Does changing behavioral intentions engender behavior change? A meta-analysis of the experimental evidence

Psychol Bull. 2006 Mar;132(2):249-68. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.132.2.249.


Numerous theories in social and health psychology assume that intentions cause behaviors. However, most tests of the intention- behavior relation involve correlational studies that preclude causal inferences. In order to determine whether changes in behavioral intention engender behavior change, participants should be assigned randomly to a treatment that significantly increases the strength of respective intentions relative to a control condition, and differences in subsequent behavior should be compared. The present research obtained 47 experimental tests of intention-behavior relations that satisfied these criteria. Meta-analysis showed that a medium-to-large change in intention (d = 0.66) leads to a small-to-medium change in behavior (d = 0.36). The review also identified several conceptual factors, methodological features, and intervention characteristics that moderate intention-behavior consistency.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Attitude
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention*
  • Male
  • Social Behavior*