This study examined the effect of motivational primes on participants (N = 171) during a cycling task. Relative to participants primed with a controlled motivational orientation, it was hypothesized that participants primed for autonomous motivation would report greater feelings of enjoyment, effort, and choice in relation to the cycling activity and report greater exercise intentions. Members of the autonomous prime group were expected to exercise for longer, at a greater percentage of their heart rate maximum, and report lower levels of perceived exertion than those in the controlled prime condition. It was found that, relative to participants in the controlled prime group, those who received the autonomous prime enjoyed the exercise more, exercised at a greater percentage of heart rate maximum, and reported a lower rating of perceived exertion. Furthermore, participants experiencing the controlled prime exercised for less time and had lower intentions to exercise than did other participants. Results highlight the importance of automatic processes in activating motivation for exercise.
Lauren K. Banting, James A. Dimmock, and J. Robert Grove are with the School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health, University of Western Australia, Perth, WA, Australia.