Choosing to engage and choosing to persist: The role of non-specific factors in health-promoting activities

Carolina Gaitan Sierra, Martin Dempster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
256 Downloads (Pure)


Non-specific factors play an important role in determining benefits from health-promoting activities. Previous studies have focussed on beneficial outcomes of motivation during engagement. There are two aims of this project. First, we investigated whether expectancy and intrinsic motivation influence people's decisions to engage with health-promoting activities in the first instance and then subsequently adhere to them. Second, we examined the effects of providing information on health-promoting activities as a method of influencing expectancy and intrinsic motivation.

In two studies, participants were informed about a health-promoting activity (Study 1: A breathing exercise for well-being; Study 2: A gratitude exercise for smoking cessation) and told that it has either a ‘known’ or ‘unknown’ effectiveness. Participants were then given the opportunity to engage with the activity over the following days. Expectancy and intrinsic motivation were measured after reading the information and prior to engagement with the activity. Adherence to the activity was measured at follow-up.

In both studies, intrinsic motivation positively predicted willingness to engage with the activities as well as subsequent adherence. Expectancy predicted adherence in Study 1 and choices to engage in Study 2, but not after controlling for intrinsic motivation. Describing the gratitude exercise as having a known effectiveness in Study 2 enhanced motivation and adherence to the activity.

The non-specific benefit brought by intrinsic motivation plays an important role in choosing to engage with health-promoting activities as well as subsequent adherence. Our results also show that simple statements about the potential benefits of a health-promoting activity can motivate engagement and adherence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)515-532
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Health Psychology
Issue number3
Early online date19 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016

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