Reflective and automatic processes in the initiation and maintenance of dietary change

Alexander J. Rothman, Paschal Sheeran, Wendy Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

241 Scopus citations


Purpose and Methods: This paper examines the social cognitive processes that regulate people's eating behavior. Specifically, we examine how eating behavior can be regulated by reflective, deliberative processes as well as automatic and habitual processes. Moreover, we consider how these processes operate when people are not only initiating a change in behavior but also maintaining the behavior over time. Results and Discussion: Decomposing action control and behavior change into a 2 (reflective, automatic) × 2 (initiation, maintenance) matrix offers a useful way of conceptualizing the various determinants of eating behavior and suggests that different intervention strategies will be needed to target particular processes during respective phases of behavior change. The matrix also helps to identify key areas of intervention development that deserve attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S4-S17
JournalAnnals of Behavioral Medicine
Issue numberSUPPL.
StatePublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements Preparation of this paper was supported in part by a fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute (Wendy Wood) and by grants RES-060-25-0044 and RES-000-22-3381 (Paschal Sheeran).


  • Dietary change
  • Eating behavior
  • Initiation
  • Maintenance
  • Reflective and automatic processes


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