Whatever gets your heart pumping: the impact of implicitly selected reinforcer-focused statements on exercise intensity

Authors:

Marianne L. Jackson, W. Larry Williams, Steven C. Hayes, Tiffany Humphreys, Brook Gauthier, Ryan Westwood

Abstract:

This study investigated the impact of reinforcer-focused statements vetted by the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP) on the intensity of participation in an exercise class. Using a relative heart rate measure, the first experiment compared individually selected phrases focused on the positive consequences of exercise to general topographic advice about how to exercise using an alternating treatments design, and found that participants exercised harder in the presence of the reinforcer-focused phrases. Experiment 2 tested a similar comparison using phrases focused on consequences that were shown to be neutral or negative by the IRAP, and found no consistent effect on responding. These results support a key prediction from previous research in Relational Frame Theory, namely that reinforcer-focused statements can function as motivative augmentals, and they suggest that such motivative effects can impact behaviours of applied importance such as exercise.

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