Exploring Contributions of Liking and Wanting to the Intention-Behaviour Link
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People often express intentions to pursue positive behavioural changes, but successful behaviour change is difficult to implement. Despite one’s good intentions, behaviours are not always carried out as planned (the “intention-behaviour gap”; Sheeran, 2002). The present studies attempted to help account for the gap observed between intention and behaviour by examining the contribution of two separable factors, liking (pleasure derived from the behaviour) and wanting (motivation that promotes behavioural approach or engagement), to the intention-behaviour link. In particular, an individual’s level of wanting may not always coincide with their level of liking towards a behaviour (e.g., in the case of overeating). It was hypothesized that these two components may serve different roles in the guiding intentions versus behaviours, particularly for behaviours that require a significant amount of self-regulation. Specifically, the weight placed on liking and wanting during the evaluation of intentions may differ from their contribution to later behaviour. Furthermore, because increasing the frequency of a behaviour is conceptually different from decreasing the frequency of a behaviour, it was predicted that the association of liking and wanting to the intention-behaviour link would differ depending on whether the behaviour is one the person wishes to increase or to decrease. These hypotheses were tested in five studies. For behaviours individuals wish to increase, more weight was placed on wanting (compared to liking) during intention evaluation; however, actual behaviour change was predicted by liking (and not wanting). A different pattern was found for behaviours individuals wish to decrease, such that neither liking nor wanting was strongly associated with intention or behaviour. The findings could guide development of interventions used to facilitate successful behaviour change.