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Ralf Brand and Franziska Antoniewicz

Sometimes our automatic evaluations do not correspond well with those we can reflect on and articulate. We present a novel approach to the assessment of automatic and reflective affective evaluations of exercising. Based on the assumptions of the associative-propositional processes in evaluation model, we measured participants’ automatic evaluations of exercise and then shared this information with them, asked them to reflect on it and rate eventual discrepancy between their reflective evaluation and the assessment of their automatic evaluation. We found that mismatch between self-reported ideal exercise frequency and actual exercise frequency over the previous 14 weeks could be regressed on the discrepancy between a relatively negative automatic and a more positive reflective evaluation. This study illustrates the potential of a dual-process approach to the measurement of evaluative responses and suggests that mistrusting one’s negative spontaneous reaction to exercise and asserting a very positive reflective evaluation instead leads to the adoption of inflated exercise goals.

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Franziska Antoniewicz and Ralf Brand

This multistudy report used an experimental approach to alter automatic evaluations of exercise (AEE). First, we investigated the plasticity of AEE (study 1). A computerized evaluative conditioning task was developed that altered the AEE of participants in two experimental groups (acquisition of positive/negative associations involving exercising) and a control group (ηpart. 2 = .11). Second, we examined connections between changes in AEE and subsequent exercise behavior (chosen intensity on a bike ergometer; study 2) in individuals that were placed in groups according to their baseline AEE. Group differences in exercise behavior were detected (ηpart. 2 = .29). The effect was driven by the performance of the group with preexisting negative AEE that acquired more positive associations. This illustrates the effect of altered AEE on subsequent exercise behavior and the potential of AEE as a target for exercise intervention.

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Franziska Antoniewicz and Ralf Brand

The goals of this study were to test whether exercise-related stimuli can elicit automatic evaluative responses and whether automatic evaluations reflect exercise setting preference in highly active exercisers. An adapted version of the Affect Misattribution Procedure was employed. Seventy-two highly active exercisers (26 years ± 9.03; 43% female) were subliminally primed (7 ms) with pictures depicting typical fitness center scenarios or gray rectangles (control primes). After each prime, participants consciously evaluated the “pleasantness” of a Chinese symbol. Controlled evaluations were measured with a questionnaire and were more positive in participants who regularly visited fitness centers than in those who reported avoiding this exercise setting. Only center exercisers gave automatic positive evaluations of the fitness center setting (partial eta squared = .08). It is proposed that a subliminal Affect Misattribution Procedure paradigm can detect automatic evaluations to exercising and that, in highly active exercisers, these evaluations play a role in decisions about the exercise setting rather than the amounts of physical exercise. Findings are interpreted in terms of a dual systems theory of social information processing and behavior.