Theory of Reasoned Action

Two closely associated theories – The Theory of Reasoned Action and the Theory of Planned Behavior – suggest that a person's health behavior is determined by their intention to perform a behavior. A person's intention to perform a behavior (behavioral intention) is predicted by 1) a person's attitude toward the behavior, and 2) subjective norms regarding the behavior. Subjective norms are the result of social and environmental surroundings and a person's perceived control over the behavior. Generally, positive attitude and positive subjective norms result in greater perceived control and increase the likelihood of intentions governing changes in behavior.

Theory of Reasoned Action/Planned Behavior Examples

  • SIPsmartER is a health promotion program implemented in rural southwest Virginia. The goal of the program is to decrease sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among adults. The intervention strategy is based on the Theory of Planned Behavior and includes education through small-group classes and teach back methods.

  • A cervical cancer prevention program was designed for women in rural, Appalachian Kentucky. 1-2-3 Pap: Easy Steps to Prevent Cervical Cancer is a cervical cancer prevention program designed for women in rural, Appalachian Kentucky. The program components include strategies to increase knowledge and modify attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, using the Theory of Planned Behavior as a guide.

Considerations for Implementation

The Theory of Reasoned Action/Planned Behavior provide useful information for predicting health behaviors and for planning and implementing health promotion and disease prevention programs. Subjective norms can be used to describe the behaviors of healthcare providers, patients, care providers, and others in the community. These theories have been used to guide health promotion and disease prevention asthma counseling and treatment compliant, tobacco use interventions, and anti-drug media campaigns, among other topics.

Resources to Learn More

Theory at a Glance: A Guide for Health Promotion Practice
Provides information about useful theories for health behavior change and health education practice.
Organization(s): National Cancer Institute
Date: 2005

Theory of Reasoned Action/Theory of Planned Behavior
Explains and uses a behavior model focused on positive attitude, subjective beliefs, and perceived behavioral control as it relates to smoking cessation.
Organization(s): Maryland's Tobacco Resource Center

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