Self-Regulation Processes and Health: The Importance of Optimism and Goal Adjustment


  • Preparation of this article was supported in part by grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Fonds de la recherche sur la société et la culture, Québec and by NIH grants HL65111, HL65112, HL076858, HL076852, HL07560, CA64710, CA78995, and CA84944.

concerning this article may be sent to: Heather N. Rasmussen, Institute for Educational Research & Public Policy, 1122 West Campus Road, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045. E-mail:


ABSTRACT This article discusses how self-regulatory models can be used to understand people's response to health threats. The article begins with a general discussion of the principles and assumptions of self-regulatory models of behavior. Two distinct lines of research are then presented addressing two important processes of adaptive self-regulation. First, we provide a brief overview of the literature on optimism and adjustment to chronic disease and other health outcomes. Second, we present an overview of the process of disengagement from unattainable goals, focusing on recent research. We close by making recommendations for future research.