Asking questions about a behavior has been found to influence subsequent performance of that behavior, a phenomenon termed the question-behavior effect (QBE). The present study addressed two under-researched questions concerning the QBE: (1) Can the QBE be used to change multiple health behaviors, and (2) does enhancing dissonance during questionnaire completion increase the magnitude of the QBE? Participants (N = 1534) were randomized to one of three conditions (dissonance-enhanced QBE; standard QBE; control) that targeted three health-protective behaviors (eating fruit and vegetables, physical activity, dental flossing) and three health-risk behaviors (alcohol intake, sedentariness, unhealthy snacking). The dissonance-enhanced intervention comprised a message designed to pressurize participants into forming healthful behavioral intentions. Behavior was assessed via self-reports at four-week follow up. Findings showed significant overall effects of the QBE both in increasing performance of health-protective behaviors (p =.001) and in reducing performance of health-risk behaviors (p =.04). Compared to the standard QBE condition, the dissonance-enhanced QBE intervention increased performance of health-protective behaviors (p =.04) and marginally reduced performance of health-risk behaviors (p =.07). The dissonance-enhanced QBE intervention outperformed the control condition in all analyses. This is the first report that a brief QBE intervention influences performance of multiple health behaviors. Findings supported the idea that magnifying dissonance increases the impact of the QBE.
Wilding, S., Conner, M., Prestwich, A., Lawton, R., & Sheeran, P. (2019). Using the question-behavior effect to change multiple health behaviors: An exploratory randomized controlled trial. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 81, 53–60. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2018.07.008