Contributions of different theories to health psychology research

Attribution theory according to Colman (2009) was constructed to make a clear assumption how individuals assume and are aware of their own and others’ attitudes. This theory was first founded by Fritz Heider and it was expanded by Edward Ellswort Jones and Harold Kelly. Whereas, self efficacy was first developed by Albert Bandura and expanded by Ralf Schwarzer. Colman (2009) stated that self efficacy is a capability to reach desired goals. The concept of health locus of control in other hand was first brought by E. Jerry Phares and Julian Bernad Rotter then introduced the internal external scale to measure health locus of control. This concept is a cognitive approach by designated assumptions with regards of lifestyle behaviours and the outcomes of these behaviours positively or negatively (Colman, 2009).

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Attribution Theory predicting Health Behaviour Change

According to Ogden (2008), when individuals clearly know what are the factors that may lead to an event in life, in the same time, that understanding will make them to be aware on why events happen in their life example, obesity, individuals with obesity issues will know that their obesity comes from their dieting behaviours or inherited. However, certain events for instance cancer, individuals who suffer from cancer might know not why the cancer happens to them.

Health psychology researches conducted few studies in correlation of attribution theory and predicting health behaviour. A study by Courneya (2004) stated that attribution theory may be applicable to cancer patients in order to motivate them to exercise. The findings showed that the higher attribution the cancer patients have, the more they will exercise and also this encourages them to have higher expectation to success and survive from cancer. However, in contrast, the study also showed that not everyone with cancer will have high attribution depending on the acceptance on their illness. Some patients may want to fight with the illness and do whatever they can in order to recover, while, others might just give up and deny all treatments including exercise and therapies. Therefore, attribution theory here may contribute to change of behavioural but on how much it will predict to health behavioural is still be questionable depending on the situation of illness, therapies and also individuals’ own perceptions.

Another study by Jeong (2007) was to find the effects of reading news and the outcomes from the reading onto genetic or behavioural reasons of obesity. It was also to find the role of health control beliefs among participants. The study showed that individuals with higher health control beliefs will have higher perceptions of awareness and responsibilities despite on whatever news they read. In contrast, individuals with lower health control beliefs showed lower perceptions of awareness and responsibilities after reading news about genetic explanations but high level of perceptions after reading news about behavioural and complex explanations. The study also showed that individuals with higher health control beliefs critically responded to genetic factors and they eat healthily despite the risk information was given. Attribution theory in this study as above might be strong predictor of health behavioural change, but there is no evidence on how far it can predict health behaviour. In addition, a study by Mitchell (1982) stated that factors including social factors, task factors and situational factors may predict health behaviour as attributions theory however they are not a major role. Many other studies showed that these attributions were weakly related to be the best predictor.

A research done by Stuart & Blanton (2003), whereby, individuals were exposed to either positive or negative communication promoting for specific health behaviours. The outcome showed individuals that were exposed to positive behaviours will have positive attributes while individuals that were exposed to negative behaviours will have negative attributes. This clearly shows that individuals are much aware and influenced when they read about healthy behaviours. Meanwhile, the individuals being exposed to negative behaviours are possible for them to be influenced too. This study also clearly shows that attribution theory is both predicting health behaviour change and not predicting it as well. This is reflecting that both attribution theory and individual differences may contribute to health behaviour changes.

Self Efficacy predicting Health Behaviour Change

Individuals’ beliefs, whereby, they believe they are able to motivate and control their behaviours will play an important role in life, both whether they choose to stop the damaging negative behaviours or joining rehabilitative activities (Bandura, 1997). Individuals that have less awareness of their own negative and unhealthy habits, they may tend to not stopping it.

Previous studies had explored the connection between self efficacy and its prediction to health behaviours. Researchers found that self efficacy improves prediction of eating behaviour (Stratchan & Brawley, 2009). Self efficacy also said to be a crucial predictions for behaviours depending the desired results. In addition, self efficacy is said to be the strong predictor of both healthy and unhealthy food consumptions.

Also, in a study by Schwarzer & Renner (2002) added that individual with high self efficacy, they will have better food consumption and nutrition habits. However, according to them again, self efficacy may predict the behaviour more when individuals have perceived self efficacy and outcome expectancies but less by risk perceptions. What it means by risk perception, for instance, individuals are less aware about (I will get sick if I eat too much junk food). Individuals are more influence by (I want to eat healthy food because I want to stay healthy). Moreover, when we say about dietary requirement, we need to makesure about different types of dieting cultures. Some food is considered healthy to some cultures but unhealthy to others. Besides, some individuals do not eat healthily because they know they are fit, however, they are not aware about how healthy they should be and how important to eat healthily.

A study by Scholz (2009) had explored self efficacy towards smoking and nutrition behaviour. The result showed that the changes by self efficacy are a best predictor on changing individuals’ lifestyle. When individuals have higher self efficacy, it is more possible for individuals that have bad habits to avoid it. For an example, individuals who have intentions to smoke but they have high self efficacy that smoking is unhealthy, there is possible chance that this individual instead of taking out cigarettes, they will take out chewing gums as substitute.

Another study by Berg (2008), exploring self efficacy among rural smokers. The study found that there is a significant correlation between quiting smoking and older age individuals. In addition, friends and families play a major role to influence higher self efficacy among individuals to quit smoking. However, younger smokers seemed to be less aware about the dangerous of smoking because they are still young, lack of knowledge, peer pressures influences and have not experience yet any sickness related to their smoking habits.

According to Hyde (2008), ten studies were conducted in different countries exploring smoking, alcohol consumption and drugs. Seven of the studies reported an effect of mediation on self efficacy and two studies showed effect of mediation on behaviour. The studies also conclude that self efficacy can be increased in individuals using several ways. However, there is still lack of evidence with regards on how much self efficacy may predict behaviour change. From all the researches as above, they show that self efficacy is a best predictor for behavioural changes, however self efficacy cannot predict health behaviour changes without support from others such as powerful others and also individuals differences.

Health locus of Control predicting Health Behaviour Change

According to Ogden (2007), both internal and external concepts of attribution theory has been applied specifically to health locus of control approach. Individuals may regard themselves as capable to control events (an internal locus of control). Individuals on other hand may regard themselves incapable to control events and they depend on others’ capability (an external locus of control).

Health psychology researches have been exploring health locus of control and how it extent to predict health behaviour change. Bennett (1997) examined the relationship between health locus of control, value of health and smoking habits. The result showed that there is significant correlation between health value and health locus of control on smoking behaviour. Whereby, the health locus of control may predict smokers to improve. Also, smokers are said to have more internal locus of control, powerful others than non smokers. This is due to the fact that the smokers have being a smoker in their life and they know the need to control their bad habits. Whereas, non smokers have lesser health locus of control because they have not smoke in their life and maybe have no intention to try it at all.

A study by Norman (1998) explored health locus of control, health value and behaviours such smoking, alcohol consumption, exercise and dieting. It was said that the stronger beliefs that individuals have lead to a stronger control over their behaviours. There is a significant correlation between health locus of control and health behaviour, the more health locus of control individuals have, the less chance to perform bad behaviours. However, it was found weak as a predictor to health behaviour. This study also showed that powerful others also may contribute to reduce bad behaviours.

Steptoe & Wardle (2001) explored the connection between powerful others, health locus of control, health values and health behaviours including exercise, smoking, alcohol etc. The result showed that apparently there are significant correlations between locus of control with the health behaviours of exercise, eating fibre, slat and fat consumption. Higher internal locus of control was clearly shown that it will increase towards healthy behaviours act. Moreover, chance beliefs were also associated relevantly to reduce of smoking and also alcohol consumption. The researches as above show that health locus of control may predict health behavioural changes; however, there are still lacks on how much health locus of control may predict health behaviour.


Previous researches stated that attribution theory, self efficacy and health locus of control predict health behaviours. However, there are limitations on how far they predict health behaviour. Attribution theory in health psychology research for an example, it is really depending on individuals and their mind setting.

Some individuals take past experiences as a learning process towards life and they will change their behaviours according to their past experiences. Others may take the experiences positively but it does not apply to everyone (Ogden, 2008). It is all depending on how individuals think and react.

Bandura (1997) mentioned that change in lifestyle requires knowledge, tracking and broaden skills. Whereby, individuals that have self efficacy, they need to have the knowledge and information, monitoring process and also broaden the skills in order to change their lifestyle.

Baker & Stephens (2005) said that health locus of control is a weak predictor of health value. This is due to locus of control is only a partially featured individuals’ control beliefs therefore, whenever researches want to measure control beliefs, they need to choose which aspects to measure.

To conclude, even though previous researches had explored health behaviour and the correlation between attribution theory, self efficacy and locus of control. The results given were positive whereby attribution theory, self efficacy and locus of control predicted health behaviour. For instances, smokers will reduce smoking if they have higher self efficacy or cancer patients will do regular exercises if they have positive attribution theory. However, the researches will still remain questionable due to the fact that the health behaviour changes are related more into individual differences. Each individual have their own mind setting on how they deal with their illness or bad habits or healthy life style.

References List

“attribution theory n.”  A Dictionary of Psychology. Edited by Andrew M. Colman. Oxford University Press 2009. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.  University of Bedfordshire.   28 November 2010  //

Baken, D. & Stephens, C. (2005) ‘More Dimenstions for the Multidimensional Health Locus of Control: Confirmatory Factor Analysis of Competing Models of the Structure of Control Beliefs’ ‘Journal of Health Psychology’, 10 (5) pp.643-656.

Bandura, A. (1997) Self Efficacy: The Exercise of Control. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company.

Bennett, P. et. al (1997) ‘Health Locus of Control and Value for Health in Smokers and Non-smokers’ ‘Health Psychology’, 16 (2) pp.179-182.

Berg, C.J. et al (2008) ‘Correlates of Self-efficacy Among Rural Smokers’ ‘Journal of Health Psychology’, 13 (3) pp.416-421.

Courneya, K.S. et al (2004) ‘Exercise Motivation and Adherence in Cancer Survivors after Participation in a Randomized Controlled Trial: An Attribution Theory Perspective’ ‘International Journal of Behavioural Medicine’, 11 (1) pp.8-17.

Hyde, J. et al (2008) ‘Interventions to Increase Self-efficacy in the Context of Addiction Behaviours’ ‘Journal of Health Psychology’, 13 (5) pp.607-623.

Jeong, S.H. (2007) ‘Effects of News about Genetics and Obesity on Controllability Attribution and Helping Behaviour’ ‘Health Communications’, 22 (3) pp.221-228.

“locus of control n.”  A Dictionary of Psychology. Edited by Andrew M. Colman. Oxford University Press 2009. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.  University of Bedfordshire.  28 November 2010

Mitchell, T.R (1982) ‘Attributions and Actions: A Note of Caution’ ‘Journal of Management’, 8 (1) pp.65-74.

Norman, P. et. al (1998) ‘Health Locus of Control and Health Behaviour’ ‘Journal of Health Psychology’, 3 (2) pp.171-180.

Ogden, J. (2007) Health Psychology: a Textbook. 4th edn. England: Open University Press.

Ogden, J. (2008) Essential Readings in Health Psychology. England: Open University Press.

Scholz, U. et al (2009) ‘Changes in Self-regulatory Cognitions as Predictors of Changes in Smoking and Nutrition Behaviour’ ‘Psychology & Health’, 24 (5) pp.545-561.

Schwarzer, R. & Renner, B. (2009) ‘Social-Cognitive Predictors of Health: Action Self-Efficacy and Coping Self-Efficacy’ ‘Health Psychology’, 19 (5) pp.487-495.

“self-efficacy n.”  A Dictionary of Psychology. Edited by Andrew M. Colman. Oxford University Press 2009. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.  University of Bedfordshire.  28 November 2010

Steptoe, A. & Wardle, J. (2001) ‘Locus of Control and health Behaviour Revisited: A Multivariate Analysis of Young Adult from 18 Countries’ ‘British Journal of Psychology’, 92 pp.659-672.

Strachan, S.M. & Brawley, L.R. (2009) ‘Healthy-eater Identity and Self-efficacy Predict Healthy Eating Behaviour’ ‘Journal of Health Psychology’, 14 (5) pp.684-695.

Stuart, A.E & Blanton, H. (2003) ‘The Effects of Message Framing on Behavioural Prevalence Assumptions’ ‘European Journal of Social Psychology’, 22 pp.92-102.



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