The impact of implicit theories on health attitudes

  • S. Dohle
  • V. Job


Background: Implicit theories are basic beliefs people have about the extent to which human attributes are dynamic and malleable or static and fixed. According to this perspective, people may hold two types of health-related implicit theories: an incremental theory, i.e. that health is changeable and predominantly shaped by one’s own behavior, or an entity theory, i.e. that health is largely predetermined. The purpose of this study is to test whether experimentally manipulated implicit theories of health influence health-related attitudes. Methods: In an online experiment, participants (N=357) were asked to read a fictitious newspaper article that described scientific evidence supporting the view that health is either malleable (“incremental theory condition”) or fixed (“entity theory condition”). To assess attitudes toward health-related behaviors, participants indicated how much different health-related activities were important to them. Participants’ responses to these items were collapsed to calculate an overall health-attitude score, which served as the dependent variable. Furthermore, it was tested whether health locus of control mediates the relationship between health-related implicit theories and attitudes. Findings: As predicted, participants in the “incremental theory condition” showed more positive health-related attitudes than participants in the “entity theory condition”, p=.001. In addition, this effect was mediated by an internal health locus of control. Discussion: The findings of the study suggest that people’s decision to change their health-related lifestyle might be influenced by whether they believe that their own behavior affects their health. Results of this research may guide public health programs designed to encourage healthy lifestyles.
Oral presentations