Examining direct and indirect pathways to health behaviour: The influence of cognitive and affective probability beliefs

Eva Janssen*, Liesbeth van Osch, Hein de Vries, Lilian Lechner

*Corresponding author for this work

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This study aimed to extricate the influence of rational (e.g. I think ...') and intuitive (e.g. I feel ...') probability beliefs in the behavioural decision-making process regarding skin cancer prevention practices. Structural equation modelling was used in two longitudinal surveys (sun protection during winter sports [N=491]; sun protection during summer [N=277]) to examine direct and indirect behavioural effects of affective and cognitive likelihood (i.e. unmediated or mediated by intention), controlled for attitude, social influence and self-efficacy. Affective likelihood was directly related to sun protection in both studies, whereas no direct effects were found for cognitive likelihood. After accounting for past sun protective behaviour, affective likelihood was only directly related to sun protection in Study 1. No support was found for the indirect effects of affective and cognitive likelihood through intention. The findings underscore the importance of feelings of (cancer) risk in the decision-making process and should be acknowledged by health behaviour theories and risk communication practices. Suggestions for future research are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)546-560
JournalPsychology & Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2013


  • feelings of risk
  • cognitive likelihood
  • affective likelihood
  • health behaviour
  • behavioural intentions
  • mediation

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