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Intrinsic Rewards, Fruit and Vegetable Consumption, and Habit Strength: A Three-Wave Study Testing the Associative-Cybernetic Model

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Abstract

Background: Habit formation is thought to lead to long-term maintenance of fruit and vegetable consumption. Habits develop through context-dependent repetition, but additional variables such as intrinsic reward of behaviour may influence habit strength. Drawing upon the Associative-Cybernetic Model, this exploratory study tested different pathways by which intrinsic reward may influence fruit and vegetable consumption habit strength. Methods: In a three-wave study of fruit and vegetable intake in adults (N = 127) from the general population, intrinsic reward, intention, and self-efficacy were assessed at baseline, fruit and vegetable consumption and intrinsic reward two weeks later, and habit strength another two weeks later. Direct, indirect, and moderation effects of intrinsic reward on habit strength were tested simultaneously in a moderated mediation model. Results: Intrinsic reward had a positive indirect effect on habit strength through its influence on the frequency of fruit and vegetable consumption. Further, the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and habit was stronger where consumption was considered more intrinsically rewarding. Conclusions: Findings highlight the potential relevance of intrinsic reward to habit. We suggest that intrinsic rewards from behaviour may not only facilitate habit via behaviour frequency, but also reinforce the relationship between behavioural repetition and habit strength.

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