Health risk cognitions: An empirical examination of the effects of heuristic versus

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Reimer, Rachel
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Stephanie Madon
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The Department of Psychology may prepare students with a liberal study, or for work in academia or professional education for law or health-services. Graduates will be able to apply the scientific method to human behavior and mental processes, as well as have ample knowledge of psychological theory and method.
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This research examined adolescent health risk behaviors from the perspective of dual-process theories. Specifically, assumptions underlying dual-processing theories were empirically examined in two experiments in which processing route was manipulated and subsequent measures of behavioral willingness and behavioral intentions to engage in casual sex and to drink alcohol were examined. The primary goals of Study 1 were two-fold. One goal was to demonstrate that processing route can be varied via an external factor, such as the instructional set used in the current study. The second goal was to examine the effect that the induced route of processing style had on health risk decisions. Overall, the results of Study 1 indicated that the between-subjects processing manipulation was successful in shifting participants' reliance on either reasoned or experiential processing relative to a control condition. This result supports dual-process theory assumptions that riskier behavior is the result of less reasoned information processing. In addition, the results support predictions expected from the prototype willingness model that behavioral willingness reflects more experiential processing, and is more malleable than behavioral intentions (Gibbons, Gerrard, & Lane, 2003). The goals of Study 2 were to further examine whether external factors influence route of processing and to examine whether those effects were mediated by shifts in motives and outcome expectancies. These goals were addressed with an experiment in which participants received the same between-subjects manipulation of processing route as in Study 1 before assessing behavioral willingness, behavioral intentions, motives for engaging in sex, and outcome expectancies for drinking alcohol. The hypothesized effects of route of processing on behavioral willingness and not on behavioral intentions, as specified by the prototype willingness model, were supported. Partial support was found for the hypothesized mediated effects of processing condition through outcome expectances and motives on behavioral willingness to engage in casual sex and to drink alcohol. Overall, results from the two experiments suggest that the between-subjects manipulation of processing route used in these studies was an effective way to induce reasoned and experiential processing, and that the effects of this manipulation on health risk cognitions were mediated by changes in motives or perceived outcome expectancies. Implications of these results for dual-process theories in general, the prototype willingness model specifically, and adolescent health risk behaviors are discussed.

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Thu Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2009