Journal of Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 46 Issue 12 (December 2016), Pages 671-732

Visualizing actions from a third‐person perspective: effects on health behavior and the moderating role of behavior difficulty (pages 724-731)


Visualizing behavior from a third‐person (vs. first‐person) perspective can produce stronger motivation to enact the behavior. However, the effects of perspective on health behaviors have been mixed. Hypothesizing that the difficulty of the visualized behavior might moderate the effect of perspective, two experiments manipulated the difficulty of the visualized behaviors (fruit/vegetable consumption; exercise) plus perspective and subsequently measured motivation (Experiments 1 and 2) and behavior (Experiment 2). In both experiments, the third‐person perspective produced stronger motivation to perform the easier, but not the more difficult, behavior. This effect extended to behavior in Experiment 2. Under certain conditions, encouraging people to visualize behavior from a third‐person perspective could represent a useful and cost‐effective means of promoting health behavior change.

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