Relative autonomy and excuse-making: how do excuses affect commitment to exercise goals?
Thacher, Tara May
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In this thesis, I proposed that individuals high in relative autonomy toward exercise would make fewer excuses for personal goal failures and that endorsement of certain types of excuses would foster commitment/internalization toward exercise, limiting future excuse-making. Excuses were expected to vary in effectiveness at removing culpability and enhancing commitment. In 3 studies, relative autonomy was measured or primed. Participants considered past personal goal failures, and sometimes provided excuses, and in one study, participants received expert excuse tolerant/intolerant feedback. Contrary to predictions, excuse-making was similar across all levels of relative autonomy. The results showed, however, that (a) some excuses effectively remove culpability for failure and maintain commitment to exercise goals; (b) such excuses are used more frequently than their less effective counterparts and that this selective may be stronger for those high in relative autonomy toward exercise; and (c) an excuse-tolerant social environment can foster commitment/internalization of exercise goals.