Can regret prompt compensatory health behaviors? Findings from a clustered randomized trial with physically active adults
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Submission date: 2018-03-12
Final revision date: 2018-07-29
Acceptance date: 2018-07-29
Online publication date: 2018-09-11
Publication date: 2018-09-07
Health Psychology Report 2018;6(4):285–295
Failure to resist temptation may make people experience an action-control emotion of regret. We explored whether evoking regret after participants’ failure to attend physical exercise sessions would prompt them to undertake compensatory behaviors of different sorts.

Participants and procedure:
Physically active men and women (N = 133) were invited to attend a 6-session fitness course. Using cluster randomization, participants were assigned either to the experimental group with a regret-evoking message after they failed to show up at a fitness session (n = 69), or the control group, which did not receive the regret-evoking message (n = 64). After missing any of the first five fitness sessions participants reported whether they had engaged in compensatory health behaviors during the preceding 24 hours. Data were collected at pre-test, post-test, and after each missed fitness session.

Linear mixed-effects analysis showed no effects of the regret manipulation on compensatory behaviors such as physical activity, nutrition, or substance use avoidance. However, the manipulation resulted in lower levels of engagement in socializing behaviors.

The results suggest that people engage in compensatory behaviors after a lapse in physical exercise. Evoked regret may serve to a limited extent as a means to prompt compensatory behaviors.

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