UCR psychologist finds that unrealistic pessimists less likely to take preventive action after receiving good news
IMAGE: This is Kate Sweeny.
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Patients who are unrealistically optimistic about their personal health risks are more likely to take preventive action when confronted with news that is worse than expected, while unrealistic pessimists are less likely to change their behavior after receiving feedback that is better than expected, according to researchers at the University of California, Riverside and Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich.
This poses a serious dilemma for health care professionals, said study authors Kate Sweeny, assistant professor of psychology at UC Riverside, and co-author Amanda Dillard, assistant professor of psychology at Grand Valley State University: Should they withhold accurate risk information from unrealistic pessimists to avoid undermining their perceptions of the severity of their potential consequences and ultimately their motivation for preventive behavior?
“The question reveals a tension between the goals of health-behavior promotion and informed patient decision-making that has plagued researchers in several health domains, most notably with regard to women’s often overly pessimistic perceptions of their breast cancer risk,” Sweeny and Dillard wrote in “The Effects of Expectation Disconfirmation on Appraisal, Affect, and Behavioral Intentions,” published this month in the online edition of Risk Analysis: An International Journal. The journal is an official publication of the Society for Risk Analysis, a multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, scholarly, international society based in McLean, Va.
“Our findings cannot resolve this tension, but rather point to the need for further consideration of the potential consequences of risk communication,” the researchers said.
Sweeny and Dillard are the first to demonstrate that how an individual reacts and responds to objective risk feedback may depend on initial expectations prior to the feedback.
The psychologists conducted a series of experiments in which participants were told they would be tested for exposure to toxins found in everyday products. The researchers found that people who received risk feedback that was worse than expected expressed stronger intentions to prevent the threat in the future than did people who received risk feedback that was better than expected. All study participants received the same health feedback; only the expectations of the participants differed.
“Our findings add critical pieces to the previously incomplete picture of the consequences of expectation disconfirmation,” they wrote. “Ours is the first experimental investigation of the relationship between expectation disconfirmation and behavioral intentions in the context of personal risk perceptions, and the first study to examine the process by which intentions might rise or fall in response to unexpected risk feedback.”
Contrary to findings in other recent studies, Sweeny and Dillard determined that when people are faced with objective feedback that differs from their perceptions of health risks, they may adapt their behavior to fit the new risk information.
“In our studies, participants who learned that their risk was higher than they expected … formed relative strong intentions to take preventive action,” they said. They also found that people who learned that their risk was lower than expected felt relatively good in the face of feedback and formed relatively weak intentions to take preventive action. All of the study participants received the same health risk feedback.
“Our findings point to an important tradeoff people face when managing their expectations as they await feedback: maintaining optimism leaves people open to disappointment, but bracing for the worst may undermine future motivation to improve,” they said. “… It seems that people find the emotional consequences of being caught off-guard more compelling than the potential for elation to undermine their motivation to change their behavior in response to feedback.”
- Good, bad news influences health decisions (universityofcalifornia.edu)
- Aging May Not Dull Decision-Making Skills, Study Finds (nlm.nih.gov)
Many people, whether they know it or not, are philosophical dualists. That is, they believe that the brain and the mind are two separate entities. Despite the fact dualist beliefs are found in virtually all human cultures, surprisingly little is known about the impact of these beliefs on how we think and behave in everyday life. ..
…Across five related studies, researchers Matthias Forstmann, Pascal Burgmer, and Thomas Mussweiler of the University of Cologne, Germany, found that people primed with dualist beliefs had more reckless attitudes toward health and exercise, and also preferred (and ate) a less healthy diet than those who were primed with physicalist beliefs.
Furthermore, they found that the relationship also worked in the other direction. People who were primed with unhealthy behaviors – such as pictures of unhealthy food – reported a stronger dualistic belief than participants who were primed with healthy behaviors.
Overall, the findings from the five studies provide converging evidence demonstrating that mind-body dualism has a noticeable impact on people’s health-related attitudes and behaviors. Specifically, these findings suggest that dualistic beliefs decrease the likelihood of engaging in healthy behavior.
These findings support the researchers’ original hypothesis that the more people perceive their minds and bodies to be distinct entities, the less likely they will be to engage in behaviors that protect their bodies. Bodies are ultimately viewed as a disposable vessel that helps the mind interact with the physical world.
Evidence of a bidirectional relationship further suggests that metaphysical beliefs, such as beliefs in mind-body dualism, may serve as cognitive tools for coping with threatening or harmful situations.
The fact that the simple priming procedures used in the studies had an immediate impact on health-related attitudes and behavior suggests that these procedures may eventually have profound implications for real-life problems. Interventions that reduce dualistic beliefs through priming could be one way to help promote healthier – or less self-damaging – behaviors in at-risk populations.
- Mind vs. Body? Dualist Beliefs Linked with Less Concern for Healthy Behaviors (prn.fm)
- Mind vs. body? Dualist beliefs linked with less concern for healthy behaviors (sciencedaily.com)
- Mind vs. Body? Dualist Beliefs Linked with Less Concern for Healthy Behaviors (psychologicalscience.org)
- Mind vs. Body? Dualist Beliefs Linked with Less Concern for Healthy Behaviors (sott.net)
- Mind vs. body? Dualist beliefs linked with less concern for healthy behaviors (medicalxpress.com)
- Mind vs. body? Dualist beliefs linked with less concern for healthy behaviors (eurekalert.org)
10 Possible Reasons Public Health Communication Strategies on Behaviour Change May be Failing: An introduction to the 2-6-10 Slot Model.© « drnyashamboti
By Nyasha Mboti
University of KwaZulu Natal
Every year many millions of dollars are spent on programmes and strategies to motivate ‘at-risk’ populations to ‘change’ their ‘behaviour’. At issue in this paper is the efficacy of such programmes and strategies. The “2-6-10 slot model” is a simple algorithm I have built to explain some of the seemingly obvious failures of Public Health interventions in Africa targeted at so-called ‘Behaviour Change’, specifically in the domain of HIV and AIDS campaigns. The model is draws on unanswered questions about ‘Behaviour Change’ programmes and strategies and is meant to be a critical commentary on the strategic assumptions of such programmes. In building the model, I argue that the notion of ‘Behaviour Change’ is too vague, sometimes to the point of uselessness. As such, the model asks the questions that public health opinion leaders seldom or never ask. The 2-6-10 slot model focuses on the interventions targeted at so-called ‘multi-partnerism’ and the efforts to motivate people to ‘stick to one partner’. It uses ‘slots’ to describe, characterise and reflect on the gaps that conventional Public Health strategies have failed to explain or fill. The model suggests the adoption of more evidence-based modelling of Public Health strategies as opposed to ones that are largely assumption-led. The 2-6-10 slot model is so-called because it comprises of diagrams, or empty slots, that begin at 2 and increase to 6, 10 and so on. The increase in slots represents the increase in failure of a respective public health intervention.
- Public health experts condemn plans (mirror.co.uk)
- Collaboration Of Public And Private Health Partners Is Essential For Health Improvement (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Public Health Investments Pay Off (hcfama.org)
- Healthy People? Not Quite Yet – From “The Public’s Health” Blog (jflahiff.wordpress.com)
Four health risk behaviors—lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption—are responsible for much of the illness and death related to chronic diseases. Seven out of 10 deaths among Americans each year are from chronic diseases.1 Heart disease, cancer, and stroke account for more than 50% of all deaths each year.1
A new CDC report finds that people can live longer if they practice one or more healthy lifestyle behaviors— not smoking, eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, and limiting alcohol consumption.2 Not smoking provides the most protection from dying early from all causes.
People who engaged in all four healthy behaviors were 66 percent less likely to die early from cancer, 65 percent less likely to die early from cardiovascular disease, and 57 percent less likely to die early from other causes compared to people who did not engage in any of the healthy behaviors.2
What You Can Do to Live a Healthier and Longer Life
Avoid Excessive Alcohol Use:
- Drink alcohol in moderation (men should have no more than two drinks per day; and women no more than one drink per day).
- If you do not smoke, don’t start.
- If you currently smoke, and want to quit, call 1-800-Quit-Now, a free telephone support service that can help you to stop smoking or using tobacco.
- Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood.
- Eat fewer foods with sodium (salt), saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, and refined grains.
Engage in Physical Activity:
- Participate in moderate intensity physical activity 5 or more days per week (150 minutes), such as brisk walking, or
- Practice vigorous physical activity 3 or more days per week (75 minutes) such as jogging or race walking.
- Kung HC, Hoyert DL, Xu JQ, Murphy SL. Deaths: final data for 2005. National Vital Statistics Reports 2008;56(10).
- Ford ES, Zhao G, Tsai J, Li C. Low-risk lifestyle behaviors and all-cause mortality: Findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III Mortality Study. American Journal of Public Health., published online ahead of print August 18, 2011.
- Alcohol and Public Health
- Smoking & Tobacco Use
- Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity
- Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention
- Winnable Battles
CDC works 24/7 saving lives, protecting people from health threats, and saving money to have a more secure nation. A US federal agency, CDC helps make the healthy choice the easy choice by putting science and prevention into action. CDC works to help people live longer, healthier and more productive lives.
- Physical Activity Levels Linked to Employment Status (nlm.nih.gov)
- Lifetime legacy (bbc.co.uk)
- Too Much Salt in Diet, and Too Little Exercise, Can Risk Cognitive Decline (sciencedaily.com)
- Benefits of daily exercise are comparable to giving up smoking (guardian.co.uk)