The findings suggest that this tactic, called a "strategic self-presentation," helped the middle school students boost their personal concept of their own health and their confidence to make improvements in their diet and activity, which may have led to higher fruit and vegetable consumption.
The study results, by Dawn K. Wilson, Ph.D., of the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina and colleagues, are published in the December issue of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.
Wilson examined different strategies for increasing fruit and vegetable intake among 53 African American students, ages 11 to 15, who were enrolled in an after-school intramural sports program. The students answered questions about their personal health outlook and diet and exercise motivation, reported their food intake over a three-day period and wore an activity monitor for four days.
Specifically, the study authors compared three different treatment strategies: an education-only program, a behavioral skills approach that teaches individuals how to attain certain health goals and a third method that combined behavioral skills learning with a motivational technique called strategic self-presentation
Strategic self-presentation "is based on the proposition that one's public displays shape a person's private self," Wilson explains. "That is, how we present ourselves to others has a powerful influence on how we come to conceive of ourselves and subsequently behave."
In this case, the students in that group were videotaped while they were interviewed about their own coping strategies for changing diet and exercise routines. The students could make changes to the videotape after viewing themselves.