The self-regulation of face touching - a preregistered experiment testing if-then plans as a means to promote COVID-19 prevention

Lucas Keller, Marie Claire Kabengele, Peter M. Gollwitzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: Reducing face touching could help slow COVID-19’s spread. We tested whether implementation intentions, a simple-to-use behaviour change intervention, reduce face-touching behaviour effectively. Design: In this pre-registered online study, we utilised a novel way to collect behavioural data during a pandemic. We obtained video recordings of 156 adults while performing three engaging tasks for four minutes each. After the baseline task, participants formed the goal to avoid touching their faces; some participants also formed implementation intentions, targeting either the frequency or duration of face touching. Main Outcome Measures: The 468 videos were rated by two independent raters for face touching frequency and duration. Results: Face touching was widespread. Compared to the baseline, there was a slight reduction in the frequency of face touching after the experimental manipulations. We observed a significant decrease in the length of face touching only for participants with duration-focused implementation intentions. Conclusion: While implementation intentions have effectively downregulated other unwanted behaviours, they did not reduce the frequency of face-touching behaviour. Still, duration-focused implementation intentions appear to be a promising strategy for face-touching behaviour change. This highlights the need for further optimisation and field research to test the effectiveness of implementation intentions in everyday life contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPsychology and Health
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Face touching
  • behaviour change
  • motivation
  • self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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