The theory of motivation for protection: what it is and what it explains

People tend to act differently when we see our health at risk.

An attempt has been made to explain these differences by various theories of health psychology. Today we will meet one of them, Rogers’ theory of motivation for protection.

The theory is that there are many effective and inexpensive behaviors that people can adopt to reduce the risk of getting sick. But on what does it depend on whether or not we practice such behaviors? We will see that later.

    Health psychology

    The term health psychology was originally coined by Matarazzo in 1982, who defines this discipline as a set of contributions from education, science and psychology, which aim to promote and maintain health as well as to prevent and treat disease.

    To maintain or improve health, people we implement health behaviors (For example, stop smoking, walk 30 min. A day, …).

    We will analyze the components of protective motivation theory that enable the execution of these behaviors.

    The theory of motivation for protection

    The theory of motivation for protection was raised in 1975 by RW Rogers and reformulated in 1987 by Rippetoe and Rogers. the theory proposes the motivation to protect variable to explain health behaviors.

    Thus, motivation is what drives the behavioral adaptation process and ultimately triggers the behavior (Umeh, 2004; Milne et al., 2002).

    Specifically, in order for the health behavior to be triggered, a worrying behavior must first manifest itself. This, in turn, will result from the combination of two elements which we will see below. From these two evaluations will emerge the motivation to act, which will guide the response to the confrontation to finally manifest the behavior.

    1. Threat assessment

    Fear of illness or disease predisposes to action (For example, when you smoke and cough a lot).

    In turn, this element consists of the perception of severity (the possible harm to be suffered) and susceptibility (the level of risk in which the person is in), in addition to the intrinsic benefits of risky behavior.

    2. Assessment of coping behavior

    It is the probability of success perceived by the person, that is to say the perception that he has that his response will be effective in reducing the threat, in addition to the perception of self-efficacy (The person can take preventive measures).

    These variables will provide the person a perspective on the costs and benefits of performing a behavior.

      How do you arrive at a healthy behavior?

      The cognitive responses triggered by these two evaluations, they will be added to the person’s belief system.

      The result will be that he will eventually generate adaptive or maladaptive responses, depending on whether he finds some degree of relationship between the threat and the preventive behavior (i.e. whether he believes or not that the threat will be. reduced by its behavior).

      In the context in which the person finds himself and where he interacts, there are a number of facilitators or inhibitors, which will intervene in these behaviors.

      Assessment of coping behavior

      The most important theory of motivation in protection is the person’s assessment of their adaptive behavior, Already commented.

      Thus, a positive assessment (believing that you will be able to perform the behavior and that this will reduce the risk of getting sick) will motivate the person to act for the benefit of their health.

      Examples might be avoiding alcohol or smoking, exercising, Take less sugars, etc.

      Applications: the field of health

      The theory of motivation for protection has been studied in medicine. For example, an article by Milne et al (2002) highlighted the importance of motivation in predicting behavioral intention in coronary heart disease care and prevention, although it is not the only variable involved.

      The intentionality of behavior too is the key to increasing treatment adherence, For example in the case of children with diseases.

      However, not always when the person is afraid of a threat to their health, it triggers preventive behavior. To do this, it is also necessary to give a positive evaluation of the coping behaviors, that is, to believe that the behavior will be effective.

      In addition, the intentionality of the behavior is necessary, but not always sufficient because, as we have seen, other variables are often involved.

      These variables modulate this intentionality. Some of them have or do not have the opportunity to implement the behavior, the information we have, the strength of will or the ability to stay motivated.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Milne, Sarah et al. (2002). Combination of motivational and voluntary interventions to promote exercise participation: theory of protective motivation and implementation intentions. British Journal of Health Psychology, n.7.pp.163-184.
      • Umeh, Kanayo. (2004). Cognitive assessments, maladaptive adaptation and past behavior in protective motivation. Psychology and health, V.19, n 6, pp. 719-735. London.
      • Salamanca, A. and Giraldo, C. (2012). Cognitive and cognitive social models in prevention and health promotion. Journal of Psychological Vanguard, 2 (2), 185-202.

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