Article

The Effect of Goal Visualization on Goal Pursuit: Implications for Individuals and Managers

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Abstract

This research demonstrates that as individuals approach a goal, external representations which increase the ease of visualizing this goal enhance goal pursuit. Specifically, easy-to-visualize goals are judged to be closer than harder-to-visualize goals and consequently increase effort and commitment. Ease of visualization affects performance in 1500m Olympic and Sectional swimming competitions and the physical effort exerted in the lab. Visualization also affects commitment towards savings, willingness to wait for service, and performance in a simulated sales task. Importantly, the beneficial effects of visualization exist only when individuals are close to the goal. Furthermore, the effect of visualization is attenuated when the goal is split into subgoals. Managers can use these results to enhance consumer goal pursuit (for instance, for consumers who are trying to lose weight), influence consumer satisfaction in online service encounters (such as when consumers are waiting to be helped), and to motivate employees to improve performance. In these varied contexts, visual representations of goal progress (such as progress bars) are likely to enhance motivation as individuals approach their goal.

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... In particular, the online community literature mostly highlights the critical role of incentives in affecting active community participation [12, 29]. This stream of research uses goal-setting research from the social psychology literature to explain how incentives reorganize a personal goal structure and ultimately affect behavior [8, 16, 51, 52, 54]. The goal-setting theory posits that people tend to perform better when goals are explicitly specified and achievable [10]. ...
... Goal pursuit involves the development of an action plan, coordination of actual action, evaluation of the outcome, and, if necessary, adjustments to the plan and action [8, 16, 51, 52, 54]. First, action planning addresses the question of how to achieve the goal, and it leads to a detailed plan regarding when, where, how, and how long the person should act. ...
... Such a mental representation is said to be activated automatically without conscious decision making when situated in a familiar environment. Because habitual behavior is automatic behavior guided by the internalization of repeated goal-setting processes, it is also called goaldependent automaticity [8, 16, 51, 52, 54]. Online environments have essentially no limitations with respect to time and place. ...
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... But some scholars also emphasize that quantification may not undermine or even enhance intrinsic motivation when behaviors are performed in pursuit of certain goals. With a goal, behavior is no longer aimless, and quantification is not mechanical but can help consumers visualize progress, thus enhancing intrinsic motivation (Cheema & Bagchi, 2011). While in the marketplace, consumers generally utilize quantification to pursue personally relevant goals (Etkin, 2016). ...
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