A social cognitive theory-based exploration of university students' knowledge, self-efficacy, and outcome expectations related to reducing sedentary behavior
Excessive sedentary behavior is associated with negative health-related outcomes. University students have been identified as a highly sedentary segment of the adult population. Understanding psychological factors that influence sedentary behavior in university students is critical for informing interventions. Social cognitive theory (SCT) offers a framework to explore cognitive and motivational factors that may influence sedentary behavior. Using SCT as a framework, this thesis explored university students’ knowledge, self-efficacy, and outcome expectations related to reducing sedentary behavior and examined the effects of a self-affirmation intervention on students’ processing of and social cognitive reactions to health risk information related to sedentary behavior. Study 1 found that while some students understood the concept, some did not fully understand the concept. Most students were knowledgeable about health risks associated with sedentary behavior. Students’ self-efficacy (task, context-specific) and outcome expectation beliefs related to reducing sedentary behavior were not associated with their actual sedentary behavior. Self-regulatory efficacy, however, emerged as an individual social cognitive correlate of sedentary behavior. Study 2 employed a qualitative approach (focus groups) to explore the same topics investigated in Study 1, including barriers and ideas related to reducing sedentary behavior. Three themes were identified: (1) conceptual confusion, but knowledgeable about risks, (2) confident, but unlikely to change, and (3) ideas and recommendations. Study 2 determined that some students found health risk information pertaining to sedentary behavior to be threatening. This finding informed Study 3, the aim of which was to test whether a self-affirmation intervention could improve students’ processing of and reactions to health risk information on sedentary behavior and elevate self-efficacy and outcome expectations related to reducing sedentary behavior. Self-affirmation appeared to have had no effect on measures of message acceptance, derogation, risk perceptions, negative affect, intentions, self-efficacy, or outcome expectations. Speculatively, the null effects of self-affirmation were because students may not have found health risk information related to sedentary behavior to be threatening to their self-integrity – a condition considered necessary for self-affirmation to yield benefits. Collectively, findings presented in this thesis advance knowledge of university students’ perceptions of sedentary behavior and factors that influence students’ decisions to be less sedentary.
Sedentary behaviour, University students, Social cognitive theory, Self-efficacy, Outcome expectations,