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Our main research interest concerns the involvement of affective experiences (cognitively unmediated, pleasant/unpleasant feelings) and automatic internal processes (e.g. spontaneous thoughts and emotional memories) in motivational processes.

Our research is guided by the position that the role of affective reactions provoked by physical exertion is underestimated in current psychological models of health behavior change (exercise and sport).

The theoretical basis for our work is provided by the "dual mode theory" (Ekkekakis, 2003) and the "affective-reflective theory of physical inactivity and exercise" (Brand & Ekkekakis, 2018/2021). Methodologically, we are guided the idea that questionnaires can sometimes only provide limited reliable data on the relevant psychological events, so that additional behavioral (e.g. reaction time-based tests) and psychophysiological methods (e.g. to measure changing heart rate variability after stimulus presentation) are needed.

Selected research areas and projects

Spontaneous thoughts and emotional memories

Within this research focus, we are interested in the associations that automatically arise, when people are confronted sport and exercise information (e.g. seeing the jogging shoes, thinking about a gym class). Of particular interest for our research is the emotional (i.e. affective) domain of such spontaneous associations, e.g. a bad gut feeling when seeing running shoes, and resulting exercise behavior or inactivity.
We automatically record affective associations with exercising using reaction time-based measures (e.g. Implicit Association Test) in combination with psychophysiological measures (e.g. heart rate variability after stimulus presentation).

Affective experiences during Physical education classes

At the core of this research focus are the questions:
How do children feel during physical education (i.e. affective experience)?
How much and how intensively do they actually move during PE lessons (e.g. measurement with the help of smart shirts)?
The central assumption is that the intensity of exercising is relevant for the resulting affective experience during PE lessons.
Furthermore, interactions between specific lesson content and affective reactions, as well as future exercise behavior are examined.

Exercise-related decision-making

This research focus is examines the decision-making processes that (can) lead to sport and exercise. For example, do I decide to go to my exercise class in the evening or is the barbecue evening with friends more attractive?
Among other things, we are investigating how such a decision-making situation can be measured by computer (e.g. image presentation of two behavioral alternatives), how quickly people decide between behavioral alternatives (i.e. based on reaction time) or whether our eye movements during the image presentation (i.e. eye-tracking) reveal something about our subsequent decisions.