The following two pieces of research (LaPierre 1934 and
Corey 1937) are both about expected
behaviour and attitudes. Imagine you are
(a) a hotelier etc. in LaPierre’s study,
and (b) a student in Corey’s study.
What reasons might you give for behaving as you did both publicly and
privately? Consider both situational and
How might the Theory of
Reasoned Action (and subsequently the theory of Planned Behaviour) be applied
in these cases in order to explain the behaviours?
The Hotel Experience
It was LaPierre's study of
attitudes versus actions, in 1934, that first alerted social psychologists to
the possibility that the long‑assumed relationship between people's
attitudes and their behaviour might not exist, or at least is difficult to
demonstrate empirically. Interestingly, LaPierre began from the position that
in practice 'social attitudes are seldom more than a verbal response to a
symbolic situation', i.e. most measures depend on verbal responses to questions
about some verbally described, broad category such as 'an ethnic minority'.
Unhappy with this situation LaPierre decided to investigate racial prejudice by
observing the real behaviour of hotel and restaurant personnel. His interest in
this particular test was aroused by the fact that he had travelled extensively
with a young Chinese student and his wife. The Chinese couple in his company
were accommodated in the best hotel in a small town noted for its bigoted
attitude towards Orientals. Two months later LaPierre happened to be in this
town again and had the idea of phoning the hotel and asking whether they would
accommodate 'an important Chinese gentleman'. The reply was an unequivocal
'No'. That was what started a 10,000 mile journey to study attitudes versus
LaPierre tried to establish a
replicable procedure at each hotel or restaurant. Wherever possible he let the
Chinese couple negotiate about their room, while he stayed out of sight; or he
let them go ahead into a restaurant. The establishments were both 'high class'
and 'auto‑camps'; sometimes the researchers were travel worn and dusty
and sometimes they looked more presentable. In all, the Chinese couple were
accepted at 66 hotels and auto‑camps and 184 restaurants and cafes
throughout the USA. LaPierre took detailed records on each occasion and judged
that they received more than ordinary consideration in 72 of these encounters.
Only once was the couple refused.
LaPierre concluded that,
despite the undoubted anti‑Oriental prejudices in the USA at that time,
the overt behaviour of hotel and restaurant personnel when faced with the
Chinese couple was not bigoted. He says: 'It appeared that a genial smile was
the most effective password to acceptance. My Chinese friends were skilful
smilers, which may account in part for the fact that we received but one rebuff
in all our experiences ... I was impressed with the fact that even where some
tension developed due to the strangeness of the Chinese it would evaporate
immediately when they spoke in unaccented English'.
LaPierre allowed 6 months to
elapse between each such visit and sending a questionnaire to the hotel or
restaurant concerned. Each questionnaire asked the same question: 'Will you
accept members of the Chinese race as guests in your establishment?'. In some
cases this was the only question, in others it was inserted amongst similar
questions about other racial groups. LaPierre reports: 'With persistence,
completed replies were obtained from 128 of the establishments we had visited'
(out of a total of 251). In response to the relevant question, 92 per cent of
the replies from restaurants and caf6s and 91 per cent of hotels, auto‑camps
and 'tourist homes' said no. LaPierre states that: 'The remainder replied
"Uncertain; depends on circumstances". From the woman proprietor of a
small autocamp I received the only "Yes", accompanied by a chatty
letter describing the nice visit she had had with a Chinese gentleman and his
sweet wife during the previous Summer.' In addition, the questionnaire was sent
to hotels and restaurants other than those visited, but in the same areas. The
same negative answer was received.
LaPierre's paper ends with
'The questionnaire is cheap,
easy and mechanical. The study of human behaviour is time‑consuming,
intellectually fatiguing and depends for its success upon the ability of the
investigator ... Yet it would seem far more worthwhile to make a shrewd guess
regarding that which is essential than to accurately measure that which is
likely to prove quite irrelevant.'
When is cheating not cheating?
Corey (1937) measured the
attitudes of 67 university students towards cheating in classroom examinations
and compared the scores with actual cheating in classroom tests. He used what
is known as a Likert‑type scale, in which the subjects were asked to agree or disagree on a five‑point
scale with a set of statements about cheating. The students were taking a
course in educational psychology and each week for five weeks they were given a
'true/false' type of test on their week's work. The papers were returned to the
students for self‑marking the following week, meanwhile having been
secretly marked by the researcher. The students were asked to mark their own
tests, in a way which gave them plenty of opportunity to cheat. The measures of
cheating did not decrease over the five‑week period, a finding which
Corey uses to assure the reader that the students could not have been
suspicious about the tests and that 'rumours' could not have been in
circulation. Corey found that the best predictor of cheating was the difficulty
of the test (i.e. the need to cheat
in order to get good marks).
On the attitude measure
(Corey's paper does not indicate when this
questionnaire was administered ‑ before or after the behaviour measure),
maximum sympathy with cheating would have scored 250 and minimum 50. The
average score for the students was 133. In the real tests, 76 per cent of the
students cheated; one student raised his score by an average of 12 points on
each of the five tests. However, the attitudinal measure and the behavioural
measure of cheating were completely unrelated; those who disapproved of
cheating were just as likely to cheat.