Quo vadis, TAM?
Sauder School of Business
University of British Columbia
The Technology Acceptance model (TAM) is one of the most influential theories in Information Systems. However, despite the model's significant contributions, the intense focus on TAM has diverted researchers’ attention away from other important research issues and has created an illusion of progress in knowledge accumulation. Furthermore, the independent attempts by several researchers to expand TAM in order to adapt it to the constantly changing IT environments has lead to a state of theoretical chaos and confusion in which it is not clear which version of the many iterations of TAM is the commonly accepted one. The present commentary discusses these concerns, speculates on the possible contributions to the current state of affairs, and makes several suggestions to alleviate the problems associated with TAM and to advance IT adoption research to the next stage.
Volume 8, Issue 4, Article 3, pp. 211-218, April 2007
Quo vadis, TAM?
The Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) is generally referred to as the most influential and commonly employed theory in information systems (Lee et al. 2003). Some also consider it to be the only well-recognized theory in IS (having dethroned Nolan’s stage model that had this distinction earlier). The objective of the present commentary is to draw researchers’ attention to the necessity of reorienting IT adoption and acceptance research toward potentially more fruitful avenues and away from “TAM++ research” that adds little knowledge to TAM or its many different versions. The origins of TAM can be traced to the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) (Fishbein and Ajzen 1975). TRA requires that salient beliefs about one’s attitude toward a particular behavior (e.g., buying on the web) be elicited in order to be relevant to the specific behavior being studied. As one approach to eliciting salient beliefs, Davis (1986) and, in one of the most frequently cited papers in IS, Davis et al. (1989) proposed two constructs, perceived usefulness (PU) and perceived ease of use (PEOU), that are included among the set of the perceived characteristics of innovations (Rogers 2003),through which we can capture all relevant beliefs in information technology (IT) usage contexts. Davis’ (1986) approach largely simplified TRA, as well as making it more efficient to conduct IT adoption research and facilitating the aggregation of results across settings. In this regard TAM can be viewed as very successful. However, such success sometimes has unintended consequences. As an alternative approach to eliciting salient beliefs in each specific case associated with an IT use context, Moore (1987) and Moore and Benbasat (1996) proposed utilizing as a generic set of beliefs the full set of perceived characteristics of innovations (Moore and Benbasat 1991) identified in Rogers’ influential work Diffusion of Innovations (Rogers 2003).
After 17 years of research and a large multitude of studies investigating TAM and its many variants, we now know almost to the point of certainty that perceived usefulness (PU) is a very influential belief1 and that perceived ease of use (PEOU) is an antecedent of PU and an important determinant of use in its own right. Unfortunately, we believe that, in spite of its significant contributions, the intense focus on TAM has led to several dysfunctional outcomes: 1) the diversion of researchers’ attention away from important phenomena. First, TAM-based research has paid scant attention to the antecedents of its belief constructs: most importantly, IT artifact design and evaluation. Second, TAM-based research has provided a very limited investigation of the full range of the important consequences of IT adoption, 2) TAM-based research has led to the creation of an illusion of progress in...
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