Beyond social cognition models : a mixed methods investigation of influences on attempts to adopt health behaviours
In explorations of the nature and operation of influences on attempts to adopt health behaviours, health psychologists have largely concentrated on developing models incorporating statistically predictive combinations of measures of social cognitions. However, this body of work is flawed by theoretical, methodological and performance based limitations. Three different approaches are reported here to moving beyond the social cognition models in order to address current gaps in knowledge and understanding. In the first approach, behaviour-specific predictors were found to contribute significantly to the explanation of variance in intentions once key social cognitions had been accounted for, but a ceiling appeared to have been reached in studies of this kind and the need to consider cognitive and emotional links between past and future behaviour was identified. The second approach therefore involved an evaluation of the Idealised Process Model of Cognitive-Affective Responses to Repeated Failure (Jerusalem and Schwarzer, 1992). Persistent, negative patterns of change in cognitive stress appraisals were found to result from repeated failure experiences in relation to cognitive tasks but the model did not generalise to health behaviour performance. A longitudinal, multiple case study was conducted in the third approach in order to explore meanings associated with experiences of trying to adopt health behaviours, together with the implications of these for outcomes. The desire to act as a positive role model emerged as a key motivating factor, while both having experienced a small number of past failures and having engaged in advanced, strategic planning were identified as beneficial to the maintenance of health behaviour change. The latter is particularly recommended in order to ensure the receipt of early, positive reinforcement in relation to the key motives for change, foster appropriate anticipatory action against potentially difficult situations and in order to identify a range of practical and psychological strategies likely to foster sustained change, alternative sources of support and relief to the original behaviour and ways in which lapses might be prevented from becoming relapses.