Can Implementation Intentions be used to Create a Mental Association between Food Temptations and a Dieting Goal?
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Two types of dieters are known: successful and unsuccessful dieters. Successful dieters are believed to have a mental association between tempting food cues (temptations) and their long-term weight watching goal, whereas unsuccessful dieters do not. The aim of this study was to create a mental association between the personal temptation and the dieting goal by using implementation intentions. The presence of the mental association was measured by goal accessibility, which in turn was measured by the reaction time on the critical trial (consisting of the personal temptation as a prime and the dieting goal as a target) on a primed lexical decision task. The effect of the created association was expected to emerge in the behavioral manipulation in which participants were invited to take some candy. The results showed that the unsuccessful dieters who had created an implementation intention became slower on the critical trial. No significant differences were found on the remaining expectations. These results may be due to an inappropriate formulation of the implementation intention, due to a possible second pathway of creating an association, or due to unsuccessfully ‘forcing’ participants to form this implementation intention. An improved setup of the study will have to resolve whether the expectations can eventually be confirmed.