Objective: The persistence of dieters' weight loss efforts, despite repeated failures, suggests that there must be some interim reinforcement for dieting that sustains the behavior. We propose that self-change efforts capitalize on a "false hope syndrome," in which the initial commitment to change brings immediate rewards (largely improvements in self-image), regardless of the eventual outcome.
Method: Eighty female students chose whether they would attempt either to reduce their weight or to increase their study time over a 2-week period. A control group did not attempt self-change.
Results: The effects of making a resolution to change differed for novice and veteran self-changers (nondieters and chronic dieters). Nondieters showed an immediate improvement in their mood and self-image after making a resolution, but this subjective improvement dissipated over the course of the study. Veteran dieters showed a mixed response, initially feeling both more depressed, yet more hopeful of success.
Discussion: These results are discussed in terms of variations on the false hope syndrome for different kinds of individuals (novices and veterans).
Copyright 1999 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.