Comparing theories of health behavior using data from longitudinal studies: A comment on gerend and shepherd

  • Brewer N
  • Gilkey M
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Comments on an article by M. A. Gerend and J. E. Shepherd (see record 2012-25446-007). A common conclusion is that one should lump some parts of one theory together with some of another, and as in the case of Gerend and Shepherd's paper, the summary approach can yield findings that extend our understanding of the behavior and the theories used to model it. A difficulty in the summary approach, however, is that composite theories tend to drift from the perspective or ideologies that originally motivated the theories. For this reason, a second approach to theory testing is also valuable, competitive hypothesis testing. In this approach, one treats a theory not as an unbreakable whole, but rather as sets of specific arguments about how the world works. Darwin believed that lumpers and splitters both add value, and we likewise argue that for health behavior theories to evolve, we must take a multipronged approach. For example, the assertion that intentions might improve the Health Belief Model (HBM) is a lumper's idea, and the data presented by Gerend and Shepherd show the clear value of asking such a question. Furthermore, although few in number, the methodologically strong longitudinal studies of Gerend and Shepherd and others suggest that health behavior theories yield meaningfully different information about the world. We believe that researchers could supplement this existing literature with a deductive approach. Competitive hypothesis testing is an important tool for examining specific mechanisms that drive differences in the theories' predictive powers. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

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  • Noel T. Brewer

  • Melissa B. Gilkey

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