Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Jeff D. Green


Just as scientists develop general conceptual explanations of the phenomena they investigate, individuals also develop intuitive theories about such human characteristics as intelligence, personality, and athletic ability. These theories, unlike scientist's theories, are not explicitly articulated or documented, and so they are termed implicit theories. Implicit theories, in achievement motivation, distinguish between the belief that human attributes are fixed (entity theory) or malleable (incremental theory) and have been shown to have far-reaching consequences for motivation, goal-orientations, and regulatory strategies in an array of domains. This dissertation extended implicit theories research to the domain of body-weight management. Drawing from an elaborate theoretical framework on implicit theories and health behavior research, the present work predicted that (a) individuals differ systematically in their beliefs about the malleability of body weight and (b) these implicit beliefs are related to coping and self-regulation strategies following dieting setbacks. To test these hypotheses, I first developed the Implicit Theories of Weight Management Scale and examined its psychometric properties. Results revealed internal reliability and convergent and discriminant validity. Implicit theories of weight management were moderately related to health and dieting locus of control but were distinct from personality dimensions such as the Big Five and trait optimism. Psychometric properties of the scale are presented and discussed. Next, I tested the hypothesis that implicit theories of weight management would be related to adaptive regulatory strategies (e.g., increased motivation) and to maladaptive coping (e.g., avoidance) following dieting setbacks and that this relation would be mediated by feelings of helplessness and optimism, and by attributions. Results largely supported these conjectures, revealing that even after controlling for constructs related to successful dieting (e.g., dieting self-confidence, trait self-control), believing more strongly that weight is changeable was related to lower reported use of avoidance when coping with setbacks and more effort. Additionally, feelings of helplessness and optimism mediated the implicit theories-self-regulatory relations. Results are discussed in terms of how implicit theories create the structure in which meaning is assigned to events and are therefore important for achievement and motivation. Implications and avenues for future research are presented.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008

Included in

Psychology Commons