Exercise Might Be Good for Me, But I Don’t Feel Good About It: Do Automatic Associations Predict Exercise Behavior?

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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  • 1 University of Heidelberg
  • | 2 University of Potsdam
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Models employed in exercise psychology highlight the role of reflective processes for explaining behavior change. However, as discussed in social cognition literature, information-processing models also consider automatic processes (dual-process models). To examine the relevance of automatic processing in exercise psychology, we used a priming task to assess the automatic evaluations of exercise stimuli in physically active sport and exercise majors (n = 32), physically active nonsport majors (n = 31), and inactive students (n = 31). Results showed that physically active students responded faster to positive words after exercise primes, whereas inactive students responded more rapidly to negative words. Priming task reaction times were successfully used to predict reported amounts of exercise in an ordinal regression model. Findings were obtained only with experiential items reflecting negative and positive consequences of exercise. The results illustrate the potential importance of dual-process models in exercise psychology.

Bluemke is with the Department of Social Psychology, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany. Brand, Schweizer, and Kahlert are with the Department of Sport and Exercise Psychology, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany.