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When Intentions Go Public


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Based on Lewinian goal theory in general and self-completion theory in particular, four experiments examined the implications of other people taking notice of one's identity-related behavioral intentions (e.g., the intention to read law periodicals regularly to reach the identity goal of becoming a lawyer). Identity-related behavioral intentions that had been noticed by other people were translated into action less intensively than those that had been ignored (Studies 1-3). This effect was evident in the field (persistent striving over 1 week's time; Study 1) and in the laboratory (jumping on opportunities to act; Studies 2 and 3), and it held among participants with strong but not weak commitment to the identity goal (Study 3). Study 4 showed, in addition, that when other people take notice of an individual's identity-related behavioral intention, this gives the individual a premature sense of possessing the aspired-to identity.
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Research Article
When Intentions Go Public
Does Social Reality Widen the Intention-Behavior Gap?
Peter M. Gollwitzer,
Paschal Sheeran,
Verena Michalski,
and Andrea E. Seifert
New York University,
¨t Konstanz, and
University of Sheffield
ABSTRACT—Based on Lewinian goal theory in general and
self-completion theory in particular, four experiments ex-
amined the implications of other people taking notice of
one’s identity-related behavioral intentions (e.g., the in-
tention to read law periodicals regularly to reach the
identity goal of becoming a lawyer). Identity-related be-
havioral intentions that had been noticed by other people
were translated into action less intensively than those that
had been ignored (Studies 1–3). This effect was evident in
the field (persistent striving over 1 week’s time; Study 1)
and in the laboratory (jumping on opportunities to act;
Studies 2 and 3), and it held among participants with
strong but not weak commitment to the identity goal (Study
3). Study 4 showed, in addition, that when other people
take notice of an individual’s identity-related behavioral
intention, this gives the individual a premature sense of
possessing the aspired-to identity.
Are scientists more likely to write papers if they tell colleagues
about this intention than if they keep the intention private? It is
commonly assumed that whenever people make their intentions
public, the behavioral impact of these intentions is enhanced
(e.g., Staats, Harland, & Wilke, 2004). These effects are pos-
tulated to be a consequence of multiple processes. Research on
persuasion techniques points to one of these processes (Cialdini
& Trost, 1998). It is argued that a publicly stated behavioral
intention commits the individual to a certain self-view (e.g., ‘‘I
am a productive person’’) with which the person then acts con-
sistently. Indeed, individuals with a higher need for consistency
show stronger public-commitment effects (Cialdini, Wosinka,
Barrett, Butner, & Gornik-Durose, 1999). The second process is
referred to as accountability (Lerner & Tetlock, 1999). Making
intentions public is said to make a person accountable to the
addressed audience, and research has shown that various ac-
countability-related features of the audience (e.g., competence,
power) and the individual (e.g., identifiability, expectations of
having to explain oneself) affect the strength of public-com-
mitment effects.
Both of these lines of research focus on intentions in which the
specified behavior is a desired outcome in and of itself. Lewin
(1926) and his colleagues (e.g., Mahler, 1935; Ovsiankina,
1928), however, argued that people often construe behavioral
intentions in more general terms, thus allowing substitution of
means for attainment. For instance, consider a student who has
started an assigned math task with the intention to successfully
solve the required addition problems. During the process, this
student may construe the intention as being to demonstrate
mathematical skills, and this conceptually broader intention
may also be reached by solving subtraction problems (i.e., by
substitute activities). Ovsiankina and Mahler observed that a
substitute activity engenders a sense of having reached the
conceptually broader intention, given that performance of the
substitute activity has been witnessed by other people (i.e., has
become a social reality). On the basis of this line of thought—
which we explicate in the framework of self-completion theory
(SCT; Gollwitzer & Kirchhof, 1998; Wicklund & Gollwitzer,
1982)—we propose that social recognition of an identity-rele-
vant behavioral intention may have negative effects on its en-
SCT proposes that people who are committed to identity goals
(e.g., becoming a good parent, scientist, or craftsperson) can
undertake a variety of activities to claim goal attainment. For a
scientist, such activities, or identity symbols, include engaging
in professional duties (e.g., giving lectures), making positive
self-descriptions (e.g., ‘‘I discovered a new principle!’’), exerting
identity-relevant social influence (e.g., advising students), and
acquiring skills and tools that facilitate striving for the identity
goal (e.g., programming skills, computers). However, failing to
perform an identity-relevant activity or facing the lack of an
identity symbol produces a state of incompleteness (Wicklund &
Gollwitzer, 1982). To restore completeness, the individual
makes efforts to acquire alternative identity symbols (e.g., de-
scribing oneself as having the required personality attributes:
Address correspondence to Peter M. Gollwitzer, New York Univer-
sity, Psychology Department, 6 Washington Place, 7th Floor, New
York, NY 10003, e-mail:
612 Volume 20—Number 5Copyright r2009 Association for Psychological Science
Gollwitzer & Wicklund, 1985; engaging in identity-relevant
activities: Brunstein & Gollwitzer, 1996; showing off relevant
status symbols: Harmon-Jones, Schmeichel, & Harmon-Jones,
2009). Using opportunities to affirm one’s general self-integrity
or to bolster one’s self-esteem is not sufficient to offset incom-
pleteness regarding an identity goal; rather, it is necessary to
acquire specific identity symbols (Ledgerwood, Liviatan, &
Carnevale, 2007).
SCT research has also shown that an individual reaches a
higher level of completeness when his or her identity-relevant
activities are noticed by a social audience (Gollwitzer, 1986).
Moreover, research has shown that incomplete individuals are
more concerned with finding an audience for their identity
strivings, compared with complete individuals (Brunstein &
Gollwitzer, 1996). Positive self-descriptions made in public
qualify as powerful identity symbols (Gollwitzer, Wicklund, &
Hilton, 1982), and having an audience for behavioral intentions
that specify the successful performance of an identity-relevant
activity should have the same symbolic impact. The implication
is that when other people take notice of a stated identity-relevant
behavioral intention, this should engender completeness re-
garding the superordinate identity goal, and thus reaching the
identity goal by actually performing the intended behavior
should become less necessary. In other words, people should be
less likely to translate their identity-relevant behavioral inten-
tions into action when other people have taken notice of those
intentions. We conducted four experiments entailing a variety of
identity goals and behavioral intentions to test this hypothesis.
In Study 1, we asked college students committed to becoming a
psychologist to form identity-relevant studying intentions. After
either taking notice of these intentions or ignoring them, we
assessed how effectively the students enacted their intentions
over the subsequent week.
Forty-nine psychology students (38 women, 11 men) at a Ger-
man university were recruited after introductory lectures. Par-
ticipants were informed that they would take part in a survey
about the study intentions of first-year psychology students. A
first questionnaire assessed commitment to becoming a psy-
chologist using the following items:
‘‘How important is it for you to find a psychology-related job?’’
‘‘Suppose that you could not finish your studies of psychology
successfully. How much would that bother you?’’
‘‘How happy would you be in a job that is not related to
psychology?’’ (reverse-coded)
Participants responded to these items on 9-point scales ranging
from 1, not at all,to9,very much. Responses were averaged to
form a scale (a5.80). Next, participants were asked to write
down their two most important study intentions for the forth-
coming week (e.g., ‘‘I will take my reading assignments more
seriously,’’ ‘‘I intend to study more statistics’’).
In the social-reality condition, the experimenter read through
each participant’s reported intentions, presumably to ensure
that the participant had understood the instructions. In the no-
social-reality condition, participants were told that the page of
the questionnaire on which participants had written down their
behavioral intentions had been wrongly included in the study,
and that this page would be discarded (i.e., the students’ in-
tentions remained unnoticed).
One week later, all participants were sent a second ques-
tionnaire via e-mail. They had to first write down the two be-
havioral intentions they had listed the previous week. Then, they
indicated on exactly which days of the past week they had acted
on each intention. Finally, participants were asked to bring their
completed questionnaire to the experimenter’s office, where they
received payment (h5) or course credit.
Results and Discussion
Overall, participants were highly committed to the identity goal
(range 56–9; M57.32, SD 51.64), and there was no
significant difference in commitment scores between the
social-reality condition (M57.21, SD 51.64) and the no-
social-reality condition (M57.43, SD 51.08), F<1, p>.32,
d<0.16. We analyzed the number of days participants acted on
their intentions in a 2 2 analysis of variance (ANOVA) with
social reality as the between-participants factor and the two
specified behavioral intentions as the within-participants factor.
Results showed a significant main effect of social reality, F(1,
47) 54.38, p<.05, d50.60; participants whose intentions
remained private acted on their intentions on more days of the
week (M52.70, SD 51.83) than did participants whose in-
tentions were noticed (M51.92, SD 50.78). No other effects
were significant.
An apparent strength of Study 1 is that the observed negative
effects of having one’s intentions noticed cannot easily be at-
tributed to emotions that might accrue from the experimenter’s
behavior (e.g., pride). Such affective responses should vanish
quickly, whereas the effects on behavioral enactment in Study 1
were evident over a period of 1 week. An obvious weakness of
this study, however, is that enactment of intentions was assessed
via self-report.
In Study 2, therefore, we observed actual enactment of inten-
tions. Participants were law students who formed the behavioral
intention to make use of identity-relevant educational oppor-
tunities. This intention was then either noticed by other people
or ignored. We then observed the degree to which participants
Volume 20—Number 5 613
P.M. Gollwitzer et al.
acted on their intention when such an educational opportunity
was actually provided.
Law students at a German university were approached after a
lecture and asked to fill out a three-item commitment ques-
tionnaire adapted from Study 1 (7-point answer scales were used
this time). Only participants with high commitment to becoming
a successful jurist (score 5 on each item; a5.76) were invited
to take part in the study (N532; 13 women, 19 men). The
students received h5 for their participation.
Participants were greeted individually and informed that the
experiment consisted of two independent parts. The first was
introduced as an assessment of students’ willingness to intensify
their study of law. Participants were asked to answer a four-page
questionnaire. On the first page, the following critical intention
item was presented: ‘‘I intend to make the best possible use of
educational opportunities in law.’’ Participants responded on a
9-point scale ranging from 1, definitely not,to9,definitely yes.In
the social-reality condition, after a participant completed the
questionnaire, the experimenter looked at this item and asked
whether the number circled on the answer scale was the one the
participant actually wanted to circle. Then the experimenter
dropped the questionnaire into a box. In the no-social-reality
condition, participants were simply asked to drop the ques-
tionnaire into a prepared box. As the questionnaire was anon-
ymous, it was clear to participants in this condition that the
experimenter would never be able to link the expressed inten-
tions to individual participants.
The experimenter then turned to the supposed second part of
the experiment, which concerned the development of a com-
puter-based study package for law students. New study mate-
rials were needed, so she had prepared 20 different criminal law
cases. Participants were asked to help her find which cases to
select for the package by trying hard to solve each case. The
students were given 45 min to work on the prepared cases (plus
the time needed to finish the case they were working on when the
time limit was reached), but they were told that they could finish
earlier if they wished. The time participants spent working on
these cases was used to assess how successfully participants
translated their intention into behavior.
Results and Discussion
Only participants who intended to make the best possible use of
educational opportunities (score >5) were included (30 out of
the 32 original participants). Participants worked on the law
cases for less time if this behavioral intention was noticed than if
it was ignored by the experimenter (M541.52 min, SD 54.42,
vs. M545.65 min, SD 52.92), t(29) 53.26, p<.01, d51.10.
Thus, law students—all of them highly committed to the identity
goal of being a jurist—who had stated the behavioral intention to
take advantage of educational opportunities in law acted less
intensively on this intention when it was noticed by the exper-
imenter than when it was ignored.
Studies 1 and 2 were both conducted with participants who were
highly committed to the identity goal in question (i.e., psy-
chologist in Study 1, jurist in Study 2). As only individuals who
are highly committed to an identity goal can be expected to
experience self-completeness by accumulating identity symbols
(Wicklund & Gollwitzer, 1982), it follows that noncommitted
individuals should not show reduced intention enactment
whenever their identity-related behavioral intentions are no-
ticed by other people. Study 3 tested this hypothesis in two ways:
First, we compared students who wanted to become clinical
psychologists and those who wanted to become other types of
psychologists to determine whether they differed in how social
reality affected their enactment of behavioral intentions in the
service of the identity goal of clinical psychologist. Second, we
assessed the strength of participants’ commitment to the identity
goal of becoming a clinical psychologist. We decided to assess
rather than manipulate strength of identity-goal commitment, as
strong identity commitments are not easily created on the spot,
but often take years to develop (Gollwitzer & Kirchhof, 1998).
Sixty-three psychology students at a German university (40
women, 23 men) participated for course credit. They were in-
formed that they would take part in two independent studies.
The first study was described as exploring students’ willingness
to intensify their studies and involved answering several short
questionnaires. The first questionnaire assessed commitment to
the identity goal of becoming a clinical psychologist. The first
item asked, ‘‘There are different fields of specialization in psy-
chology. Which one are you trying to pursue?’’ Response options
were ‘‘child,’’ ‘‘industrial,’’ ‘‘clinical,’’ ‘‘experimental,’’ ‘‘math-
ematical,’’ and ‘‘undecided.’’ Participants who answered ‘‘clin-
ical’’ were assumed to possess this identity goal, whereas the
others were not. We assumed that strongly committed individ-
uals would be willing to take on hardships (e.g., moving to an-
other town) en route to attaining an identity goal (Gollwitzer &
Kirchhof, 1998), and the subsequent strength-of-commitment
item asked, ‘‘Would you switch universities in order to receive an
optimal education in your field of interest?’’ Participants re-
sponded to this question using a 5-point scale ranging from 1,
No, I would never do that,to5,Yes, I would do that for sure.
A second questionnaire (one item per page) was introduced as
an inventory concerning ways of intensifying one’s studies. The
critical behavioral-intention question was the only item on the
first page: ‘‘I intend to watch videotapes of therapy sessions to
learn more about therapeutic techniques.’’ The response scale
for this item ranged from 1, definitely no,to5,definitely yes.
614 Volume 20—Number 5
Intentions as Symbols
Upon completion of this questionnaire, participants in the so-
cial-reality condition were told that because of incomplete re-
sponses of prior participants, only the question on the first page
of the questionnaire could be analyzed. The experimenter then
studied that page, tore it off, and handed the remaining pages
back to the participant. In the no-social-reality condition, the
experimenter gave the same cover story about missing data, but
applied it to all the items on the questionnaire; then she returned
the entire questionnaire without looking at it.
Finally, the experimenter introduced participants to the sec-
ond experimenter, who told them that she was trying to find out
the extent to which making eye contact affects the quality of an
interaction. She explained that she had prepared a video
showing a conversation between a therapist and a client. Par-
ticipants’ task was to count the instances of making eye contact
and to rate the quality of interaction after each minute of the
conversation. Participants were told that the video lasted 40
min, but they should feel free to stop the video whenever they
Results and Discussion
Thirty-one participants indicated that clinical psychology was
the field they wanted to pursue; 32 participants indicated other
fields. Because only participants with strong behavioral inten-
tions were of interest, we excluded 6 participants (2 aspiring
clinical psychologists and 4 no-goal participants) who scored 4
or less on the item ‘‘I intend to watch videotapes of therapy
sessions to learn more about therapeutic techniques.’’ A 2
(clinical-psychologist identity goal: present vs. absent) 2
(social reality: present vs. absent) ANOVA on the amount of time
spent watching the therapy video yielded the predicted inter-
action effect, F(1, 53) 53.95, p5.05, d50.95; only the
performance of aspiring clinical psychologists was affected by
social reality. As expected, aspiring clinical psychologists
whose behavioral intention to study videotaped therapy sessions
had been noticed by the experimenter invested less time in
watching the video than did aspiring clinical psychologists
whose intentions remained unnoticed (M529.51 min, SD 5
6.72, vs. M534.22 min, SD 57.19), t(28) 51.82, p5.04 (one-
tailed), d50.68. None of the other comparisons were significant
(all ts<0.15, ps>.88, ds<0.06).
In an additional analysis, we examined whether strength of
commitment to the identity goal, as measured by the mobility
item, moderated the effect of social reality among the aspiring
clinical psychologists (weak commitment 3, strong commit-
ment 4). A 2 (strength of commitment: strong vs. weak) 2
(social reality: present vs. absent) ANOVA revealed a main ef-
fect of social reality, F(1, 25) 55.50, p<.03, d50.94, that was
qualified by a significant interaction with strength of commit-
ment, F(1, 25) 55.04, p<.04, d50.90. As expected (see Table
1), participants with a strong commitment to the identity goal of
becoming a clinical psychologist spent less time (more than 11
min less) studying the videotaped therapy session if they were in
the social-reality condition than if they were in the no-social-
reality condition, t(11) 55.02, p<.001, d52.96; in contrast,
participants with weak commitment to the identity goal spent
close to the same amount of time studying the therapy session no
matter whether they had or had not received social recognition
for their behavioral intention to study videotapes of therapy
sessions (there was only a 13.2-s difference between groups; t5
0.09, p5.93, d50.04).
SCT (Wicklund & Gollwitzer, 1982) postulates that public rec-
ognition of an identity-relevant symbol engenders a sense of
having attained the aspired-to identity goal (i.e., self-com-
pleteness). As Studies 1 through 3 suggest that identity-relevant
behavioral intentions do qualify as identity symbols, it follows
that social recognition of such intentions should also lead to a
heightened sense of completeness. In Study 4, we tested this
hypothesis with law students committed to becoming successful
Twenty-four first-year and second-year law students (10 women,
14 men) from a German university participated in this experi-
ment in exchange for h5. They were recruited at the end of a law
Upon arrival at the laboratory, participants met the experi-
menter and two other students (actually confederates) who were
described as fellow law students. The experimenter explained to
each group that he was conducting a study on law students’
intentions to advance their careers and then asked participants
to complete a questionnaire. The questionnaire comprised two
items. The first item measured participants’ commitment to
becoming a lawyer: ‘‘How important is a successful career in law
to you personally?’’ Responses were made on a 7-point scale
ranging from 1, not at all important,to7,very important. The
second item asked participants to write out their three most
important behavioral intentions with respect to the goal of be-
coming a successful jurist (e.g., ‘‘I will read law periodicals
regularly’’). The importance of each intention also had to be
Mean Time Spent Studying the Videotaped Therapy Session (in
Minutes) in Study 3
Commitment to identity
goal of clinical psychologist
Social reality
Present Absent
Strong 27.95 (3.11) 39.17 (4.51)
Weak 30.68 (3.62) 30.90 (6.24)
Note. Standard deviations are given in parentheses.
Volume 20—Number 5 615
P.M. Gollwitzer et al.
rated on a 7-point scale. Once participants had completed the
questionnaire, the experimenter asked them to either rate the
attractiveness of 10 pictures of landscapes (the no-social-reality
condition) or tell him and the rest of the group what intentions
they had written down (the social-reality condition). In the so-
cial-reality condition, the participants always reported their
intentions first; the confederates then reported behavioral in-
tentions derived from prior participants.
Next, a second questionnaire was handed out. This ques-
tionnaire showed a 14-cm line, above which were aligned five
pictures of the same member of the German Supreme Court
wearing the characteristic attire. The pictures varied in size,
ranging from small (1.5 1 cm) to large (3.6 2.4 cm). These
size gradations provided a visual analogue of the extent of
possessing the identity of being a jurist. Participants responded
to the item ‘‘How much do you feel like a jurist right now?’’ by
marking the respective point on the line. This self-assessment
manekin (SAM) rating procedure facilitates quick, nonreflective
self-evaluations (Bradley & Lang, 1994).
Results and Discussion
The commitment of students in the social-reality condition (M5
6.00, SD 51.49) did not differ from that of students in the no-
social-reality condition (M56.08, SD 50.67), t(21) 50.17,
p5.68, d50.07. Ratings of the importance of the listed in-
tentions were high and also did not differ between conditions
(M56.10, SD 50.55, vs. M56.00, SD 50.55), t(21) 50.42,
p5.87, d50.18.
We first checked the validity of our measure of felt com-
pleteness. Indeed, more semesters of law education was asso-
ciated with stronger feelings of completeness as a jurist (r5.54,
p5.005). In a hierarchical regression analysis, the social-
reality manipulation was significantly associated with feelings
of self-completeness even after number of semesters of law edu-
cation had been taken into account (bs5.29 and .45 for edu-
cation and condition, respectively, ps<.05), and inclusion of
this variable enhanced the fit of the model (DR
5.17, DF5
5.72, p<.03). As we predicted, participants felt closer to the
identity goal of becoming a jurist when their behavioral inten-
tions were recognized than when those intentions remained pri-
vate (Ms54.19 and 3.10, respectively).
When other people take notice of one’s identity-relevant be-
havioral intentions, one’s performance of the intended behaviors
is compromised. This effect occurs both when the intentions are
experimenter supplied and when they are self-generated, and is
observed in both immediate performance and performance
measured over a period of 1 week. It does not emerge when
people are not committed to the superordinate identity goal.
Other people’s taking notice of one’s identity-relevant intentions
apparently engenders a premature sense of completeness re-
garding the identity goal.
Fishbein (1980) and Ajzen (1991) showed that the strength of
a behavioral intention determines how well it is translated into
behavior (Webb & Sheeran, 2006). Moreover, a substantial lit-
erature on moderators of intention-behavior relations (e.g.,
certainty, temporal stability) has developed (Cooke & Sheeran,
2004; Sheeran, 2002). Interestingly, however, previous research
has not explored what psychological processes may intervene
between the formation of a behavioral intention and its enact-
ment. The present studies indicate that the simple matter of
identity-relevant behavioral intentions becoming public un-
dermines the realization of those intentions.
The present research is also unique in its attempt to bring
back Lewin’s work on intentions as it applies to the actual re-
alization of intentions. Most of the current research based on
Lewin’s (1926) goal theory focuses on the activation level of the
mental representation of a person’s intention (following Zei-
garnik, 1927). For instance, research has shown that the ac-
cessibility of goal-related constructs is increased as long as the
goal is active, that goal fulfillment inhibits accessibility of goal-
related constructs, and that these effects are proportional to the
strength of commitment to the goal (Fo
¨rster, Liberman, & Hig-
gins, 2005; Goschke & Kuhl, 1993; Marsh, Hicks, & Bink,
Our findings are also important from an applied perspective.
Given that the effect is limited to committed individuals—those
who are most eager to reach their identity goals—an important
question is how these individuals might try to escape this effect.
Future research might address this question by exploring vari-
ous routes. First, might it suffice to increase the need for con-
sistency (Cialdini & Trost, 1998) by attending to relevant norms?
Or is it also necessary to increase perceived accountability
(Lerner & Tetlock, 1999) by considering relevant attributes of
the audience (e.g., power) or by specifying one’s behavioral in-
tention in a particular way (e.g., spelling out specific frequency
or quality standards vs. stating only that one wants to do one’s
best; Locke & Latham, 2002) so that the audience can more
easily check on its enactment? Second, might it also be effective
for one to furnish a behavioral intention with a plan for how to
enact it—that is, to form a corresponding implementation in-
tention (e.g., ‘‘If situation Xis encountered, then I will perform
the intended behavior Y’’; Gollwitzer, 1999; Gollwitzer &
Sheeran, 2006)? As such if-then plans delegate the control of a
person’s behavior to situational cues, the intended behavior
should be executed when the critical cue arises, whether or not
the expression of the behavioral intention had been acknowl-
edged by other people. Third, recent research by Fishbach and
her colleagues (Fishbach & Dhar, 2005; Koo & Fishbach, 2008)
suggests that interpreting a behavioral performance in terms of
indicating commitment to a goal enhances further goal striving,
whereas conceiving of a performance in terms of progress toward
616 Volume 20—Number 5
Intentions as Symbols
a goal reduces further goal striving. This implies that a behav-
ioral intention worded to indicate a strong commitment to the
identity goal (e.g., ‘‘I want to write a paper to become a great
scientist’’) should be less negatively affected by social reality
than a behavioral intention that implies progress toward the
identity goal (e.g., ‘‘I intend to write a paper, as is done by great
Finally, from a goal-systems (Kruglanski et al., 2002) or goal-
hierarchy (Vallacher & Wegner, 1987) perspective on action
control, it stands to reason that any striving for goals—and not
just identity goals—that can be attained by various behavioral
routes (means) is vulnerable to the negative effects of social
reality on the enactment of behavioral intentions. If a person is
highly committed to a superordinate goal, and if public recog-
nition of a behavioral intention specifying the use of one route to
the goal engenders a sense of goal attainment, then the enact-
ment of this very intention should be hampered. Recent research
by Fishbach, Dhar, and Zhang (2006) is in line with this rea-
soning, showing that success on a subgoal (e.g., eating healthy
meals) in the service of a superordinate goal (i.e., keeping in
shape) reduces striving for alternative subgoals (e.g., going to
the gym).
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Intentions as Symbols
... In addition, goal disclosure plays a crucial role in influencing individuals' expectation perception (Eccles and Wigfield, 2002) and the resources, time, persistence and efforts an individual is willing to invest in goal achievement (Naylor and Ilgen, 1984). Similarly, Gollwitzer et al. (2009) and Perugini and Bagozzi (2004) highlighted the importance of goal disclosure in influencing the duration and intensity of goal-directed behavior. Therefore, it is imperative to investigate the goal disclosure behavior of customers experiencing obesity to better understand ways of motivating them toward their fitness goals and encouraging a healthy lifestyle. ...
... There are essential literature gaps that need to be addressed, specifically, relating to the lack of understanding of social media goal disclosure (Luo and Hancock, 2020). With studies highlighting that goal disclosure varies with individuals, there is a further need to conduct specific investigations to understand goal disclosure behavior in particular contexts (Gollwitzer et al., 2009;Hollenbeck and Klein, 1987). Su et al. (2021) also called for future research to investigate behavioral intention rather than goal-directed behavior to provide a more comprehensive understanding of behavior. ...
... This result validates the social facilitation theory with obese customers disclosing their fitness goals on social media and increasing their commitment to the goal. In addition, this finding is critical, as extant literature has highlighted that the effects of goal disclosure vary among individuals (Gollwitzer et al., 2009;Hollenbeck and Klein, 1987). ...
Purpose Obesity is today’s most neglected, yet blatantly visible, public health problem. This study aims to examine the role of social media and goal-directed behavior in motivating healthy lifestyle intentions for customers experiencing obesity. It investigates the distinct roles of self-conscious emotions (shame and pride) and weight-transformational posts shared by others on social media as moderators of these relationships. Design/methodology/approach The conceptual model uses the goal-directed behavior theory and social comparison theory, tested using data collected from 804 obese customers in Fiji through an experimental design. Findings Weight-loss transformation posts by others on social media, elicit distinct emotions for obese customers. Obese customers who felt guilt and shame due to shared weight-loss transformation posts showed a stronger association between goal disclosure and healthy lifestyle intention. In addition, the association between goal disclosure and healthy lifestyle intention is conditionally mediated by goal commitment, specifically for those obese customers that elicited guilt over shame due to shared weight-loss transformation posts by others on social media. Research limitations/implications Despite the adoption of an experimental design using a fictional stimulus being a commonly used method in marketing studies, external validity issues are likely. Also, this study examines obese customer behavior relating to Facebook. In addition, data collection for this study has been done from a single country perspective. Therefore, caution needs to be exercised when generalizing the findings of this study. Practical implications The findings assist businesses and marketers in the health and fitness industry to better leverage social media and goal-directed behavior and understand the emotions of obese customers to undertake data-driven precision marketing strategies. Originality/value The findings provide novel insights into goal disclosure and commitment, electronic word-of-mouth on social media platforms, self-conscious emotions and healthy lifestyle intentions for customers experiencing obesity.
... Individuals committed to an identity goal who experience the state of identity goals incompleteness seek out indicators of possessing the identity (i.e., symbols). Symbols can be physical objects associated with the aspired-to identity goals , self-presentation in social networks (Toma & Hancock, 2013), self-descriptions as possessing the identity , efforts to acquire goal-relevant skills , or publicly stating the intention to behave as someone possessing the aspired-to identity (Gollwitzer et al., 2009). ...
... Importantly, self-symbolizing efforts are more likely and more intensive if individuals believe that the symbols will be noticed by others. This is referred to as the social reality principle (Gollwitzer, 1986;Gollwitzer et al., 2009). ...
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We explore motivational processes stemming from bicultural identity goals of being Turkish and being German by investigating the effect of identity goal incompleteness versus completeness in the two identity goals on the use of multifinal means to self-symbolize German-Turkish cultural identity goals. Individuals incomplete in either or both identity goals were more likely than individuals complete in both identity goals to engage in multifinal self-symbolizing via social media activity (Experiment 1) and helping (Experiment 2). Incompleteness regarding the two identity goals had an additive effect on effort and elicited distinct patterns of subjectively experienced incompleteness for German and Turkish cultural identity goals (Experiment 2). These findings offer new insights relevant for symbolic self-completion theory and goal systems theory.
... To express themselves according to their aspired-to identity, they collect indicators of identity goal attainment symbolizing that they possess the claimed identity (e.g., use of specific jargon, wearing certain clothes, engaging in relevant activities). Further, registering these symbols on othersthat is, making others acknowledge them-affords even stronger completeness feelings (e.g., Gollwitzer et al., 2009; see the concept of social reality; Gollwitzer, 1986). Therefore, if people feel incomplete about their identity goals, they can readily restore completeness through compensatory self-symbolizing-by augmenting their selfsymbolizing efforts on the spot (e.g., Braun & Wicklund, 1989;Gollwitzer & Kirchhof, 1998;Marquardt et al., 2016). ...
... As a goal-oriented state, we argue that identity goal incompleteness should be accompanied by specific orienting effects promoting effective self-symbolizing and completeness restoration. Based on SCT research (e.g., Gollwitzer & Wicklund, 1985;Gollwitzer et al., 2009;, we identified four of these orienting effects. Incomplete people are expected to show (a) impulsiveness, due to the urge to restore completeness quickly; (b) uninterest in others, due to the egocentric use of others as a blackboard for listing symbols; (c) irritation, due to the unwillingness to describe the self in a manner congruent with identity-related weaknesses; and (d) narrowing of attention, with attention focused on compensatory efforts and not on other activities. ...
... Moreover, it is conceivable that some plans will still affect behavior after the goal should have been abandoned or during an action crisis (Brandstätter et al., 2013;Herrmann & Brandstätter, 2015). On the flip side, when it comes to goal reengagement, if-then planning might help get on track early or evoke the feeling of having progressed toward the goal (Gollwitzer et al., 2009). A general tendency to engage in planning as a habitual self-control strategy might further direct more cognitive effort to new goals, increasing their perceived attainability and lowering anticipated task difficulty (e.g., Gendolla et al., 2019). ...
Full-text available
Disengaging from unattainable goals and reengaging in alternative goals is essential for effective goal pursuit; yet, surprisingly little is known about associated personality factors. Here, we focused on individual differences in self-control (domain-general self-control, if–then planning) and boredom (boredom proneness, boredom avoidance and escape tendencies). Concerning goal adjustment in everyday life (Study 1; N = 323 crowdworkers), if–then planning was associated with worse disengagement and better reengagement. While boredom proneness was associated with poorer reengagement, boredom avoidance and escape tendencies were associated with better reengagement. When goal striving was thwarted during the COVID-19 pandemic (Study 2; N = 97 students), similar associations emerged along with links to anxiety and depression. However, disengagement was no longer associated with if–then planning but instead with better self-control and higher boredom proneness. These results show differential relationships of goal disengagement and reengagement with self-control and boredom, paving the way to a better understanding of who struggles or shines when effective goal adjustment is required.
... ii Findings related to self-completion theory suggest indeed that a sense of completeness can occur even for high-level identity-defining goals. For example, participants whose identityrelevant intentions were noticed by others (i.e., read out loud) reported lower identity-relevant behaviour one week later than participants whose intentions had been ignored by others, presumably because in the former case social validation procured a sense of self-completeness (Gollwitzer et al., 2009). In other studies participants who recalled personal past moral behaviour (Jordan et al., 2011) and participants who reflected on progress made towards their environmental goal (Geng et al., 2016) subsequently expressed lower prosocial and proenvironmental intentionspresumably because reflecting on past good deeds had procured a sense of goal completion (see also Susewind & Holz, 2014). ...
Full-text available
Past research has found that regulatory closure, that is, successful goal striving regulated either under a promotion or prevention focus, has important consequences in terms of motivational activation and mobilisation of cognitive resources in subsequent tasks, but it mostly investigated motivation in the same or similar tasks to the one for which closure was achieved. Drawing from an energisation-deactivation hypothesis, we investigated the effect of closure on performance and persistence in unrelated subsequent cognitive tasks. Across four studies, we found that promotion closure had an energising effect leading to: quicker decision times in lexical tasks (Studies 1-2), increased persistence and greater originality (Study 3), and greater visuospatial memory performance (Study 4). In contrast, prevention closure had a deactivating effect leading to reduced performance and persistence. No systematic differences arose in situations of non-closure. We discuss results and implications with respect to both regulatory closure and regulatory fit theoretical approaches.
... Visibility is considered a resource since public commitment to a goal improves goal commitment (Locke & Latham, 2002). On the other hand, public visibility of identityrelated behavioral intentions can decrease the respective behavior caused by the premature sense of possessing the desired identity and decreasing effort to attain it (Gollwitzer et al., 2009). ...
Full-text available
How motivated a person is to pursue a goal may depend on many different properties of the goal, such as how specific it is, how important it is to the person, and how actionable it is. Rigorously measuring all of the relevant goal characteristics is still very difficult. Existing measures are scattered across multiple research fields. Some goal characteristics are not yet covered, while others have been measured under ambiguous terminology. Other conceptually related characteristics have yet to be adapted to goals. Last but not least, the validity of most measures of goal characteristics has yet to be assessed. The aim of this study is to: a) integrate, refine, and extend previous measures into a more comprehensive battery of self-report measures, the Goal Characteristics Questionnaire (GCQ), and b) investigate its evidence of validity. In two empirical studies, this paper provides evidence for the validity of the measures regarding their internal structure, measurement invariance, and convergence and divergence with other relevant goal-related measures, such as the motivation, affect, and the dimensions of Personal Project Analysis. The results show that our goal characteristic dimensions have incremental validity for explaining important outcomes, such as goal commitment and well-being. It concludes with practical recommendations for using the GCQ in research on goal-setting and goal-pursuit, and a discussion about directions for future studies.
... Physical objects associated with the aspired-to identity qualify as such symbols, as do public statements of the intention to act as someone who possesses the desired identity. More subtle indicators such as displays of relevant titles, relevant positive self-presentations (e.g., in social networks), efforts to acquire the identity-relevant skills, or teaching others the relevant skills have also been found to serve as effective symbols (e.g., Gollwitzer et al., 2009;Harmon-Jones et al., 2009;Toma & Hancock, 2013). Once individuals have acquired a given identity symbol, they enter a temporal state of identity goal completeness. ...
Full-text available
According to symbolic self completion theory, individuals strive for their aspired-to identity goals by accumulating symbols that indicate the possession of that very identity. If individuals lack such symbols, lose them, or fail to acquire them, a state of identity goal incompleteness is triggered that motivates identity goal-directed behavior (i.e., acquiring new identity symbols). We add to this framework an empirical investigation of the interplay between two identity goals, addressing the question: Will individuals who are incomplete regarding one identity goal be more or less likely to engage in symbolization behavior toward a second identity goal if no opportunity to strive for the first (incomplete) identity goal is at hand? We identify in two experiments the overlap between the two identity goals as a moderator variable determining to what degree individuals who are incomplete in one identity goal engage in behavior related to the other identity goal. Two experiments with working parents were conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. In both experiments, incompleteness (vs. a control condition) regarding the participants’ professional identity goal was induced, and overlap between the professional and parent identity goals was measured. We found that overlap regarding moral values (Study 1) and basic motives (Study 2) between the parent and professional identity goals was a positive predictor of parenting-related behavior in the incomplete, but not the control, condition. Incomplete participants with relatively low overlap were less likely, while incomplete participants with relatively high overlap were more likely, to engage in parenting-related behavior.
... Moreover, it is conceivable that some plans will still affect behavior after the goal should have been abandoned or during an action crisis (Brandstätter et al., 2013;Herrmann & Brandstätter, 2015). On the flip side, when it comes to goal 6 reengagement, if-then planning might help get on track early or evoke the feeling of having progressed toward the goal (Gollwitzer et al., 2009). A general tendency to engage in planning as a habitual self-control strategy might further direct more cognitive effort to new goals, increasing their perceived attainability and lowering anticipated task difficulty (e.g., Gendolla et al., 2019). ...
Full-text available
Disengaging from unattainable goals and reengaging in alternative goals is essential for effective goal pursuit; yet, surprisingly little is known about associated personality factors. Here, we focused on individual differences in self-control (domain-general self-control, if-then planning) and boredom (boredom proneness, boredom avoidance and escape tendencies). Concerning goal adjustment in everyday life (Study 1; N = 323 crowdworkers), if-then planning was associated with worse disengagement and better reengagement. While boredom proneness was associated with poorer reengagement, boredom avoidance and escape tendencies were associated with better reengagement. When goal striving was thwarted during the COVID-19 pandemic (Study 2; N = 97 students), similar associations emerged along with links to anxiety and depression. However, disengagement was no longer associated with if-then planning but instead with better self-control and higher boredom proneness. These results show differential relationships of goal disengagement and reengagement with self-control and boredom, paving the way to a better understanding of who struggles or shines when effective goal adjustment is required.
Full-text available
Recently, defaults have become celebrated as a low-cost and easy-to-implement nudge for promoting positive outcomes, both at an individual and societal level. In the present research, we conducted a large-scale field experiment ( N = 32,508) in an educational context to test the effectiveness of a default intervention in promoting participation in a potentially beneficial achievement test. We found that a default manipulation increased the rate at which high school students registered to take the test but failed to produce a significant change in students’ actual rate of test-taking. These results join past literature documenting robust effects of default framings on initial choice but marked variability in the extent to which those choices ultimately translate to real-world outcomes. We suggest that this variability is attributable to differences in choice-to-outcome pathways – the extent to which the initial choice is causally determinative of the outcome.
Full-text available
In this study, we focus on the trans-situational consistency of pro-environmental energy-saving behaviours. More specifically, we study the consistency between home and the workplace. Given the literature, we envisaged that behavioural consistency would be associated with intentional and automatic determinants and with environmental self-identity and the perceived similarity of situations. 195 participants replied to an online questionnaire measuring the determinants of behaviours, the similarity of situations, the environmental self-identity and the frequency of pro-environmental behaviours. The results highlighted the fact that behavioural consistency is predicted both by intentionality and habit. Environmental self-identity moderates the relationship between consistency on the one hand and intentionality and habit on the other. Intentionality determines consistency when the perception of the similarity of situations is low. These results are discussed from the point of view of the practices related to the transmission of pro-environmental behaviours.
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In the last two decades, an approach to the study of motivation has emerged that focuses on specific cognitive and affective mediators of behaviour, in contrast to more general traits or motives. This 'social-cognitive' approach grants goal-oriented motivation its own role in shaping cognition, emotion and behaviour, rather than reducing goal-directed behaviour to cold-blooded information processing or to an enactment of a personality type. This book adds to this process-oriented approach a developmental perspective. Critical elements of motivational systems can be specified and their inter-relations understood by charting the origins and the developmental course of motivational processes. Moreover, a process-oriented approach helps to identify critical transitions and effective developmental interventions. The chapters in this book cover various age groups throughout the life span and stem from four big traditions in motivational psychology: achievement motivation, action theory, the psychology of causal attribution and perceived control, and the psychology of personal causation and intrinsic motivation.
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Research dealing with various aspects of* the theory of planned behavior (Ajzen, 1985, 1987) is reviewed, and some unresolved issues are discussed. In broad terms, the theory is found to be well supported by empirical evidence. Intentions to perform behaviors of different kinds can be predicted with high accuracy from attitudes toward the behavior, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control; and these intentions, together with perceptions of behavioral control, account for considerable variance in actual behavior. Attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control are shown to be related to appropriate sets of salient behavioral, normative, and control beliefs about the behavior, but the exact nature of these relations is still uncertain. Expectancy— value formulations are found to be only partly successful in dealing with these relations. Optimal rescaling of expectancy and value measures is offered as a means of dealing with measurement limitations. Finally, inclusion of past behavior in the prediction equation is shown to provide a means of testing the theory*s sufficiency, another issue that remains unresolved. The limited available evidence concerning this question shows that the theory is predicting behavior quite well in comparison to the ceiling imposed by behavioral reliability.
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Research on the dynamics of self-regulation addresses situations in which people select goal-directed actions with respect to other existing or still missing actions towards accomplishing that goal. In such situations people can follow two possible patterns: they can highlight a goal by attending to it more if they have attended to it, or they can balance their goals by attending to a goal more if they have not attended to it. The choice of which pattern to follow depends on the representation of goal actions: when actions signal commitment, people highlight, and when actions signal progress, people balance. We identify several variables that determine whether people follow a dynamic of commitment-induced highlighting or progress-induced balancing. We then discuss the implications of this model for seeking, giving, and responding to feedback.
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The authors summarize 35 years of empirical research on goal-setting theory. They describe the core findings of the theory, the mechanisms by which goals operate, moderators of goal effects, the relation of goals and satisfaction, and the role of goals as mediators of incentives. The external validity and practical significance of goal-setting theory are explained, and new directions in goal-setting research are discussed. The relationships of goal setting to other theories are described as are the theory’s limitations.
Ohne Zusammenfassung