Getting There and Hanging on: The Effect of Regulatory Focus on Performance in Smoking and Weight Loss Interventions

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Abstract

Objective: Our primary objective was to determine whether individual differences in regulatory focus (Higgins, 1998) would differentially predict the initiation and maintenance of behavioral change. We hypothesized that people high in promotion focus because they eagerly pursue new positive end-states, would be better able to initiate behavioral change, whereas people higher in prevention focus because they tend to be vigilant in avoiding losses as a means to preserve desired end-states, would be better able to maintain change. Design: We examined our hypotheses in longitudinal studies of smoking cessation and weight loss. Main Outcome Measures: Our outcome measures were smoking status and weight. Results: In both interventions, promotion focus, but not prevention focus, predicted successful initiation; people higher in promotion focus had higher quit rates and lost more weight through the first 6 months of follow-up. Of participants who had initial success, prevention focus, but not promotion focus, predicted successful maintenance; people higher in prevention focus were more likely to remain smoke-free and maintain weight loss over the next year. Conclusion: A fit between behavioral task and regulatory focus can facilitate the successful performance of meaningful behaviors over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S260-S270
JournalHealth Psychology
Volume27
Issue number3 SUPPL.
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2008

Keywords

  • initiation and maintenance of behavior change
  • regulatory focus
  • smoking cessation
  • weight loss

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