Connectionism and behavioral clusters: Differential patterns in predicting expectations to engage in health behaviors

Gabriel Nudelman, Shoshana Shiloh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background The traditional approach to health behavior research uses a single model to explain one behavior at a time. However, health behaviors are interrelated and different factors predict certain behaviors better than others. Purpose To conceptualize groups of health behaviors as memory events that elicit various beliefs. A connectionist approach was used to examine patterns of construct activation related to expectations to engage in health behavior clusters. Methods A sample of lay people (N = 1,709) indicated their expectations to perform behaviors representing four clusters (Risk Avoidance, Nutrition & Exercise, Health Maintenance, and General Well-Being) and rated them on 14 constructs obtained from health behavior literature. Results Expectations to engage in all behavioral clusters were significantly and positively associated with "frequency of performance," "perceived behavioral control," and "anticipated regret," and negatively associated with "effort." However, each behavioral cluster was also predicted by activation of a unique pattern of predictors. Conclusions A connectionist approach can be useful for understanding how different patterns of constructs relate to specific outcomes. The findings provide a rationale for lay people's cognitive schema of health behaviors, with each behavioral cluster possessing characteristics associated with distinct predictors of expectations to engage in it. These unique activation patterns point to factors that may be particularly significant for health interventions targeting different clusters of health behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)890-901
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - 13 Sep 2018


  • Behavioral clusters
  • Behavioral expectations
  • Connectionism
  • Health behavior change models
  • Health behavior taxonomy
  • Multiple health behaviors


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