Coursework "The Theory of Planned Behaviour"

Date: Nov 23, 2018

Introduction

The changing lifestyle, especially in the area of eating habits, has hit many people including sportsmen. Most people have become aware of their health habits that translate to their body image. Thus, the introduction of supplements and organic products has escalated owing to the high demand by athletes. Researchers and marketers have advanced studies and theories with regard to the attitude formation and how to tap the influencing factors to get the desired consumer response towards nutrition products.

This coursework is aimed at examining the relationship between consumer behaviours and attitudes using theories and models. It starts with a critical evaluation of models of consumer attitudes. The next step is the analysis of findings in research as evidence of the theory of planned behaviour TPB through the process of interviews. The final section will provide the recommendations and concluding remarks on the influencing factors in the consumption of nutrition products for sports persons.

Theories and Models of Attitude

The Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB), which is a modification of the theory of reasoned action, is built on an assumption that people act rationally when they are using the available information (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980, p. 45). The theory posits that people have a tendency to estimate particular factors before making a decision on whether to engage in a certain behaviour, the intent factor. The TPB posits that the intention without unforeseen circumstances will limit the control of a person. Thus, it can be used in predicting the future behaviours. The intention varies in global constructs in three main dimensions; the attitude towards the behaviour, the controlling norms, and the control behaviour. Many studies report on the relationship between intention and behaviour. A major finding in these studies is the substantial causal effect between intention and behaviour (Webb & Sheeran 2006, p. 21).

The Fishbein Model is still the most influential model that marketers and other experts have developed on to come up with other theories of the attitude and behaviours. The Fishbein Model is mainly based on three elements of salient belief, evaluation and the link between the object and attribute. Thus, it highlights the point of commencement that allows an in-depth evaluation on the relationship between attitudes and behaviour (Sheeran, Norman & Orbell 1999, p. 34).

Critics of this model, such as Feng (2007, p. 15), argue that it disregards vital information on the permanence of attitude and does not consider the variance factors that can come about depending on the involvement level of the participant. For example, people are bound to change their behaviours based on their new environment, change in job, change in social status, or even change in weather. These activities are likely to force them to modify their schedules. Therefore, they affect their level of involvement in certain behaviour (Conner 1998, p. 17).

Moreover, Servo (2008, p. 56) points out that evaluation and affective judgments are not necessarily similar. As such, most consumers will likely make a decision, depending on the attributes of the product. This concept is also captured in the Rosenberg Model that is founded on the premise that consumers put emphasis on the characteristics of a product that brings contentment or discontentment after consumption (Armitage & Conner 1999, p. 19). To this end, marketers can put emphasis on the beneficial aspects of the products as a way of attracting consumers and, thereby, influencing their attitudes/intentions to buy the product.

Many research studies focus on internal factors that persons consider when making decisions and forming attitudes (Armitage & Christian 2004, p. 33; Buchanan 2008, p. 45). The factors may include the level of importance of the attributes, the level of contentment derived by consuming the products, the belief systems, among many others. Nevertheless, there seems to be a general agreement among marketers that the consideration of all these factors does not translate into the expected behaviour change.

Ajzen (2005, p. 67) theory of reasoned action refers to the concept of subjective norm as influencing the behaviour of consumers with regard to the social perception. The subjective norm is founded on the fact that some people considered relevant by some groups in the society will influence the behaviours of those, who are below them. Through this model, marketers can understand the concept of social behaviour among a group of people such as athletes or sportsmen. For instance, cyclists or athletes normally train in groups as a way of gaining support and motivation. It is unlikely that one’s behaviour will be different from the rest of the group members as she/he will be encouraged to embrace the group behaviour (Manning 2011).

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Contrary to this, Webb & Sheeran (2006, p. 67) argued that the TPB does not consider the psychological issues that takes place at the individual level as well as factors such as economic capability and emotions. Naturally, people who have no economic power to purchase a product, no matter how they are encouraged by the group, will not make a purchase. The same applies to a psychological state of the mind, where some people cannot just bring themselves to conformity within the group.

The TPB that Ajzen (2001) proposed included the concept of perceived behavioural control. In this model, people have a perception concerning their ability to engage in certain behaviour. As such, they cannot be influenced by internal or external factors to engage in that behaviour. This proposition is similar to the one given by Bandura (1977), known as the Self-Efficacy theory. The theory explains that certain goals can be attained if performed in a certain manner. As such, it premises on the ability to master the situation and produce a positive impact.

This model is advantageous in a number of ways, including its ability to predict intentional behaviours. It also helps to explain the connection between intentional and actual behaviours through the perceived intent. Ajzen’s Model also helps to explain the constructs of social behaviours at the individual level as well as group level through the concept of social norms and normative beliefs (Povey & Shepherd 2000, p. 130).

Other theories related to the TPB include the Social Pressure Theory (SPT) and the Trying to Consume Theory (TCT). Both are premised on the concept of a subjective norm. However, the SPT puts an emphasis on the external pressure that affects people whenever they are making any decision, while the TCT bases its explanation on the internal factors used to assess expectations about success and failure of the product (Hagger & Chatzisarantis 2002, p. 15).

From the analysis of the above theories and models, it is evident that the process of predicting or anticipating consumer behaviours can be a complex one. This is because an attitude is not the only determining factor that varies between individual and group levels. However, the understanding of the attitude formation can help to understand the behaviour change among consumers of sports and nutrition products. This is because through the evaluation of different factors that inform attitude, marketers and researchers can evaluate the process of choosing a certain product on the market. Still, attitude, as a construct of consumer decision-making, is an interesting factor in trying to change the consumer behaviours during the process of marketing (Ajzen 2001, p. 45).

Methodological Approach

The data collection was done through interviews of two selected participants. The male and female participants were selected based on the set criteria (Creswell 1998, p. 21). The interview questions were set in accordance to the TPB principles, including the definition of the population interest, definition of behaviour under the study, and the methods to measure intentions. The other principles include the most frequently perceived merits and demerits of performing the behaviour and the determination of people, who are likely to approve or disapprove the study behaviour, among others.

The participants were informed of the terms of the study, including its purpose and the privacy rights. The participants were also informed about recording of the interviews and consent forms were signed to show their agreement. The secondary data from the literature was used to support the formulation of the interview process and the analysis of the findings (Merriam 2009, p. 10).

Research Findings

Two participants were interviewed for the purposes of this study. In accordance with the consent form, the researcher did not record their names. As such, they are herein referred to Interviewee I and Interviewee II. However, the gender reference “he” and “she” will be used in the transcript to indicate the differences in behaviour between a male and a female towards nutrition products.

The TPB framework was predominantly used together with elements of the TPT and SPT. It was determined that the interviewees’ attitude in regard to consumption of sports nutrition products corresponds with the principles outlined in the TPB. There were also evidences of principles of other theories as explained below.

Belief towards Consumer Behaviour

The two interviewees believed that sports required regular exercises, which translated to the need for healthy eating habits. Regular exercises were both an initiative for continued sportsmanship and good body image. The latter required a person to have a keen interest in the consumable products on the market. In order to support their high need for energy and good body image, both participants agreed that a positive attitude towards the available sport nutrition supplement helped them to see the benefits that they could derive from the use of such supplements.

Subjective Norms and Normative Beliefs

The normative belief was expressed by both participants, who stated that they supported their family members and friends to participate in body exercises. Interviewee I believed that a body exercise was a healthy habit, whether one was engaged in sports or not. Therefore, he encouraged everyone in his family to exercise regularly. Interviewee II opined that a regular intensive exercise should only be encouraged to sportsmen, since it was energy-depleting. Interviewee I has formed the habit of taking his 10 year old son to exercise with him on a regular basis, while Interviewee II only allowed her 12 year old son to exercise once in a week with her.

As a result, Interviewee I is engaged in subjective norms, where his son only practices because of the pressure from his father. Interviewee I stated, “He must learn to exercise while still young.” Interviewee II indicated that the social pressure where little children are seen exercising early in the morning was likely to influence parents to force their children to exercise as well. Interviewee II observed that given the social pressure, some people were likely to have regular body exercise without paying the attention to the health benefits or ensuing nutrition demands in the body.

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Interviewee I indicated that a body exercise is needed to be a discipline embraced by everyone, regardless of their age or social status. He indicated that he became interested in an intensive exercise after discovering interesting nutrition supplements in the market. The supplement could replenish the energy used in exercising almost immediately. In this way, it enabled Interviewee I to compensate for the need of high calories for exercising. The motivation of Interviewee I is based on the subjective norms that people should embrace exercise just like him, while Interviewee II believes that normative beliefs should determine who participates in the body exercise and who does not.

The relationship between subjective norms and normative belief is not so much clear in the use of sports supplement between the two interviewees as both advocated for its use to replenish the energy lost. Both interviewees use supplements because it helped them to recover the lost energy. Still, the benefits of body exercising, which leads to consumption of supplements, could best explain the underlying attitude between the two interviewees on the basis of their behaviours.

Perceived Behaviour and Control Belief

A significant variation exists in terms of control for both participants. Interviewee II has a private gym built in her house, whereas interviewee I uses a public gym located a kilometre away from his home. Thus, Interviewee II is in much better position to control influencing factors like time, weather, and transport cost. Nevertheless, she still had to hire a trainer to assist her, because she is a novice user of the equipment in her gym.

In contrast, Interviewee I was a veteran who only needed to pay a subscription fee in the public gym and use the equipment without the need for a trainer. He acted as a trainer for his son. However, he has never been derailed by weather conditions or time and has always regularly reported to the gym. The use of supplements varied between the two participants. Interviewee I preferred solid supplements because of the travelling and ease of use while exercising. Interviewee II preferred powder supplements because they are absorbed within the body at a very fast rate. However, as a woman, she was worried about the possible side effects on her physiological processes in her body. Thus, she kept on changing from one brand to the other.

Intention

The two participants had a strong intention to exercise their bodies. They actually exercised on a regular basis with the intent of using nutrition supplements to replenish their energy. Both respondents indicated a preference to supplements with natural ingredients, fearing that those with synthetic additives could harm their bodies when consumed regularly.

Recommendations and Conclusion

The following identified recommendations are meant to increase the intention to buy sports nutrition supplements

  1. Move towards the use of natural ingredients to manufacture supplements. Most consumers have become aware of the healthy products and prefer natural ingredients to synthetic additives. The approval and certification from the authorized professional bodies can boost the confidence of consumers (Wolinsky & Driskell 2005, p. 14).
  2. An increasing number of children users of energy replenishing supplements means that flavour and taste will be key factors to put into consideration when choosing a supplement. Equally, regular uptake of supplements by older sportsmen means that they do not want to be bored with the flavour. Thus, supplements should meet their expectations in terms of flavour and taste (Fink 2013, p. 67).
  3. The product segmentation should be done, especially between ages and sex. Women users prefer to have supplements that will not interfere with the physiological processes in their bodies. In addition, males are more likely to use supplements than women, because they are not worried about physiological processes. They also exercise more regularly than women (Burke 2007, p. 77).
  4. A marketing need to focus on private gyms and sport events as an increasing number of people set up training facilities in their homes where they train from. The media could also help to reach out to private individuals who exercise in their homes.

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This report concludes that subjective norms and normative beliefs are important factors when it comes to body exercise and use of supplements as the energy replenishment to sports people. Participants in this study showed great use of attitude and perceived behaviour to influence their intentions and behaviours concerning body exercise. As such, their attitude greatly influenced how they exercise and whom they encourage to exercise. However, their subjective norms varied between them on how it should affect someone’s participation in regular exercise as a behaviour. It is noted that social pressure can either influence or not influence the attitude of a person towards a particular behaviour.

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