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Less is more: The effect of multiple implementation intentions targeting unhealthy snacking habits

Authors


Correspondence to: Aukje A. C. Verhoeven, Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, Utrecht University, PO Box 80.140 3508 TC, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

E-mail: a.a.c.verhoeven@uu.nl

Abstract

Implementation intentions have been shown to effectively change counter-intentional habits. Research has, however, almost solely been concerned with the effectiveness of a single plan. In the present research, we investigated the behavioral and cognitive implications of making multiple implementation intentions targeting unhealthy snacking habits and its underlying processes, linking multiple habitual snacking cues to healthy alternatives. Study 1 revealed that formulating multiple implementation intentions was not effective in decreasing unhealthy snacking, whereas formulating a single plan successfully induced behavior change. By using a lexical decision task in Study 2, it was found that when making a single plan, but not multiple plans, the healthy alternative became cognitively more accessible in response to a critical cue prime than the habitual response. However, when making additional plans in an unrelated domain, the negative effects of making multiple plans were absent. In sum, the current findings suggest that formulating multiple implementation intentions is ineffective when changing unwanted behavior. These reduced effects of multiple implementation intentions do not occur when making the plan but are rather due to interference in the enacting phase of the planning process. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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