Tales of logic : a self-presentational view on health-related behaviour

    Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


    <p>This dissertation questions the informational approach to health education. Many health education programmes are conducted with the implicit assumption that providing individuals with relevant information about the consequences of unhealthy behaviour will lead to a healthier way of life. Evaluations of health education programmes show, however, that rational cognitive appeals often do not seem to possess enough power to motivate people to change their behaviour. This study examines the extent to which health-related behaviour can be explained by the wish to be accepted by others.<p>Two theories are described: attribution theory and self-presentation theory. In attribution theory it is assumed that individuals are logical information processors. By means of 'naive scientific' analysis of available information, the individual tries to obtain a veridical view of reality. Self-presentation theory assumes that individuals are motivated to create an impression on significant others that will lead to approval and avoid disapproval, by means of, for example, overt behaviours such as expressed opinions and dressing. The results of two experiments show that individuals use attribution statements for self-presentaional goals. When an actor perceives that others cannot easily repudiate a boosted self-presentation, the actor tries and succeeds to impress on others by self-enhancing attributions. When others do have access to possible repudiating information, actors' attribution statements are accurate.<p>Subsequently, self-presentation theory is applied to health-related behaviour. In two field studies the assumption of many anti-smoking campaigns that smoking adolescents are less capable to resist peer pressure than nonsmoking adolescents is questioned. Self-presentation theory appeared to contribute to a fuller understanding of the working of peer pressure. Peer pressure is related to lifestyles, and it should be conceived of as a twoway influence process, in which it is rewarding for both the individual and the group to act in accordance with existing group norms. Peer pressure is equally strong for smokers, intenders and non-smokers.<p>The results of the four studies show that behaviour often is guided more by self-presentational concerns than by concerns for cognitive consistency. The results of the studies can facilitate a more effective use of the influence of the social environment in health education.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Röling, N.G., Promotor
    • Kok, G.J., Co-promotor, External person
    Award date27 Sep 1988
    Place of PublicationS.l.
    Publication statusPublished - 1988


    • communication theory
    • cybernetics
    • health education
    • information


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