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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00736

The complexities of ‘minding the gap’: Perceived discrepancies between values and behavior affect well-being

  • 1School of Psychology, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Research on self-determination theory and clinical models such as acceptance and commitment therapy has shown that behaving in line with our values is key to maintaining healthy well-being. Combining work on values and experimental studies on moral hypocrisy and well-being, we experimentally tested how behaving incongruently with values affects well-being. We hypothesized that discrepancies between how one thinks one should have behaved and how one reported one did behave would be more detrimental to well-being when the behaviors were value-expressive and motivationally coherent compared to a control condition; greater perceived gaps between how participants feel they should have acted and how they report they did act would be associated with more negative well-being outcomes; the relationship between value manipulation and well-being would be mediated by perceived behavioral gap; and that personal values would interact with value manipulation to produce differential effects on well-being. One-hundred and fifty-eight first-year psychology students participated in an experiment designed to highlight discrepancies between how participants have behaved in accordance with a certain value and how they think they should have behaved, before reporting their well-being. As hypothesized, greater discrepancies between reported past behavior and how participants thought they should have behaved was associated with negative affect and decreased reports of positive well-being. We found no evidence for differential effects of manipulated value-expressive behaviors on well-being, or for our hypotheses that personal values and manipulated value-expressive behaviors interact. Nevertheless, value content mattered in terms of inducing perceived behavioral gaps. Our study suggests that perceived discrepancies between any value and reported past behavior can have a negative impact on some aspects of well-being. We discuss how the application of our methodology can be used in further studies to disentangle the value-behavior nexus.

Keywords: Values, Behavior, Well-being, self-determination theory, ACT

Received: 09 Apr 2018; Accepted: 16 Mar 2019.

Edited by:

Paul H. Hanel, University of Bath, United Kingdom

Reviewed by:

Joanne N. Sneddon, University of Western Australia, Australia
Lukas F. Litzellachner, University of Bath, United Kingdom  

Copyright: © 2019 Chrystal, Karl and Fischer. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Ms. Megan Chrystal, Victoria University of Wellington, School of Psychology, Wellington, New Zealand, chrystmega@myvuw.ac.nz