When Planning Is Needed: Implementation Intentions and Attainment of Approach Versus Avoidance Health Goals

Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program, Office of Preventive Oncology, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-7365, USA.
Health Psychology (Impact Factor: 3.59). 07/2008; 27(4):438-44. DOI: 10.1037/0278-6133.27.4.438
Source: PubMed


This study tested whether forming implementation intentions is an effective strategy for attaining health goals focused on trying to avoid a negative state.
Participants chose to either eat more healthy snacks (i.e., an approach goal) or eat fewer unhealthy snacks (i.e., an avoidance goal) over two weeks and were randomly assigned to create an implementation intention to do this or not.
The authors measured fat and calorie intake after one week and after two weeks.
After two weeks, the participants who ate most unhealthily were those who pursued an avoidance goal and did not form an implementation intention.
These results suggest that forming implementation intentions for avoidance goal pursuit can help people attain important health goals.

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    • "Participants reported to be motivated to eat fewer unhealthy snacks, to have a moderately strong habit to eat unhealthy snacks and to eat on average 346 kilocalories from unhealthy snacks over 1.67 snacking occasions per day (for comparable amounts of daily caloric intake, see Adriaanse et al., 2010; Sullivan & Rothman, 2008; Verhoeven et al., 2012). See also Table 1. "
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract Implementation intentions aimed at changing unwanted habits require the identification of personally relevant cues triggering the habitual response in order to be effective. To facilitate successful implementation intention formation, in the present study, planning was combined with cue-monitoring, a novel way to gain insight into triggers for unhealthy snacking. It was tested whether keeping a cue-monitoring diary and tailoring implementation intentions accordingly improves plan effectiveness. A 2 Monitoring (cue-monitoring, control) x 2 Planning (implementation intention, goal intention) between subjects design was adopted. Participants (N=161) monitored their unhealthy snacking behaviour for a week using either a cue-monitoring or a control diary. Participants then formulated a goal intention or an implementation intention tailored to their personal cue. Snacking frequency and caloric intake from unhealthy snacks were examined using a seven-day snack diary. The results did not indicate an interaction but yielded a main effect of Monitoring. Cue-monitoring either or not combined with implementation intentions reduced unhealthy snacking behaviour compared to control. Findings emphasize the effectiveness of cue-monitoring, suggesting that on the short-term cue-monitoring suffices to decrease unhealthy snacking, without additional benefit from planning. Future research should examine whether supplementing cue-monitoring with implementation intentions is required to establish long term behaviour change maintenance.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2014 · Psychology and Health
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    • "Our final dependent variables were the number of physician and pharmacist visits. One strategic means to stay healthy involves approach behaviors (Sullivan & Rothman, 2008), which are defined as behaviors that are health enhancing (Maes & Gebhardt, 2000). Visiting a general physician for regular consultations and checkups, following up with a physician specialist, and going to a pharmacist regularly to refill medications are typically considered approach health strategies, and promotion focused consumers are motivated to use such strategies (Higgins, 1997). "
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    ABSTRACT: This research presents a new scale, the health regulatory focus scale, which measures an individual's tendency to use promotion or prevention strategies in the pursuit of health goals. We conducted five studies in France to develop the scale which is made up of two subscales for prevention and promotion. We also tested the scale's psychometric properties and demonstrated its two-factor dimensionality, internal and test–retest reliability, and convergent, nomological, predictive and discriminant validity. The health subscales showed good predictive validity in that they correlated with health behaviors better than the general regulatory focus subscales. For instance, health promotion focus predicted dentist visits while general promotion focus did not, and health prevention focus predicted the use of prescription and over-the-counter drugs while general prevention focus did not. Also as expected, general prevention focus predicted avoidance of risky vacation behaviors while health prevention focus did not. The health subscales either did not correlate or correlated weakly with positive and negative affectivity and general risk aversion indicating good discriminant validity. The one-year test–retest reliabilities were adequate for both subscales.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2013 · Journal of Consumer Psychology
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    • "Also, approach and avoidance processes have long been known to be distinct from each other (e.g., Elliot, 1999), so it is reasonable that predictors of resolution success to give up a behavior would be different from those of resolution success to take on a behavior. The current results seem to agree with recent work by Sullivan and Rothman (2008), in which they theorize and find evidence to support the Downloaded by [George Washington University], [Leigh Phillips] at 10:25 06 September 2012 idea that approach and avoidance health goals may benefit from different strategic mechanisms. It is of interest that religiousness did not predict individuals' success at performing their resolutions, because in a study of Lenten resolutions, one would expect a person's degree of religiousness to predict strongly motivation to adhere to their resolution and success at performing that resolution. "
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    ABSTRACT: This study assessed the role of behavior enjoyableness in development of long‐term behavior. First, as expected from the literature on attitude and behavior change (Ajzen, 1991; Ryan & Deci, 2000), initial enjoyableness of a behavior predicted how successful participants were in performing the behavior in the short term (i.e., the time until they first violated their behavioral intentions). Of primary interest, repeated successful performance was, in turn, associated with an increase in reported enjoyableness of the behavior in the longer term. The study demonstrates the importance of a reciprocal relationship of behavior enjoyableness and performance for behavior change, such that even initially non‐enjoyable behaviors can become more enjoyable with repeated performance. These findings are particularly relevant for long‐term, goal‐related behaviors.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2012 · Journal of Applied Social Psychology
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