Hygienic food handling behaviors: Attempting to bridge the intention-behavior gap using aspects from temporal self-regulation theory
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An estimated 25% of the populations of both the United States and Australia suffer from foodborne illness every year, generally as a result of incorrect food handling practices. The aim of the current study was to determine through the application of the theory of planned behavior what motivates these behaviors and to supplement the model with two aspects of temporal self-regulation theory—behavioral prepotency and executive function—in an attempt to bridge the “intention-behavior gap.” A prospective 1-week design was utilized to investigate the prediction of food hygiene using the theory of planned behavior with the additional variables of behavioral prepotency and executive function. One hundred forty-nine undergraduate psychology students completed two neurocognitive executive function tasks and a self-report questionnaire assessing theory of planned behavior variables, behavioral prepotency, and intentions to perform hygienic food handling behaviors. A week later, behavior was assessed via a follow-up self-report questionnaire. It was found that subjective norm and perceived behavioral control predicted intentions and intentions predicted behavior. However, behavioral prepotency was found to be the strongest predictor of behavior, over and above intentions, suggesting that food hygiene behavior is habitual. Neither executive function measure of self-regulation predicted any additional variance. These results provide support for the utility of the theory of planned behavior in this health domain, but the augmentation of the theory with two aspects of temporal self-regulation theory was only partially successful.
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