Snacking now or later? Individual differences in following intentions or habits explained by time perspective

Onwezen, M.C.; Riet, J. van 't; Dagevos, H.; Sijtsema, S.J.; Snoek, H.M.


Even when individuals are aware of long-term health effects of their diet, and form healthy intentions, they often engage in relatively unhealthy snacking habits. Some individuals fall back on unhealthy habits more easily than others. We aim to explore whether time perspective can explain why some individuals are more prone to rely on habits and others on intentions. Study 1 (N = 1503) provides a first exploration of the role of time perspective by exploring individual differences in perception of long-term and short-term consequences. In accordance with our hypotheses, Study 1 shows that habits are associated with short-term consequences and intentions with long-term consequences. Study 2 (N = 1497) shows that the effects of habits on snacking behaviour are strengthened by a present time perspective, whereas the effects of intentions on snacking behaviour are strengthened by a future time perspective. These findings imply that there is a fundamental difference in the guiding function of intentions and habits which might explain individual differences in following intentions versus habits. Individuals with a long-term perspective are more inclined to follow intentions and individuals with a short-term perspective are more inclined to follow habits.