Northumbria University
Automatic attitudes data.xlsx (30.81 kB)

Re-experiencing the (dis)pleasure: Uncovering the roles of controlled processes and automatic attitudes in the regulation of physical activity behaviour in children

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Despite substantial research efforts to increase engagement in physical activity (PA), children are not sufficiently active. Dual-process theories suggest that PA behaviour regulation occurs through both controlled (reflective and conscious) and automatic (non-reflective and less conscious) processes. Controlled and automatic processes depend on affective valuations and attitudes towards PA and have been shown to predict PA behaviour. However, their role in PA behaviour regulation in children remains unclear. The current study investigated the unique association of automatic attitudes towards PA on self-reported 7-day PA, after accounting for known controlled precursors of PA (i.e., explicit attitudes, PA self-efficacy, and PA intentions). In a cross-sectional design, 73 children (10.9 ± 0.6 years) completed the Single-Category Implicit Association Task (SC-IAT) and self-reported measures of PA and controlled processes (i.e., explicit affective and instrumental attitudes, PA self-efficacy and PA intentions). In a hierarchical regression analysis, controlled processes accounted for 35.8% of the variance in PA. Although the direct association between automatic attitudes and PA was not significant (r = 0.08, p = 0.477), the association between these constructs became significant but negative in the fully adjusted model (b = -1.44; p = 0.018). The final model accounted for 39.6% of the variance in PA. In summary, the findings indicated that both controlled and automatic processes predicted PA in children, although the association with automatic attitudes was not in the expected direction in the adjusted model. Future studies are warranted to further understand the role of automatic processes in children’s PA behaviour regulation.


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