Changing automatic behavior through self-monitoring: Does overt change also imply implicit change?

Joyce Maas*, Lars Hietbrink, Mike Rinck, Ger P. J. Keijsers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Background and objectives: 

Self-monitoring of unwanted behavior is a common component of effective cognitive-behavioral therapy. Self-monitoring has often shown to lead to decreases in undesirable behavior. To investigate the underlying mechanisms of these 'reactive effects', we investigated whether behavioral changes as a result of self-monitoring were accompanied by changes in explicit and implicit evaluation. For this purpose, monitoring of snack-eating was compared to monitoring of alcohol-drinking, since reactive effects are found absent in alcohol-drinking.


Implicit evaluations (Affective Priming Task), estimated frequency and satisfaction of consumption (Snacks and Drinks Questionnaire) were assessed before and after a 15-day self-monitoring period. Consumption was measured using self-monitoring forms. Participants were randomly assigned to a group that either monitored snack-eating behavior (experimental group) or to a group that monitored alcohol-drinking behavior (control group).


After self-monitoring, consumption only decreased in the experimental group, although both groups estimated their snack-eating frequency to be higher after self-monitoring. Explicit satisfaction of the habit remained the same but self-monitoring did result in a slightly more implicit negative evaluation of the monitored substance in both groups. In both groups, participants were less satisfied with their snack-eating behavior than with their alcohol-drinking behavior.


Self-monitoring reduced snack-eating but not alcohol-drinking. In both groups, self-monitoring appeared to be accompanied by small implicit, but not explicit changes in evaluation. Changes in evaluation apparently do not lead to actual behavioral change on their own. Other factors are expected to be involved as well, such as dissatisfaction at the start of monitoring. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-284
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Habits
  • Self-monitoring
  • Implicit evaluation
  • Automaticity


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