Theory of Reasoned Action or “Will You Love Me, Will I Feel Better, and Can I Even DO This?”


I’ve been pouring over articles about the scientific Theory of Reasoned Action in preparation for this blog post. And as a communicator, I’ve found all of the scientific jargon leaving a bit to be desired. I often noticed I was sitting, face in hands, starring at the computer screen and wondering how I was going to help my readers get this theory.

So, let’s agree to just speak plainly. No jargon. No fancy scientific terms. Just good ol’ lay-person words.

This, the second theory I’m reviewing in my series on behavior model theories, is actually quite simple. The Theory of Reasoned Action assumes that our actions are driven by subjective norms, attitudes, and self-efficacy.

Even my paraphrasing is almost too “sciency” for me. So let me break it down.

Put more clearly, we will change our behaviors if:

  • we believe our social network and significant others value the changes we are considering;
  • we believe that our behavior change will result in positive outcomes, and;
  • we believe we have the capability to follow through on our intentions to change.

The Communications Cycle – Addressing Beliefs & Reframing Conversations

A working knowledge of this theory allows us to coordinate key messaging to better shape healthy behaviors.

According to this theory, motivation to act is determined by internal and external beliefs.  We can target internal beliefs about the outcomes of behaviors through general educational campaigns. Think about any of the commercials from the American Dairy Farmer’s Association. Remember, “Milk. It does a body good?” The campaign’s message created the belief that milk is good for us.

Addressing self-efficacy (beliefs that we are capable of changing) requires that we supply more than just the facts. So what if exercising and eating right is good for me if I don’t know where to start? This goes back to the age-old wisdom of providing a clear call to action and a valuable incentive in your marketing. People need tools, resources, kits, rewards, programs, and apps to help them move forward with a concrete action plan and support system. These programs create portals through which people are able to visualize their success.

Finally, our marketing efforts must also set the stage for a larger audience – beyond those whom we wish to inspire to action. Through general educational campaigns we also reframe public conversations and opinions. As we do this, we shape the opinions of our audience’s social network – the people in their lives whose opinions they highly value and whose support enables them to successfully reach their goals.

How Lab Monkey Design Can Help

As a healthy business, our mission is to educate and empower people to live healthier lives.

We develop marketing strategies and comprehensive brand solutions to target self-defeating beliefs and develop supportive programming for your audiences.

What healthy behaviors are you addressing in your work? Let me know in the comments below, or shoot me an email at