Prototypes (i.e., social images representing perceptions of typical persons engaging in or refraining from certain behaviour) have been shown to explain health-related behaviours. The present meta-analysis quantified the strength of the associations of prototype perceptions with health motivation and behaviour. Specifically, the analysis addressed (i) the relationship of prototype favourability (i.e., degree of likability) and similarity (i.e., perceived resemblance to the self) with behaviour, willingness and intentions; (ii) the effect of the interaction between favourability and similarity; and (iii) the extent to which health-risk and health-protective prototypes differed in their association with these outcomes. A total of 80 independent studies were identified based on 69 articles. The results indicated that prototype favourability and similarity were related to behaviour, intentions and willingness with small-to-medium effect sizes (r+ = 0.12–0.43). Direct measures of prototype perceptions generally produced larger effects than indirect measures. The interaction between favourability and similarity produced small-to-large effect sizes (r+ =.22–.54). The results suggest that both health-risk and health-protective prototypes might be useful targets for interventions (r+ =.22–.54). In order to increase health-protective behaviours, intentions and behaviour could be targeted by increasing similarity to health-protective prototypes. Health-risk behaviour might be decreased by targeting willingness by modifying health-risk prototype favourability and similarity.

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Health Psychology Review
Department of Public Health

van Lettow, B., de Vries, H., Burdorf, A., & van Empelen, P. (2016). Quantifying the strength of the associations of prototype perceptions with behaviour, behavioural willingness and intentions: a meta-analysis. Health Psychology Review, 10(1), 25–43. doi:10.1080/17437199.2014.941997