Despite the low rate of behavior change among those engaged in addictive behaviors, some people can and do initiate change. We propose that attempting to self-regulate addictive behavior is a function of motivation and the belief that behavior is malleable. Specifically, feeling self-discontinuous (i.e., feeling that addiction has fundamentally changed the self) should motivate change by inducing nostalgia for the pre-addicted self. Importantly, we expected that discontinuity-induced nostalgia would only be associated with an attempted change among those who believe that behavior is malleable (i.e., incremental theorists). To test this moderated-mediation model, we recruited a community sample of disordered gamblers (N = 243) to assess self-reported change attempts over time. During the initial session, participants completed measures of self-discontinuity, nostalgia, and implicit theories of behavior. Three months later, participants (N = 120) reported whether they attempted to change their gambling behavior, as well as the method and extent to which they sustained this change. As expected, discontinuity-induced nostalgia was positively associated with an increased likelihood of self-reporting a change attempt, but only when behavior was believed to be malleable, rather than fixed. As very few disordered gamblers take action, these findings suggest novel psychological processes to promote positive behavior change.

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Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology
Department of Psychology

Salmon, M. (Melissa), Kim, H.S. (Hyoun S.), & Wohl, M. (2018). In the mindset for change: Self-reported quit attempts are a product of discontinuity-induced nostalgia and incremental beliefs. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 37(6), 405–430. doi:10.1521/jscp.2018.37.6.405