Buffering against weight gain following dieting setbacks: An implicit theory intervention

Jeni L. Burnette*, Eli J Finkel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Research on implicit theories suggests that incremental beliefs-that attributes are malleable-can help buffer people against the adverse effects of setbacks on goal achievement. We conducted a longitudinal experiment to examine whether an incremental beliefs intervention could help dieters manage their body weight in the face of severe dieting setbacks. To explore the efficacy of our incremental beliefs intervention, we randomly assigned individuals to a control, a knowledge, or an incremental beliefs condition. In addition to examining the main effect of intervention condition on weight-loss across a 12-week period, we also tested the hypothesis that although participants assigned to the control or knowledge intervention condition would gain more weight as dieting setbacks became more severe, participants assigned to the incremental beliefs condition would not. Results supported this hypothesis: Incremental beliefs protected against setback-related weight-gain. Implications for integrating implicit beliefs interventions with obesity relapse prevention programs are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)721-725
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2012


  • Dieting setback
  • Implicit theory
  • Incremental belief
  • Intervention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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