Attitude and Behavior in Psychology and Design

Image credit: background (by davidclode), illustration (by dinosoftlabs)

Humans are complicated. Not only we change our attitudes during our lifetime but we try to change other people’s attitudes as well. Moreover, our behavior is not always influenced by our attitudes.

Let’s understand what attitudes and behaviors are.


Attitude refers to a set of emotions, beliefs, and opinions toward a particular object, person, thing, or event. Attitudes are often the result of experience or learned tendency, and they can have a powerful influence over behavior.

Eg: Football is the best sport (that is an opinion I have). Other people may say football is boring, 22 people chasing after one ball (that is their opinion).

Let’s look at the ABC (Affective, Behavioral, Cognitive) components of attitude below:

Attitudes can be formed explicitly or implicitly.

Explicit attitudes are those that we are consciously aware of and that clearly influence our behaviors and beliefs. Eg: Your attitude towards Bill Cosby changed knowing he is a sex offender and you may not watch The Cosby Show.

Implicit attitudes are unconscious but still have an effect on our beliefs and behaviors. Most of the time our attitudes are implicit. Eg: You didn’t realize that you started having feelings for a friend with whom you are very close and you might take out time to meet this special friend and fulfill whatever this friend needs.


Behavior refers to one’s actions before or toward others, especially on a particular occasion.
Eg: Roger Federer's behavior in the sports match today was very aggressive.

If you want to predict behavior (what a person will do), there are a lot of factors you need to consider. Attitude is a very strong factor but it is not the only factor.

Eg: If someone comes to you and asks if you consider yourself charitable, you will most certainly say yes. But it is highly unlikely that when you come across a charity organization, you will donate. Although you say that you are charitable but there are a lot of other factors that will make you donate to charity. Some of those factors can be — you decide to donate just once a month or don’t want to donate money or is not passionate about that particular cause, your culture, your past experience, etc.

General attitudes do not predict specific behaviors, a very specific attitude does.

Eg: If I ask you to think about apple products. You might say — Apple’s products are very expensive (from your experience) and still you might recommend apple.

One of the reason might be: You also believe (Apple makes innovative products) and you have a feeling that (Apple products make the world a better place) and you have learned that (Apple products are more secure) and so you are going to recommend getting the new iPhone.

Attitude and behavior

Attitude is one of the main factors that can have a powerful influence over behavior. So one of the things you can do to predict behavior is to change a person’s attitude towards the thing. This practice has been going on for a long time.

Few examples:

  • Donald Trump campaign tried to change the attitude of voters by creating fake news against Hillary Clinton
  • Cereals companies made you believe that cereals are good for health (attitude) and you start purchasing those cereals to eat in your breakfast (behavioral)
  • You are with your friends and you are influenced by their thoughts or ideas.
  • Advertisement playing again and again and again during the same time slot(targeting target users), people’s attitudes will change without even them realizing it.
  • If a person wearing a lab coat gives you some information about health, you are more likely to consider it seriously although they are not really doctors but actors just wearing a coat.

Attitude and Behaviour in Design

To create a good experience, you need to consider both actions and attitudes behind that action.

User research

When doing research, you need to account for what the users say (attitudinal research) and what they do (behavioral research)

Attitudinal methods gather qualitative insights into user’s thoughts, feelings, needs, attitudes, and motivations. Behavioral research methods aim to measure what users actually do, providing quantitative data about how users actually interact with the product and service.

Usability testing

During Usability Testing, watching how users interact with the product tells you a lot about what works and what needs improvement and if it meets the user’s mental models. Attitude not only describes how people feel while using an interface or interacting with a product, but it may also be the explanation for why people will or won’t use a product or app in the future.


You cannot measure attitudes but you can measure behavior. If you have a product, you can tell from the analytics data what the behavior is. You however won’t know why people are behaving in this way from this data. That is when you would want to reach out to these users and interview them to understand the goal and what attitudes they have when interacting with the product/service to achieve that goal.


There might be a lot of factors that might influence people to behave in a certain way, attitudes is one of the important factors. When designing we need to consider both actions and attitudes behind that action.


Components of attitudes
Why you should measure UX attitudes
The Link Between Attitudes and Behavior
The User Research Dream Team: Attitudinal Vs. Behavioural Techniques

Product Designer with an experimental mindset

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