Background: Understanding the gap between people's behavioral intentions and their subsequent behavior is a key problem for behavioral scientists, but little attention has been paid to how behavioral intentions are operationalized.
Purpose: Test the distinction between asking people what they intend to do, as opposed to what they expect they will do.
Methods: Two studies were conducted in the domains of alcohol consumption (N = 152) and weight loss (N = 141). Participants completed questionnaires assessing their behavioral intentions, expectations, and self-efficacy at baseline; alcohol consumption/weight were assessed at both baseline and follow-up.
Results: In study 1, expectations were more predictive of alcohol consumption than behavioral intentions, controlling for baseline alcohol consumption and self-efficacy. In study 2, changes in expectations were more predictive of weight loss than changes in behavioral intentions, controlling for baseline weight and self-efficacy.
Conclusion: The findings support a potentially important distinction between behavioral intentions and expectations.