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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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