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Psychol Health. 2009 Nov;24(9):1105-23. doi: 10.1080/08870440802245306.

Associations between visual attention, implicit and explicit attitude and behaviour for physical activity.

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  • 1School of Psychology, Keele University, Keele, UK.


The current study explored associations between previous physical activity and both implicit and explicit attitudes, as well as visual attention and activity motivation (intention). Analyses were performed on participants initially unaware of the physical activity focus of the study (N = 98). Higher levels of physical activity were associated with positive implicit attitudes and an attentional bias towards exercise cues. There was a quadratic ('U' shaped) relationship between implicit attitude and attention: the more extreme individuals' implicit attitudes towards exercise (positive or negative) the greater their attentional bias to exercise cues. Furthermore, explicit attitude moderated the relationship between attentional bias and physical activity: attentional bias to exercise cues was associated with higher levels of physical activity only for those who had a strong positive explicit attitude. Findings suggested that implicit cognitions are linked with previous physical activity. Future research should consider strategies for strengthening positive implicit and explicit attitudes and directing attention to cues signalling healthy behaviour.

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