Paschal Sheeran

PhD, Professor, Psychology, UNC-Chapel Hill, Cancer Prevention and Control

Professor, Psychology
UNC-Chapel Hill
Cancer Prevention and Control

Area of interest

I am a social psychologist and conduct research on health behavior change. There are four strands to this work:
1. A key focus has been the intention-behavior ‘gap. My colleagues and I have shown that people successfully translate (even strong) intentions into action only about 50% of the time (e.g., Orbell & Sheeran, 1998; Sheeran, 2002). Our research also pinpointed several factors that determine the consistency between intentions and behaviour (Sheeran, & Webb, 2012).
2. A concomitant line of research uses if-then plans or implementation intentions to reduce the intention-behavior ‘gap’ and increase performance of important health behaviors. A series of RCTs has shown that forming if-then plans reduced pregnancy rates among teenagers (by 42% over two years; Martin, Sheeran et al., 2011), enhanced medication adherence among patients with epilepsy (Brown, Sheeran, & Reuber, 2009), and improved attendance for cervical cancer screening (Sheeran & Orbell, 2000), inter alia.
3. A third line of research is concerned with providing critical tests of health behavior theories. This work uses meta-analysis to assess how much change in health-related intentions and behavior accrues from interventions that change risk perceptions, fear/worry, perceptions of severity, attitudes, social norms, and self-efficacy (e.g., Sheeran, Harris, & Epton, 2013).
4. Recent work has begun to examine nonconscious routes to action and the self-regulation of unwanted, nonconscious influences (Gollwitzer, Sheeran et al., 2011; Rivis & Sheeran, 2013; Sheeran, Gollwitzer, & Bargh, 2013).

Awards and Honors

2013 Elected Fellow of the Association of Psychological Science
2012 Elected Fellow of the European Health Psychology Society
2012 Elected Fellow of the British Psychological Society
2011 Elected Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences
2010 Elected Fellow of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology

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