Behavioral Research

Table of Contents
1 General Description & Theoretical Background

Related Conceptualization


Measures and Measurements



5 Published Examples

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Other Constructs



Dispositional Optimism




Illness Representations

  Implementation Intentions
  Intention, Expectation, and Willingness
  Normative Beliefs
  Optimistic Bias
  Perceived Benefits
  Perceived Control
  Perceived Severity
  Perceived Vulnerability
  Self-Reported Behavior
  Social Influence
  Social Support

Illness Representations
Michael A. Diefenbach

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2 Related Conceptualization

Illness representations are one class of illness cognitions which in a general sense might also include other cognitive constructs related to health threats, including perceived vulnerability, optimism and self-efficacy beliefs, as well as perceptions of social norms. Although these cognitions have not been part of the traditional conceptualization of the self-regulation framework, they have been incorporated into expanded versions of the self-regulation framework, such as the Cognitive-Social Health Information Processing (C-SHIP) model (Miller, Shoda, Hurley, 1996; Miller & Diefenbach, 1998). Rather than focusing on the role of the six illness attributes, their interactions with affect, and their effect on health behaviors, the C-SHIP takes a more expansive view of the different variables that effect behavior. Specifically, this model postulates the existence of five units through which different cognitive and emotional variables are being processed. The following processing units have been postulated:

  • encodings and constructs (e.g., personal risk perceptions)
  • beliefs and expectations (e.g., self-efficacy expectations, optimism, illness beliefs)
  • goals and values (e.g., the goal of being physically fit and to value ones health)
  • affect and emotions (e.g., cancer-relevant anxieties and worries)
  • self-regulatory competencies and skills (e.g., coping skills)

The units are linked through a network of connections that variously are activated or inhibited. For example, a person is likely to adhere to a recommendation to get screened for breast cancer, if she feels at risk for breast caner, is optimistic that the mammogram will be negative, prizes her health, is moderately worried about developing cancer, and has the necessary personal and financial resources and skills to obtain a mammogram. To date, the C-SHIP has found most of its application in behavioral research with cancer patients.

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