In changing health behaviors, some ask, 'How easy?' Others ask, 'How effective?'

You know slathering on the SPF helps prevent skin cancer. So why don't you do it? A new study from the June issue of the Journal of Consumer Research explains why many people don't end up trying a new health regimen – like regularly wearing sunscreen or eliminating transfat– even if they believe the product or behavior is effective.

Punam A. Keller (Dartmouth University) argues that while some people focus on the effectiveness of the product or program when deciding whether to try it, others base their decision on their own ability to follow through. These "promotion-focused" people are eager to try new things, but focus on whether the health behavior is something they can actually do, rather than if it works.

However, the opposite is true for those who care more about safety and security than they do about accomplishment and growth. Prevention-focused people are more concerned about the effectiveness of the health behavior: "A person who is more prevention-focused centers on preserving an absence of unwanted occurrences and maintenance of the status quo, and is more vigilant towards the decision so that they might limit the chances of making mistakes," explains Keller.

This study is the first to provide the missing link between a person's decision making goals – called "regulatory focus" – and how they evaluate new products and programs related to their future health. It has important implications for how information about healthy practices would be best distributed to each group.

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Punam A. Keller. "Regulatory Focus and Efficacy of Health Messages" Journal of Consumer Research. June 2006.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

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