Disentangling behavioral intention and behavioral expectation

Paul R. Warshaw, Fred D. Davis

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486 Scopus citations


Social psychologists have extensively researched behavioral intention and its relation to future behavior, usually within the framework of M. Fishbein and I. Ajzen's (1975, Belief, attitude, intention and behavior: An introduction to theory and research, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley) theory of reasoned action. However, the field has confounded two separate constructs while investigating intention: behavioral intention (BI) and what P. R. Warshaw, B. H. Sheppard, and J. Hartwick (in press, in R. Bagozzi (Ed.), Advances in marketing communication, Greenwich, CT: JAI Press) have coined behavioral expectation (BE), which is the individual's self-prediction of his or her future behavior. In this paper we define both constructs and explain how they differ in terms of the processes by which they are formed, their roles in determining behavior, and their utilities as behavioral predictors. We propose that behavioral expectation is the more accurate overall predictor since many common behaviors are unreasoned (i.e., mindless or habitual) behaviors, goal-type actions, or behaviors where the individual expects his or her intention to change in a foresseable manner. These are all cases where present intention (BI) is not the direct determinant of behavior but where the individual may be capable of appraising whatever additional determinants exist and of including them within his or her behavioral expectation. A study (N = 197) is reported in which student subjects received either a BE (n = 113) or a BI (n = 84) version of a questionnaire pertaining to their performance of 18 common behaviors. Overall, behavioral expectation was the better predictor of self-reported performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-228
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1985


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