Changing health behaviors is critical to addressing many of the leading indicators of disease morbidity and mortality and to improving population health. In the Health Behavior Lab, we approach the issue of changing health behaviors by addressing theoretically-guided questions about how affect and cognition influence engagement in health behaviors and by using knowledge of these basic psychological processes to develop innovative interventions to target health behavior change. In our research in the Health Behavior Lab, we focus primarily on understanding, and intervening on, physical activity and vaccinations.

Below, we describe these different lines of research in greater detail, and highlight some of our prior research and current projects.

Affective and cognitive factors in physical activity

Our emotions and thoughts (i.e., affect and cognition) about physical activity influence how frequently and how much individuals engage in physical activity. In the Health Behavior Lab, we are interested in understanding the role of affect and cognition as antecedents to physical activity, and how affect and cognition are affected by engagement in physical activity. Our work focuses on understanding affective and cognitive experiences with physical activity (e.g., satisfaction), how different affective and cognitive factors (e.g., expectations, self-efficacy, enjoyment) change as the result of engaging in physical activity, and methodological and measurement issues that advance understanding of these constructs and their relation to physical activity.

Some of our prior research in this area:

Baldwin, A.S., & Sala. M. (2018). Perceived satisfaction with health behavior change. In D. Williams, R. Rhodes, & M. Conner (Eds.), Affective Determinants of Health Behavior (pp. 69 – 89). Oxford University Press.

Stevens, C.J., Baldwin, A.S., Bryan, A.D., Conner, M., Rhodes, R.E., & Williams, D.M. (2020). Affective determinants of physical activity: A conceptual framework and narrative review. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 568331.

Kangas, J.L., Baldwin, A.S., Rosenfield, D., Rethorst, C.D., & Smits, J.A.J. (2015). Examining the moderating effect of depressive symptoms on the relation between exercise and self-efficacy during the initiation of regular exercise. Health Psychology, 34, 556-565.

Sala, M., Baldwin, A.S., & Williams, D.M. (2016). Affective and cognitive predictors of affective response to exercise: Examining unique and overlapping variance. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 27, 1-8.

Chmielewski, M., Sala, M., Tang, R., & Baldwin, A.S. (2016). Examining the construct validity of affective judgments of physical activity measures. Psychological Assessment, 28, 1128-1141.

Baldwin, S.A., Fellingham, G.W., & Baldwin, A.S. (2016). Statistical models for positively skewed physical activity data in health research and behavioral medicine. Health Psychology, 35, 552-562.

Our current projects:

Optimizing measures of experiences with exercise 

Individuals’ evaluations of their experiences with exercise are theorized to be central to maintaining exercise over time. Together with Mike Chmielewski, we are using state-of-the-science scale development methods to develop psychometically sound measures of exercise experiences (e.g., affective, cognitive, social). Findings from this project will clarify how different exercise experiences are distinct from each other and will result in valid measures to assess different experiences. You can find out more about this study and how to participate in it here.


Early-phase intervention development and optimization

Interventions designed to change health behaviors need to be effective and scalable to have a meaningful impact on individual and population health. In the Health Behavior Lab, we work to develop and test health behavior change interventions that are designed to be scalable and conduct early-phase testing of the interventions and components. We have developed and tested early-phase interventions for adolescent human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination and for physical activity, research that has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Questions in our intervention optimization work focus on testing separate intervention components effects (i.e., Which components are active and which are inert?), elucidating mechanisms of the components (i.e., Why components are or are not effective?), and identifying intervention moderators (i.e., For whom is the intervention most effective?).

Some of our prior research in this area:

Baldwin, A.S., Zhu, H., Rochefort, C.R., Marks, E., Fullington, H.M., Rodriguez, S.A., Kassa, S., & Tiro, J.A. (2021). Mechanisms of self-persuasion intervention for HPV vaccination: Testing memory and autonomous motivation. Health Psychology, 40, 887-896.

Baldwin, A.S., Denman, D.C., Sala, M., Marks, E.G., Shay, L.A., Fuller, S., Persaud, D., Lee, S.C., Skinner, C.S., Wiebe, D.J., & Tiro, J.T. (2017). Translating self-persuasion into an HPV vaccine promotion intervention for safety-net patients. Patient Education and Counseling, 100, 736-741.

Denman, D.C., Baldwin. A.S., Marks, E.G., Lee, S.C., & Tiro, J.A. (2016). Modification and validation of the Treatment Self Regulation Questionnaire to assess parental motivation for HPV vaccination of adolescents. Vaccine, 34, 4985-4990.

Baldwin, A.S., Kangas, J.L., Denman, D.C., Smits, J.A.J., Yamada, T., & Otto, M.W. (2016). Cardiorespiratory fitness moderates the effect of an affect-guided physical activity prescription: A pilot randomized controlled trial. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 45, 445-457.

Baldwin, A.S., Lamb, C.L., Geary, B.A., Mitchell, A.D., Kouros, C.D., Levens, S., & Martin, L.E. (2022). Testing and optimizing guided thinking tasks to promote physical activity: Protocol for a randomized factorial trial. JMIR Research Protocols, 11, e40908.

Rothman, A.J., & Baldwin, A.S. (2019). A person x intervention strategy approach to understanding health behavior. In K. Deaux & M. Snyder (Eds.), Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology (2nd ed.; pp. 831-856).  Oxford University Press.

Our current projects:

GeT (Guided Thinking) Active Study 

Novel intervention strategies to increase regular physical activity need to be both effective and scalable. In this early-phase intervention development project, we are using audio-recordings of three different guided thinking intervention tasks to test the independent and combined effects of the guided thinking tasks on physical activity. We are also testing hypothesized mechanisms of each intervention task. Findings from this project will result in an optimized, audio-recorded intervention to promote physical activity that is effective and scalable. You can find out more about this study and how to participate in it here.

GeT Active and Brain Health Study

In collaboration with colleagues at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC), we are using audio-recordings of guided thinking tasks to test their effects on adherence to high-intensity interval training (HITT) among mid-life adults. We are also testing the effect of the guiding thinking intervention on neural functional connectivity between reward and regulation regions of the brain, the two neural mechanisms targeted in the intervention. Data collection for this project is occurring at KUMC.

Anticipated Regret and Seasonal Flu Vaccine Study

Anticipated regret is reliably associated with stronger vaccine intentions and higher vaccination rates. Prompting individuals to consider anticipated regret for failing to get a seasonal flu shot is a promising intervention technique to promote vaccination against seasonal influenza. In this study, we sought to test motivational mechanisms of anticipated regret and different approaches for eliciting anticipated regret for seasonal flu vaccines. Data collection is complete and we are currently writing a manuscript with the findings from this study.