Introduction: There are several widely used theories of health behavior change, which mostly utilize the social cognitive approach. These theories tend to posit that intention is a direct predictor of behavior, do not include automatic influences on behavior, and propose a one-size-fits-all theory for both initiators and maintainers. However, the intention-behavior gap is a well-observed phenomenon, researchers have highlighted that both automatic and reflective factors promote behavioral engagement, and predictors of behavior have been shown to differ between initiators and maintainers—three issues that necessitate theory advancement. To that end, the present research compares the utility of the Integrated Behavior Change Model (IBCM) – a social cognitive model that includes automatic factors involved in behavioral engagement and a moderator of the intention-behavior gap – to its theoretical predecessor, the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB). Further, the relevance of the IBCM factors for predicting exercise behavior is compared in initiators versus maintainers.
Method: Participants were 494 US undergraduates. Participants reported on variables from the IBCM (and TPB) at baseline and reported on their exercise behavior in two surveys at seven- and 14-days post-baseline.
Results: Findings supported the first hypothesis that the IBCM would be more relevant for initiators in comparison with maintainers, using structural equation modeling. Specifically, only the paths between intrinsic motivation and affective attitude, affective attitude and intention, and intention and behavior were reliably found for maintainers. For initiators, the aforementioned paths were also reliably supported and the additional following paths were also supported: intrinsic motivation and perceived behavioral control, perceived behavioral control and intention, and intention and action planning. However, results did not support the second hypothesis that the IBCM would predict significantly more variance in behavior than its theoretical predecessor, the TPB. Specifically, the addition of action planning, implicit attitude, implicit motivation, and the interaction between intention and action planning only predicted an additional 0.3% (p < 0:05) of the variance in exercise behavior above and beyond intention.
Conclusion: Results highlight the continued need for theoretical refinement in terms of delineating mechanisms of initiation and maintenance and the need for further development in terms of improving upon current predictions of behavior engagement and change.
- dual process cognition
- integrated behavior change model
- physical activity
- stage of change
- theory of planned behavior