British Journal of Health Psychology

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Volume 9 Issue 2 (May 2004), Pages 127-278

Deciding to exercise: The role of anticipated regret (pages 269-278)

Objectives: Two studies tested (a) whether anticipated regret (AR) qualifies as an additional predictor of intentions to engage in a health‐enhancing behaviour (exercise) after variables from the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) and past behaviour have been controlled, and (b) whether a manipulation that induces participants to focus on AR causes stronger intentions to exercise.

Design: Study 1 employed a cross‐sectional questionnaire design; Study 2 employed a between‐participants experimental design (AR focus vs. no AR focus).

Method: Participants (N = 385) completed standard, multi‐item, reliable measures of TPB constructs and AR and also reported their past behaviour (Study 1). Participants in Study 2 (N = 70) completed measures of AR and intention; salience of AR was manipulated by means of item order.

Results: Study 1 showed that even though TPB variables and past behaviour were reliable predictors of intention, and explained 51% of the variance, AR contributed a substantial increment in the variance (5%) even after these predictors had been taken into account. Study 2 showed that participants who were induced to focus on AR prior to intention formation had significantly stronger intentions to exercise compared to controls.

Conclusion: The findings indicate that AR predicts a health‐enhancing behaviour (as well as the health‐risk behaviours examined in previous research) and that effects of AR are independent of TPB variables and past behaviour. The findings also indicate that a simple and inexpensive manipulation of the salience of AR can be used to promote exercise intentions.

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