Simply Asking Questions About Health Behaviors Increases Both Healthy and Unhealthy Behaviors

Social Influence, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 117-127, 2006

13 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2011  

Patti Williams

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School

Lauren Block

City University of New York - Department of Marketing and International Business

Gavan J. Fitzsimons

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business

Date Written: June 2, 2006

Abstract

Several recent lines of survey research demonstrate that the simple act of asking a question can lead to changes in a respondent's subsequent behavior. In the current research we asked college students their likelihood to either (i) exercise or (ii) use illegal drugs in the coming 2 months. After 2 months we asked the same college students to report their exercising and illegal drug use behaviors. The findings provide further evidence that these "question-behavior" effects occur for socially normative personal health behaviors, a domain that should have high levels of respondent vigilance and defensive processing. Of more concern, we demonstrate that when a question is asked about a socially non-normative health behavior (i.e., illegal drug use) instead of decreases in the behavior, we see increased rates of the non-normative behavior.

Suggested Citation

Williams, Patti and Block, Lauren and Fitzsimons, Gavan J., Simply Asking Questions About Health Behaviors Increases Both Healthy and Unhealthy Behaviors (June 2, 2006). Social Influence, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 117-127, 2006. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1946338

Patti Williams (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Lauren Block

City University of New York - Department of Marketing and International Business ( email )

One Bernard Baruch Way, B12-240
New York, NY 10010-5585
United States

Gavan J. Fitzsimons

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )

Box 90120
Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States

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