[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The present paper aims to advance the understanding of the control of human behavior by integrating two lines of literature that so far have led separate lives. First, one line of literature is concerned with the ideomotor principle of human behavior, according to which actions are represented in terms of their outcomes. The second line of literature mainly considers the role of reward signals in adaptive control. Here, we offer a combined perspective on how outcome representations and reward signals work together to modulate adaptive control processes. We propose that reward signals signify the value of outcome representations and facilitate the recruitment of control resources in situations where behavior needs to be maintained or adapted to attain the represented outcome. We discuss recent research demonstrating how adaptive control of goal-directed behavior may emerge when outcome representations are co-activated with positive reward signals.
Frontiers in Psychology 01/2013; 4:602. · 2.80 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Building on research on unconscious human goal pursuit and the dynamic nature of our mental and physical world, this study examined the idea that an unconsciously activated goal hijacks executive control for its own attainment. This "hijacking" of the executive function by an unconscious goal should be evidenced by impaired performance on an unrelated task relying on executive control. The results of 6 experiments show that subliminal activation of a socializing goal, or an idiosyncratic personal goal, or an academic goal, harmed participants' performance on an executive function task, such as inhibition of prepotent responses and detection of text errors during reading. These effects were unique to executive control, were similar when the goal was activated consciously, and were independent of task motivation and perceived inter-goal relatedness between the primed goal and task goal. Furthermore, an unconscious goal occupied executive control to advance itself more strongly when the goal had personal value. Implications for theory and research on unconscious goal pursuit and the executive function are discussed.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 06/2012; 103(3):399-415. · 5.08 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Building on previous research on the role of positive affect as implicit motivator we investigated both flexibility and rigidity in goal-directed behavior. Given that goal-directed behavior can be represented in terms of goals or means, we suggest that goal-directed behavior is more flexible in switching means when positive affect implicitly motivates a person to reach the goal, but is more rigid in switching means when positive affect implicitly motivates a person to perform a specific means. Three experiments corroborated this idea: the speed of switching from a learned goal-directed means to a new means was facilitated when positive affect was attached to the representation of the goal, whereas this switching was slowed down when positive affect was attached to the representation of the learned means. Together, these findings provide new insights into the occurrence of flexibility and rigidity in implicitly motivated goal-directed behavior.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology - J EXP SOC PSYCHOL. 01/2012;
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The conscious experience of self-agency (i.e., the feeling that one causes one's own actions and their outcomes) is fundamental to human self-perception. Four experiments explored how experienced self-agency arises from a match between nonconsciously activated outcome representations and the subsequent production of the outcome and explored specifically how implicit motivation to produce the outcome may impinge on this process. Participants stopped a rapidly presented sequence of colors on a computer screen. Subsequently, they were presented with what could be the color on which they had stopped the sequence or a color that was randomly chosen by the computer. Agency ratings after each trial revealed that priming outcomes (a specific color) just before the outcome was produced enhanced experienced self-agency. Importantly, priming outcomes relatively far in advance also augmented self-agency, but only if the outcome was attached to positive affect and thus operating as a nonconscious goal maintaining the outcome representation active over time. As such, these studies show how the mechanisms underlying nonconscious goal pursuit promote experiences of self-agency, thus integrating 2 lines of research that so far have led separate lives.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 06/2009; 96(5):967-79. · 5.08 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The mere activation of the idea of a behavioral act moves the human body without the person consciously deciding to take action. In an experiment, we showed that people subliminally primed with the concept of exertion were faster to squeeze a hand grip forcefully but expended more effort when the subliminal primes were directly accompanied by consciously visible positive stimuli. These findings demonstrate the human capacity to rely on mental processes in preparing and motivating behavior outside of awareness.