Desire or reason: predicting health behaviors from affective and cognitive attitudes

Health Psychol. 2009 Jan;28(1):56-65. doi: 10.1037/a0013424.


Objective: The authors explore the role of affective attitudes in predicting 14 health-promoting or health-risk behaviors.

Design: Participants (n = 390) completed questionnaire measures of affective and cognitive attitude and, 1 month later, reported their intentions and behavior.

Main outcome measures: The outcome measures in this study were the Time 2 self-report measures of intention and behavior.

Results: A series of hierarchical regression analyses revealed that affective attitude was a significantly more powerful predictor of behavior than cognitive attitude for 9 behaviors. Also, affective attitude had a direct effect on behavior that was not fully mediated by intention for 9 behaviors. In a final series of regressions, higher divergence between affective and cognitive attitudes was shown to strengthen the relationship between affective attitudes and behavior for illegal drug use, binge drinking, and smoking.

Conclusions: The findings underscore the importance of affect in the performance of health-related behaviors and suggest that interventions could usefully target the affective consequences of engaging in these behaviors. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Cognitive Dissonance*
  • England
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Intention*
  • Male
  • Risk-Taking
  • Surveys and Questionnaires