Using mental contrasting with implementation intentions to self-regulate insecurity-based behaviors in relationships

Abstract

In relationships, behaviors aimed at alleviating insecurity often end up increasing it instead. The present research tested whether a self-regulatory technique, mental contrasting with implementation intentions (MCII), can help people reduce the frequency with which they engage in insecurity-based behaviors. Participants in romantic relationships identified an insecurity-based behavior they wanted to reduce and learned the MCII strategy, a reverse control strategy, or no strategy. One week later, participants in the MCII condition showed a greater reduction in the self-reported frequency of their unwanted behavior compared to participants in the control conditions, as well as a greater increase in relationship commitment from 2 months prior to the intervention.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Adding frequency of insecurity-based behavior measured at Time 1 as covariate did not change the pattern of results; main effect of condition, F(2, 112) = 6.04, p < .005. Participants in the MCII condition reported to engage in their targeted behavior less often, M = −1.65, SE = 0.21, as compared to participants in the Reverse strategy condition, M = −0.98, SE = 0.22, t(112) = 2.17, p = .03, and to participants in the No strategy condition, M = −0.59, SE = 0.22, t(112) = 3.42, p = .001.

  2. 2.

    Adding the baseline commitment as covariate did not change the pattern of results; main effect of condition, F(2, 112) = 5.82, p < .005. Participants in the MCII condition reported stronger commitment, M = 0.22, SE = 0.13, as compared to those in the Reverse strategy condition, M = −0.10, SE = 0.13, t(112) = 1.78, p < .08, and in the No strategy condition, M = −0.39, SE = 0.13, t(112) = 3.41, p = .001.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Juliane Albert for research assistance.

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Correspondence to Sylviane Houssais or Gabriele Oettingen.

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Houssais, S., Oettingen, G. & Mayer, D. Using mental contrasting with implementation intentions to self-regulate insecurity-based behaviors in relationships. Motiv Emot 37, 224–233 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-012-9307-4

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Keywords

  • Insecurity
  • Relationships
  • Self-regulation
  • Mental contrasting with implementation intentions (MCII)