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Using implementation intentions to overcome the effect of mood on risky behaviour


Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Thomas L. Webb, Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TP, UK (e-mail:


Two experiments investigated whether forming an if–then plan or implementation intention could break the link between mood and risky behaviour. In Expt 1, participants planned how to deal with unpleasant moods. Next, as part of an ostensibly unrelated experiment, participants underwent a disguised mood induction before rating their willingness to perform a series of risky behaviours. Unpleasant mood increased subsequent risk willingness among participants who did not form a plan but did not influence risk willingness among participants who formed an implementation intention. In Expt 2, mood arousal was manipulated and participants then undertook a gambling task. One-half of the sample formed implementation intentions that focused attention on the odds of winning. Greater arousal led to more risky betting among control participants. However, forming an implementation intention promoted good risk awareness and, consequently, shielded participants' task performance from the effects of arousal. Taken together, the findings suggest that people can strategically avoid the detrimental effect of unpleasant mood and arousal on risk by forming implementation intentions directed at controlling either the experience of mood or the risky behaviour.