because
attitudes, perceptions of control, and intentions tend to decline within five weeks interval of time
(Chatzisarantis et al., in press). The next step therefore for future research is to evaluate whether
booster sessions increase utility of interventions based the theory of planned behavior in promoting
physical activity participation.
Limitations and Conclusions
One limitation of the present study is concerned with influences that the presence of the
experimenter might have exerted on subjective norms. Specifically, our intervention might have
inadvertently influenced subjective norms because the intervention was delivered by an
experimenter. Unfortunately, the design of our study cannot investigate influences of experimenter
on subjective norms because it did not include a control condition in which the manipulation of
behavioral beliefs was not delivered by an experimenter. However, it is important to recognize that
effects of the theory of planned behavior intervention cannot be attributed to presence of
experimenter or to subjective norms because our study (i) kept presence of experimenter constant
across conditions, and (ii) showed that our experimental manipulation had an effect on attitudes and
intentions even after effects from subjective norms were statistically controlled. In fact, our study
shows that the manipulation of modal salient behavioral beliefs produced effects on attitudes over
and above effects that might have produced by the presence of an experimenter because the only
difference between the salient belief condition and the non-salient belief condition was concerned
Theory of Planned Behavior
21
with manipulation of modal salient beliefs.
Another limitation of the present study is concerned with lack of measurement of behavioral
beliefs, normative beliefs and control beliefs. Specifically, the present study did not measure
expectancies and values people place on modal salient behavioral beliefs that underline attitudes.
Measurement of modal salient behavioral beliefs is important considering that, according to the
theory of planned behavior, behavioral beliefs constitute antecedents of attitudes.
In conclusion, the present study extends current knowledge by demonstrating that messages
that target salient behavioral beliefs facilitate more attitude change than messages that target non-
salient beliefs. Further, it has been shown that attitude specific interventions influence intentions,
but not physical activity behavior, indirectly via attitudes and not via perceived behavioral control
and subjective norms. Most important, the present study is the first to report that it is possible to
influence intentions by targeting attitudes only. The implications of these findings is that greater
attitude change can be produced by addressing salient behavioral beliefs than by addressing non-
salient behavioral beliefs and that, at least in the context of leisure time physical activity, the theory
of planned behavior provides a very useful framework in developing interventions that produce
positive intentions.
Theory of Planned Behavior
22
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Theory of Planned Behavior
27
Notes.
1. Ajzen (1991) stated that perceived behavioral control can also predict behavior directly
when perceived behavioral control is realistic.
2. The message aimed to enhance the credibility of the arguments and of the communication. It
did not aim to provide a scientific and detailed explanation of health benefits of physical
activity simply because our young participants might have not comprehended the merits of
such scientific explanations.
3. A note of caution should be heeded at this juncture. The effect sizes derived from the
present study and from Hardman et al.’s (2002) study are not directly comparable because of
differences in research designs. For example, most of the studies reviewed by Hardman et
al. (2002) did not expose control participants to any message whereas the present study
exposed participants in the control group to a health message. Despite those methodological
differences, we decided to highlight differences in effect sizes because the use of control
groups that expose participants to health messages provide more rigorous test of the
effectiveness of health message that target modal salient beliefs (see Brubaker & Fowler,
1990).
Theory of Planned Behavior
28
Table 1
Descriptive Statistics
M
SD
1
3
4
5
6
7
1. Physical activity
3.98
1.18
1.00
2. Intentions
4.72
1.38
.594
3. Attitudes
5.28
1.33
.639
1.00
3. Subjective norms
4.22
1.45
-.059
.022
1.00
4. Perceived behavioral
control
5.20
1.39
.398
.581
-.177
1.00
5. Past behavior
3.98
1.20
.684
.627
-.121
.532
1.00
6. Persuasive
communication
__
__
.010
.285
-.090
.166
.111
1.00
Note. The variable “persuasive communication” indicates membership in the non-salient
belief/control group” versus “salient belief group”. Correlations displayed by this variable are point
bi-serial correlations. Correlations greater than .22 are significant at .05 alpha level. All constructs
derived from the theory of planned behavior were measured on 7-point scales.
Theory of Planned Behavior
29
Table 2
Effects of Persuasive Communication
Attitude
Subjective
norms
Perceived
behavioral
control
Intentions
Physical activity
behavior (5-
weeks)
Non-salient
group
4.9 (1.35)
4.3 (1.43)
4.9 (1.62)
4.4 (1.33)
3.9 (1.33)
Salient group
5.7 (1.21)
4.1 (1.47)
5.4 (1.09)
5.0 (1.39)
4.0 (1.03)
Note. Standard deviations are presented in parenthesis. Constructs derived from the theory of
planned behavior were measured on 7-point scales. Physical activity behavior was measured in
units of 1.
Theory of Planned Behavior
30
Figure Caption
Figure 1. A Path Model (Model 1) Estimating Effects of Persuasive Communication on Physical
Activity Intentions and Behavior
Note. The hypothesized model was estimated on the basis of a polyserial matrix because persuasive
communication was a dichotomous variable indicating membership in the “non salient
belief/control group” versus “salient belief group”. Past behavior exerted statistically significant
effects on physical activity behavior (beta = .424, p < .05), intention (beta = .326, p < .05), attitude
(beta = .303, p < .05), perceived behavioral control (beta = .532, p < .05) but not subjective norms
(beta = - .121, p > .05).
Theory of Planned Behavior
31
E = .916
.206
.538 E = .728 E = .740
-.055 .512
.215
Persuasive
communica
tion
Perceived
behavioural
control
Subjective
norms
Attitude
Intention
Physical
activity
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Good medical care has long been a top priority in health tourism to keep the flow of visitors coming for medical treatment. Medical tourism encompasses a range of treatments, from basic check-ups to surgical operations. For its friendly character and high quality of service, China has earned a reputation as one of Asia's top destinations for health tourism. Along with India and Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, and South Korea are China's top tourism destinations. Considering the above fact, this study aims to examine the influence of nutritional knowledge, perceived medical quality, and trust in physiologists on revisiting the intention of medical tourists in China. This study is cross-sectional and follows a quantitative approach. The researchers used questionnaires as a survey tool to obtain information from the respondents. The respondents of this chosen international tourists in China who come for medical treatment purposes. A systematic random sampling technique was used to select the respondents, and 315 usable responses were collected from the respondents and proceeded with further analysis. The study conducted structural equation modeling using Smart PLS version 3. The results found that nutritional knowledge, perceived medical quality, and trust in physiologists significantly influence the revisit intention of medical tourists in China.
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Background Participating in voluntary exercise training is important to meet occupational requirements as well as firefighters’ health and safety. The purpose of this study is to identify salient beliefs associated with voluntary exercise training among firefighters in the pandemic era by comparing outcomes with those from a previous elicitation study, which was carried out before the COVID-19 outbreak. Methods A total of 57 firefighters are recruited to participate in an elicitation study. Participants are requested to respond to six open-ended questions related to voluntary exercise training. Content analysis is used to create categories that combine similar factors in each belief. Beliefs mentioned by more than 30% of participants are used for comparison with the results of the previous research. Results “Improves my physical ability” ( n = 44) and “cause injury” ( n = 17) are identified as behavioral beliefs in the present study, whereas “makes me tired” and “takes too much time” were also elicited in Lee’s study. Normative beliefs are “family members” ( n = 45) and “colleagues” ( n = 27) and these results are consistent with those in Lee’s study. “Lack of time” ( n = 28), “exercise facilities” ( n = 19), and “COVID-19” ( n = 19) are elicited as control beliefs in the present study, whereas “physical condition” ( n = 21) and “exercise partners” ( n = 14) were elicited as other control beliefs, and “COVID-19” was not mentioned in Lee’s study. Conclusion This study can contribute valuable information about salient beliefs associated with exercise training behavior among firefighters, particularly under pandemic conditions. Future researchers should develop tailored exercise training programs for firefighters based on current elicited beliefs.
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Purpose Research in consumer behaviour in the pro-environmental hospitality domain is limited. Furthermore, the efficiency of interventions using pictorial elements, with positive and negative framing, to influence travellers' intentions (INTs) to book green accommodation remains scarcely investigated. The theory of planned behaviour (TPB) offers a platform for testing interventions that could impact consumer behaviour. This study aims to introduce a TPB pictorial intervention in green accommodation and to provide a robust assessment of the intervention targeted at the TPB's factors. Design/methodology/approach The data were collected from Australian travellers who were exposed to convincing messages through pictorial elements. These featured either positive or negative pro-environmental effects of hotel operations. A usable sample size of 771 respondents has been achieved. A multi-group analysis using structural equation modelling was performed to investigate the intervention effect. Findings The results highlighted the supremacy of positive framing to influence travellers’ INTs regarding patronage of green accommodation. A knowledge-based approach to promoting green practices might encourage travellers to book green accommodations. Originality/value This study advances theory building in environmental communication. Subsequently, hoteliers might enhance their marketing strategies to publicise their pro-environmental programs.
... Yet experimental or time-series analyses of the TRA or the TPB are rare (Armitage et al., 2013;Chatzisarantis & Hagger, 2005;Elliott et al., 2013;Sniehotta et al., 2014;Sussman & Gifford, 2019). There are a few studies using approaches comparable to the one applied in this study to test the TRA or TPB's tenets at both between-, and within-subject level, across behaviours, finding that on average, the theories' tenets hold both between and within subjects, though the extent of the relationships differ (Finlay et al., 1997(Finlay et al., , 1999Johnston et al., 2004;Trafimow & Fig. 4. Posterior distributions for slope estimates for between-subject (rm = respondent-mean) and within-subject (rc = respondent-centred) predictors for model concerning behavioural beliefs (left) and normative beliefs (right). ...
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... A proliferating body of research has conducted formal tests of the mechanism of action of behavioral interventions adopting theory-based behavior change techniques to change behavior. For example, studies have demonstrated that interventions adopting randomized controlled designs and applying techniques targeting change in attitudes (Chatzisarantis & Hagger, 2005), social support (Quaresma, Palmeira, Martins, Minderico, & Sardinha, 2014), and self-efficacy changed physical activity behavior in the target populations through the mediation of change in the measures of the targeted constructs. However, such tests are not routinely conducteda recent set of meta-reviews indicated that evidence supporting mechanisms of action using mediation tests is sparse and has not advanced significantly over the years (Suls et al., 2020). ...
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