The inclination to shun healthy behaviours that generate only transient benefits: the role of future clarity Academic Article uri icon


  • Summary Research has not definitively ascertained the circumstances that motivate people to live a healthier lifestyle. To redress this shortfall, we report two overlapping studies that examined whether people are more inclined to value health benefits that seem enduring and fundamental rather than transient or superficial—even after controlling effort and cost. In these studies, 242 participants indicated the degree to which they implement 17 health behaviours—as well as the extent to which they perceive the benefits of these behaviours as enduring and fundamental. Furthermore, participants completed a measure that gauges future clarity. Finally, they chose which of two drugs—drugs that differ only on the longevity of effects—they prefer. Participants were more inclined to implement health behaviours that seemed to generate enduring and fundamental benefits. This effect was more pronounced in people who perceive their future as vivid and certain. Furthermore, participants tended to choose the drug that was touted as generating more enduring benefits, even after controlling cost and effort. As these results imply, to encourage healthy behaviour, health practitioners should help people clarify their future goals and then advocate behaviours that generate lasting benefits.

publication date

  • 2020