Evidence that changes in social cognitions predict changes in self-reported driver behavior: causal analyses of two-wave panel data

Mark Elliott, James Thomson, Kirsty Robertson, Carry Stephenson, John Wicks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Previous research on the theory of planned behavior (TPB) is characterised by crosssectional tests of the model's proposed causal relationships. In the absence of effective experimental techniques for changing the TPB's cognitive antecedents, the present research aimed to provide a stronger non-experimental test of the model, using causal analyses of two-wave panel data. Two studies of driver behavior were conducted in which naturally occurring within-participant changes in TPB constructs were measured over time, and used to predict corresponding within-participant changes in both intentions and behavior. Study 1 had a one-month gap between baseline and followup. At both waves, a convenience sample comprising predominantly university students (N=135) completed questionnaire measures of all TPB cognitions and behavior (compliance with speed limits in urban areas). Cross-lagged multiple regressions and bootstrapping procedures for testing multiple mediators supported all of the relationships proposed by the TPB. These findings were extended in study 2 using a large, non-student sample of speed limit offenders (N=1149), a six-month gap between baseline and follow-up, and a larger number of cognitive antecedents. Participants completed postal questionnaires at both waves to measure all cognitions proposed by the two-component TPB, along with moral norm, anticipated regret, self-identity and speeding on urban roads, country roads, and fast dual carriageways or motorways. Changes in instrumental and affective attitude, descriptive norm,
self-efficacy, moral norm, anticipated regret and self-identity predicted changes in intention to speed. Changes in intention and self-efficacy predicted behavior-change. Injunctive norm and perceived controllability did not predict intention or behavior-change. Additionally, direct (unhypothesized) relationships with behavior were found for affective attitude, descriptive norm and anticipated regret. The implications of the findings for theory and the development of effective behavior-change interventions are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)905-916
Number of pages10
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013


  • cognition-change
  • behaviour change
  • causal analysis
  • panel design
  • theory of planned behavior
  • speeding


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