Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2013

Capstone Advisor

Dr. Craig Ewart

Honors Reader

Jessica Schoolman, M.S.

Capstone Major


Capstone College

Arts and Science

Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories

Social Sciences

Subject Categories

Medicine and Health Sciences | Psychology | Quantitative Psychology


Chronic psychological stress has been shown to increase risk for conditions such as obesity and cardiovascular disease. Social Action Theory (SAT) says that an individual's patterns of goal-oriented strivings influence his or her ability to manage stress responses as well as his or her overall exposure to stress. According to SAT, self-regulatory skills, which involve the ability to plan and maintain behavior with the intent of achieving goals, and goal motives influence an individual’s exposure and vulnerability to certain stressors. Using SAT as a framework, the present study explores the negative consequences of implicit motives on health via the body’s response to stress. This study examines the relationships between goal-oriented striving patterns and motivations to perform exercise. More specifically, the focus is on how different goals may motivate engagement in physical activity and exercise; hypothesized motives for performing exercise include the desire to attain physical attractiveness and the drive to maximize physical fitness. One hundred and three healthy undergraduate students completed questionnaires related to demographic information, exercise and dietary habits. A trained undergraduate student administered the Social Competence Interview (SCI), a brief interview that evaluates an individual's goal-oriented strivings in response to a self-reported interpersonal stressor. Analyses investigated the influence of goal striving patterns on motivation to exercise, evaluating whether individuals exhibiting a particular goal striving pattern are more likely to exercise due to a particular motivation (such as attractiveness, healthy lifestyle habits, or respect from others). It was found that individuals who exercised to seek approval did not exercise because of interest, to gain competence in an activity, or to improve their fitness level, and individuals who exercised to improve themselves did not exercise for any social benefits. Another interesting finding was that individuals exercising to seek approval tended to report not knowing why they were exercising in the first place, suggesting that individuals who do not exercise to improve themselves might be less likely to continue an exercise plan. Understanding these relationships may help researchers gain further insights about the underlying mechanisms for stress management interventions aimed at young adults. Such programs require a better understanding of how motivational interventions may be designed so that health professionals can tailor how they encourage physical activity to promote a healthy lifestyle.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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