Most health decision-making models posit that cost-benefit analyses underlie decisions to make changes in health-related behavioral practices. In a series of studies, participants imagined either increasing or decreasing the frequency of a variety of health behaviors and estimated the consequences of those changes. In Studies 1 and 2, individuals consistently estimated that increasing a health behavior produced greater consequences than did decreasing the behavior by an equivalent amount. The results of Study 3 demonstrated that this effect is due to differences in how individuals judge the impact of health behavior changes which involve not engaging in the behavior at all versus other types of changes. Taken together, these findings suggest that perceptions of the outcomes afforded by health behavior changes depend on both the behavioral frequency and direction of changes in behavior an individual is considering. This asymmetry has the potential to help explain patterns of behavior in a range of important health domains and may impact the effectiveness of behavior change interventions.
- Close-response asymmetry
- Health behaviour
- Health decision-making models