Conference proceeding

De-Ridder, D.T.D, Theunissen, N.C.M., (2002) The role of optimistic beliefs in making health action plans. Presentation at the Dutch Conference on Psychology & Health, Rolduc, Kerkrade, 13-15 May 2002.

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Research regarding the role of optimism in health behavior is not conclusive about its assumed beneficial effects. While there are indications that the impact of optimism on health behavior may relate to the typical conceptualization of optimism (e.g. whether or not ourealistic), there is also debate about the role of optimism relating to the stage of health behavior. Generally distinguishing between the stages of making intentions to perform health behavior (motivational stage) and implementing intentions (volitional stage), most studies consider optimism beneficial during the motivational stage. Finding regarding the role of optimism during the volitional stage are mixed, however. Some studies provide support for the idea that optimism is especially beneficial during the stage of implementing behavior (assuming that an exaggerated perception of one’s possibilities contributes to actual performance of health behavior), while othes maintain that optimism leads to biased perception and thus to neglect of necessary behavioral changes. The present study was designed to test the assumption of a differential effect of optimism depending on the stage of health behavior. In an experimental design (n=140) hypertensive patients were motivated by their GP (acting according to the experimental protocol) to consider both their intentions (by discussing their beliefs on adherence) and their implementation intentions (by making action plans regarding adherence). We tested whether compared to the control condition this manipulation resulted in increased motivation and increased implementation intentions and whether optimism played a crucial role in it.


optimism, health behavior, action plan, motivation, behavioral change, hypertension,

picture of N.C.M. Theunissen

Last updated on 12 February, 2015.