The role of implicit attitudes in health behaviors

Ph.D researcher: Carolin Muschalik    

Supervisor: Iman Elfeddali, Hein de Vries


Funding: /


In the area of health promotion, social cognitive models are mostly used in order to explain and change health-related behaviors. Explicit cognitions such as attitudes, self-efficacy, and action planning are the focus of these models.

Another approach in this area is the implicit approach which assumes that behavior can also be explained and changed via implicit, mostly less conscious and more automatic cognitions. The interaction between implicit and explicit cognitions is hardly researched.

The aim of my research is to investigate this interaction as well as the development or extension of a model that integrates both explicit and implicit cognitions in order to be better able to understand, predict, and change behavior, especially health-related behavior.


Explicit cognitions and implicit attitudes towards different health behaviors (e.g. physical activity, red meat consumption, smoking) will be assessed in empirical longitudinal studies. The interaction pattern between explicit and implicit cognitions will be analyzed using multivariate analyses in SPSS and SEM.


Regarding physical activity, we found that implicit attitudes do not have a direct influence on intention or behavior. However indirect effects were found: Negative implicit attitudes strengthened the negative relationship between perceived cons and intention and neutral or positive implicit attitudes strengthened the positive relationship between self-efficacy and intention at baseline. At the follow-ups, the relation between social modeling and intention was strengthened by negative implicit attitudes. Also, positive implicit attitudes strengthened the positive relation between self-efficacy and PA at follow-up one.

A second study regarding the interactive pattern of implicit attitudes and explicit cognitions regarding red meat consumption will be conducted in the period of May-August 2017.


In progress.