Research Topic

New Developments in the Intention-Behavior Gap for Physical Activity – Recent Trends, Controversies, and a Critical Outlook

About this Research Topic

Physical activity (PA) plays a predominant role in health promotion and disease prevention. Despite strong intentions, individuals often refrain from acting on intended behaviors due to various barriers (e.g., high levels of stress, other priorities, waning motivation). This so-called intention-behavior gap can be overcome by self-regulation, which is a central aspect of goal-directed human behavior and can be defined as a process in which a person modifies his or her thoughts, feelings, moods, and impulses as well as other dominant response tendencies to bring them in line with his or her goals, aims, or norms. Recent research has highlighted the importance of integrating explicit (e.g., motivational, and volitional processes) and implicit processes (e.g., habitual processes) to explain human behavior. However, it is still unclear, how explicit, and implicit processes work together and, for example, if they operate in parallel (additive pattern) or may also interact (synergistically) in predicting PA behavior.

The aims of the current Research Topic are to expand our understanding of PA regulation, to identify the relevant processes affecting and bridging the intention-behavior gap, and to develop and evaluate treatments to promote and maintain PA behavior. Dual-process theories (Brand & Ekkekakis, 2018; Hofmann, Friese, & Strack, 2009; Strack & Deutsch, 2004; Strobach et al., 2020), action control theories (Rhodes & Yao, 2015), and integrated models of health behavior (Hagger & Hamilton, 2020) provide promising frameworks to examine and get new insights in the adoption and maintenance of PA behavior. We therefore encourage authors to consider developments of new theoretical paradigms and ideas (e.g., role of executive functions, effort, self-regulation), innovative quantitative measures, as well as innovative research designs and interventions, such as ambulatory assessment, objective measures, physical activity and sport performance, application of qualitative research designs or mixed methods.

We welcome submissions on the following specific themes:
• Exercise and Sport Psychology:

o Which are the relevant factors affecting the physical activity intention-behavior gap?

o Which implicit (automatic) and explicit (reflective) factors promote physical activity adoption and maintenance?

o Which novel theoretical considerations can improve our understanding of the IBG?

• Prevention and health promotion:

o Do implicit and explicit processes explain PA behavior in an additive or an interactive (synergistic) pattern?

o How can implicit (automatic) and explicit (reflective) factors be influenced in order to promote an active lifestyle?

• Physical Education

o What are the antecedents and consequences of implicit (automatic) and explicit (reflective) processes in physical education for students and teachers?

o Which competencies are required to successfully cope with challenges in physical education?

o Are there physical education curricula that can promote a healthy lifestyle?

Authors may submit the following Article Types:

• Original Research
• Systematic Review/Meta-analysis
• Methods
• Review
• Mini Review
• Perspective
• Brief Research Report
• General Commentary
• Opinion
• Registered Report


Keywords: physical activity, exercise, intention-behavior-gap, self-control, sports, effort, motivation, habit, executive functions, implicit and explicit processes


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Physical activity (PA) plays a predominant role in health promotion and disease prevention. Despite strong intentions, individuals often refrain from acting on intended behaviors due to various barriers (e.g., high levels of stress, other priorities, waning motivation). This so-called intention-behavior gap can be overcome by self-regulation, which is a central aspect of goal-directed human behavior and can be defined as a process in which a person modifies his or her thoughts, feelings, moods, and impulses as well as other dominant response tendencies to bring them in line with his or her goals, aims, or norms. Recent research has highlighted the importance of integrating explicit (e.g., motivational, and volitional processes) and implicit processes (e.g., habitual processes) to explain human behavior. However, it is still unclear, how explicit, and implicit processes work together and, for example, if they operate in parallel (additive pattern) or may also interact (synergistically) in predicting PA behavior.

The aims of the current Research Topic are to expand our understanding of PA regulation, to identify the relevant processes affecting and bridging the intention-behavior gap, and to develop and evaluate treatments to promote and maintain PA behavior. Dual-process theories (Brand & Ekkekakis, 2018; Hofmann, Friese, & Strack, 2009; Strack & Deutsch, 2004; Strobach et al., 2020), action control theories (Rhodes & Yao, 2015), and integrated models of health behavior (Hagger & Hamilton, 2020) provide promising frameworks to examine and get new insights in the adoption and maintenance of PA behavior. We therefore encourage authors to consider developments of new theoretical paradigms and ideas (e.g., role of executive functions, effort, self-regulation), innovative quantitative measures, as well as innovative research designs and interventions, such as ambulatory assessment, objective measures, physical activity and sport performance, application of qualitative research designs or mixed methods.

We welcome submissions on the following specific themes:
• Exercise and Sport Psychology:

o Which are the relevant factors affecting the physical activity intention-behavior gap?

o Which implicit (automatic) and explicit (reflective) factors promote physical activity adoption and maintenance?

o Which novel theoretical considerations can improve our understanding of the IBG?

• Prevention and health promotion:

o Do implicit and explicit processes explain PA behavior in an additive or an interactive (synergistic) pattern?

o How can implicit (automatic) and explicit (reflective) factors be influenced in order to promote an active lifestyle?

• Physical Education

o What are the antecedents and consequences of implicit (automatic) and explicit (reflective) processes in physical education for students and teachers?

o Which competencies are required to successfully cope with challenges in physical education?

o Are there physical education curricula that can promote a healthy lifestyle?

Authors may submit the following Article Types:

• Original Research
• Systematic Review/Meta-analysis
• Methods
• Review
• Mini Review
• Perspective
• Brief Research Report
• General Commentary
• Opinion
• Registered Report


Keywords: physical activity, exercise, intention-behavior-gap, self-control, sports, effort, motivation, habit, executive functions, implicit and explicit processes


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

31 December 2021 Abstract
31 May 2022 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

31 December 2021 Abstract
31 May 2022 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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