Supporting sustainable food consumption: Mental contrasting with implementation intentions (MCII) aligns intentions and behavior

Laura S. Loy, Frank Wieber, Peter M. Gollwitzer, Gabriele Oettingen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


With growing awareness that sustainable consumption is important for quality of life on earth, many individuals intend to act more sustainably. In this regard, interest in reducing meat consumption is on the rise. However, people often do not translate intentions into actual behavior change. To address this intention-behavior gap, we tested the self-regulation strategy of mental contrasting with implementation intentions (MCII). Here, people identify and imagine a desired future and current obstacles standing in its way. They address the obstacles with if-then plans specifying when, where, and how to act differently. In a 5-week randomized controlled experimental study, we compared an information + MCII intervention with an information-only control intervention. As hypothesized, only MCII participants' intention of reducing their meat consumption was predictive of their actual reduction, while no correspondence between intention and behavior change was found for control participants. Participants with a moderate to strong intention to reduce their meat consumption reduced it more in the MCII than in the control condition. Thus, MCII helped to narrow the intention-behavior gap and supported behavior change for those holding moderate and strong respective intentions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number607
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberAPR
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016



  • Behavior change intervention
  • Implementation intention
  • Intention-behavior gap
  • Meat consumption
  • Mental contrasting
  • Sustainable consumption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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