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Implicit health associations across the adult lifespan

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Objective: Explicit reports of one’s health self-concept (e.g. rate your overall health) are commonly used in research and clinical practice. These measures predict important health outcomes, but rely on conscious introspection so may not fully capture the different components of the health self-concept (e.g. more automatic components) that relate to actual health. This study examined the health-implicit association test (health-IAT), and how it may add to our prediction of health from self-reports.

Design: 1004 participants (ages 18–85) completed this web-based study with the health-IAT (assessing self-healthy implicit associations) and explicit assessments of health.

Main outcome measures: Self-reported measures of physical functioning.

Results: The health-IAT was valid and reliable. Older age was correlated with stronger self-healthy implicit associations. Although the health-IAT did not incrementally predict self-reported markers of physical functioning when only controlling for explicit health self-concept, it was an incremental predictor once age was entered for all four models tested.

Conclusions: The health-IAT appears to be a valid and reliable new measure that assesses implicit self-concept relating to physical health. Results reveal the potential value of assessing implicit health self-concept in both research and practice, especially when taking into account age.
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Keywords: ageing; implicit association test; physical health; self-concept

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA

Publication date: December 2, 2017

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