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Mental contrasting as a behaviour change technique: a systematic review protocol paper of effects, mediators and moderators on healthBackground Mental contrasting is a self-regulation strategy that is required for strong goal commitment. In mental contrasting, individuals firstly imagine a desired future or health goal that contrasted with the reality proceeding the goal state, which after reflection is viewed as an obstacle (Oettingen et al. J Pers Soc Psychol 80:736–753, 2001). Mentally contrasting a positive future with reality enables individuals to translate positive attitudes and high efficacy into strong goal commitment. Methods A systematic review of the literature is proposed to explore the efficacy of mental contrasting as a behaviour change technique (Michie et al., Ann Behav Med 46: 81-95, 2013) for health. The review also aims to identify the effects of mental contrasting on health-related behaviour, as well as identifying mediator and moderator variables. Discussion This will be the first systematic review of mental contrasting as a health behaviour change technique. With sufficient studies, a meta-analysis will be conducted with sensitivity and sub group analyses. If meta-analysis is not appropriate, a narrative synthesis of the reviewed studies will be conducted. Systematic review registration Review protocol registered on PROSPERO reference CRD42016034202.