According to the WHO, 3 of every 4 heart diseases could be prevented thanks to healthy behavior adoption such as physical activity, healthy diet or not smoking. However, most people have difficulties to follow public health guidelines (e.g., Ford, Zhao, Tsai, & Li, 2011). Socio-cognitive models (e.g., HAPA, Schwarzer, Lippke & Luszczynska 2011) have been successful in identifying the key determinants of behavioral intention (e.g., self-efficacy), but they present some limitations. Indeed, intentions do not systematically translate into behavior change, a phenomenon known as the “intention-behavior gap”. Moreover, these models focus on explicit processes while implicit processes also predict health behaviors (Sheeran, Gollwitzer & Bargh, 2013). The recent self-control model of Hofmann and colleagues (Hofmann, Baumeister, Förster, & Vohs, 2012) is promising to address these limitations (Hofmann, Friese & Wiers). This model is composed of four components: desire, conflict, resistance and self-control capacity. The model considers that when a conflict is detected between a particular desire (e.g., to rest on the couch watching TV) and a long-term goal (e.g., to increase one’s physical fitness), self-control effort increase to override the conflict. Whether the individual succeeds in resisting temptations notably depends on his/her self-control capacity. This model is promising to better understand behavior change but its validation is still at early stages. One question that deserves particular attention is whether the model is applicable only to behaviors that need to be inhibited (unhealthy behaviors) or also to behaviors that need to be activated (healthy behaviors). Moreover, the role of desires at the implicit level remain unclear.
Based on Hofmann et al. (2012), experience sampling method was used in this study. This longitudinal methodology, allows assessment of psychological variables in daily life settings, thus limiting the retrospective bias. During 7 days, questions assessing state self-control capacity, explicit desire, conflict and resistance randomly appeared 7 times per day on participants’ smartphones. During this week, participants also wore an accelerometer to objectively assess physical and sedentary activities, completed a daily diary to assess their diet and smoking behavior, and a pill organizer MEMS to assess medication adherence. To assess desire at the implicit level, impulsive approach tendencies toward behaviors were measured based on the Manikin task (Krieglmeyer & Deutsch, 2011) at baseline. Trait self-control capacity was also assessed at baseline with the Brief self-control scale (Tangney, Baumeister et Boone, 2004). Following Goetz, Bieg & Hall (2016), 30 participants were recruited and divided into 2 groups. 15 participants were cardiac patients recruited from a cardiac rehabilitation center, with a history of unhealthy behaviors, and 15 control participants were students from a Sports Sciences Department with a history of healthy behaviors.
Two results are expected: (1) the self-control components of Hofmann’s model will differentially predict behaviors to approach and behaviors to avoid; more particularly, while self-control capacity should predict both types of behaviors, the role of desire, conflict and resistance should concern only behaviors to avoid; (2) desires at the explicit and implicit level will both moderate the relation between resistance and behaviors.
Results of this study will have two principal benefits. First, they will allow us to better understand how the self-control model works in real context and its influence on both healthy and unhealthy behaviors. Next, by considering different behaviors, this study could allow us to identify variables common to all of them and, in future studies, built and test interventions on these in order to generate multiple health behaviors change.
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