Improving the Translation of Intentions Into Health Actions: The Role of Motivational Coherence

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Abstract

Objective: This paper introduces a new construct termed motivational coherence, and tests its influence upon the process of translating intentions into health actions. Motivational coherence was defined as the extent to which predictors of intentions (e.g., attitudes, norms, perceived control) cohere or point in the same direction. The prediction tested was that motivational coherence would stabilize intentions and thereby increase intention–behavior consistency. Method: Three studies were conducted that each involved prospective designs. Study 1 (N = 248) concerned breastfeeding among nulliparous, low-income women. Study 2 (N = 651) concerned physical activity, and Study 3 (N = 635) examined uptake of smoking among adolescents. Results: Motivational coherence moderated intention–behavior relations in all 3 studies. Greater motivational coherence was associated with a stronger relationship between intentions and action. This finding also held when other predictors of intention (Studies 1–3) and past behavior (Studies 2–3) were taken into account. Study 3 tested and found support for the idea that temporal stability of intention mediated the moderating effect of motivational coherence. Conclusions: The present studies suggest that future research on predicting health behaviors should consider not only the strength of people’s intentions to act but also whether the basis of respective intentions is motivationally coherent.

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