‘Very small effects of an imagery-based randomized trial to promote adherence to wearing face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic and identification of future intervention targets’

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Abstract

Objective: Mental imagery interventions are a cost-effective way of promoting health behaviour change. We tested a mental imagery intervention designed to promote adherence to wearing face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Design: A four-arm randomized controlled trial to explore potential mechanisms of action. Main outcome measures: Measures of behaviour (frequency of self-reported face covering adherence), theory of planned behaviour constructs (i.e., intention, attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioural control), personality traits, imagery ability and barrier self-efficacy were measured at baseline (T1). Behaviour was also assessed at four-week follow up (T2). Results: Of 297 participants, a majority always wore face coverings (N = 216, 73% overall sample). Logistic regression analyses revealed no intervention effects on changes in adherence to wearing face coverings, though T1 wearing of face coverings and being male predicted T2 behaviour. Subgroup analysis of participants with ‘suboptimal T1 adherence’, revealed that T2 non-adherence was predicted by being a non-student and by subjective norms and less intention to wear face coverings. Conclusion: Imagery-based interventions to increase face covering wearing adherence may exert significant public health effects but only when conducted on a very large scale. Our findings suggest that interventions should target men and disrupt habitual past behaviour.
Key words: mental imagery intervention; behaviour change; COVID-19; face coverings; habitual past behaviour
Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychology and Health
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 24 Nov 2021

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