Objective. This study aimed to investigate the influence of anticipated emotions on preventive health behaviour if specified at the level of behavioural outcomes. Consistent with predictions from a recently developed model of goal pursuit, we hypothesized that the impact of emotions on effort levels depended on the perceived proximity to the goal.
Design. Participants with weight-loss intentions were randomly selected from an Internet panel and completed questionnaires at three points in time, baseline (T1; N= 725), 2 weeks later at T2 (N= 582) and again 2 months later at T3 (N= 528).
Methods. Questionnaires assessed anticipated emotions (at T1) and experienced emotions (at T2) towards goal attainment and non-attainment. Goal proximity, goal desirability, and effort levels in striving for weight loss were assessed at both T1 and T2. Current and target weights were reported at all three assessments.
Results. In line with predictions, we found that negative anticipated emotions towards goal non-attainment resulted in increased effort but only if people perceived themselves in close proximity to their goal. Effort, in turn, predicted weight loss and goal achievement.
Conclusion. The current data bear important practical implications as they identify anticipated emotions as targets of behaviour change interventions aimed to stimulate effort in striving for broad, health-related goals like weight loss.