Autonomy and reactions to health-risk information

Pavey, Louisa Jane and Sparks, Paul (2010) Autonomy and reactions to health-risk information. Psychology and Health, 25(7), pp. 855-872. ISSN (print) 0887-0446


It has been suggested that autonomy promotes enhanced reflection on novel information and reduces defensive or biased information processing. This study investigated how autonomy affected people's reactions to known versus novel health-risk information in relation to three behaviours: sun exposure, alcohol consumption and salt intake. Participants (N = 321) completed a measure of autonomy, read either known or novel health-risk information and reported their relative autonomous motivation, attitudes, perceived behavioural control, subjective norm and intentions towards reducing the health-risk behaviour concerned. In line with our hypotheses, the results showed that higher autonomy participants reported greater relative autonomous motivation towards reducing health-risk behaviours than did lower autonomy participants; this effect was mediated by perceptions of the information as less freedom-threatening. The expected interaction between Autonomy and Information Type was not observed. The results indicate that autonomy is associated with greater relative autonomous motivation to engage in health behaviours, and that autonomous motivation may subsequently influence intentions to reduce health-risk behaviour following exposure to health-risk information.

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