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Mental contrasting of a dieting wish improves self-reported health behaviour

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Mentally contrasting a desired future with present reality standing in its way promotes commitment to feasible goals, whereas mentally indulging in a desired future does not. Dieting students (N = 134) reported their most important dieting wish that they deemed attainable within a 2-week period. Then, they were directed to mentally contrast or indulge in thoughts and images about the named dieting wish. A control condition was given no directions. Two weeks after the experiment, dieters retrospectively rated their behaviour change: in the mental contrasting condition they reported having eaten relatively fewer calories overall, fewer high-calorie food and more low-calorie food compared to those in the indulging and control conditions, and they also reported having been more physically active. This transfer effect from one health domain to another suggests a more generalised effect of mental contrasting versus indulging and control than previously assumed.
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Keywords: dieting; goal commitment; indulging; mental contrasting; physical exercise

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences,Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark 2: Psychology Department,New York University, NY, USA 3: Department of Psychology,University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany

Publication date: October 1, 2012

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