Helping the “couch potato”: A cognitive dissonance approach to increasing exercise in the elderly

Joel Cooper, Lauren A. Feldman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


In this manuscript, we present the results of the research that employs a technique inspired by the cognitive dissonance theory to increase older adults’ intentions to exercise. The failure to engage in physical activity is at the root of many psychological and physical ailments, from depression to diabetes. This is especially true of older adults for whom sedentary behavior is increasingly common. The current work reports the results of an experiment and a preliminary study that adopted the hypocrisy paradigm of dissonance to motivate increased behavioral intentions to exercise. Elderly participants volunteered to generate strong arguments in favor of engaging in physical exercise. As predicted by the dissonance theory, when urged to recall times in the past in which they had chosen not to exercise, participants increased their intention to exercise in the future and became more positive about the importance of exercise in their lives. Participants who only advocated for greater exercise but were not made aware of their past transgressions did not show increases in behavioral intentions. The results were interpreted as evidence for the effectiveness of a social psychological theory on a significant social problem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-40
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology


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