Mind the Gap? An Intensive Longitudinal Study of Between-Person and Within-Person Intention-Behavior Relations

Jennifer Inauen, Patrick E. Shrout, Niall Bolger, Gertraud Stadler, Urte Scholz

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55 Citations (Scopus)
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BACKGROUND: Despite their good intentions, people often do not eat healthily. This is known as the intention-behavior gap. Although the intention-behavior relationship is theorized as a within-person process, most evidence is based on between-person differences.

PURPOSE: The purpose of the present study is to investigate the within-person intention-behavior association for unhealthy snack consumption.

METHODS: Young adults (N = 45) participated in an intensive longitudinal study. They reported intentions and snack consumption five times daily for 7 days (n = 1068 observations analyzed).

RESULTS: A within-person unit difference in intentions was associated with a halving of the number of unhealthy snacks consumed in the following 3 h (CI95 27-70 %). Between-person differences in average intentions did not predict unhealthy snack consumption.

CONCLUSIONS: Consistent with theory, the intention-behavior relation for healthy eating is best understood as a within-person process. Interventions to reduce unhealthy snacking should target times of day when intentions are weakest.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)516-522
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number4
Early online date22 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgments This work was supported by the University of
Konstanz, Germany. The first author was supported by a fellowship of
the Swiss National Science Foundation (Fellowship P2ZHP1_155103).


  • intention-behavior gap
  • intraindividual and interindividual associations
  • health behavior
  • snack consumption
  • ecological momentary assessment


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