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Research on goal priming has shown that cues in the environment can lead to goal-directed cognition and behaviour without the need for conscious intentions. This has sparked an interest in using goal priming as an intervention tool to strategically influence behaviour in line with an individual's long-term goals. The present article first gives a brief overview of goal priming effects and their mechanisms. Then, goal priming is discussed as a situated intervention tool that changes the cognitive responses triggered by a situation and can stimulate the pursuit of long-term investment goals over short-term hedonic goals. Applying the principle of situating interventions leads to a set of recommendations for applying goal primes effectively, which are illustrated with examples from various domains.
Goal priming 1
Goal priming as a situated intervention tool
Esther K. Papies
Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, University of Glasgow, United Kingdom;
Dept. of Psychology, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
April 13, 2016
This paper is in press at Current Opinion in Psychology. For personal use only.
Address correspondence to: Esther K. Papies, Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology,
University of Glasgow, 58 Hillhead Street, Glasgow G12 8QB, United Kingdom,
The author declares no conflict of interest.
word count: 2143
Goal priming 2
Research on goal priming has shown that cues in the environment can lead to goal-directed
cognition and behaviour without the need for conscious intentions. This has sparked an
interest in using goal priming as an intervention tool to strategically influence behaviour in
line with an individual’s long-term goals. The present article first gives a brief overview of
goal priming effects and their mechanisms. Then, goal priming is discussed as a situated
intervention tool that changes the cognitive responses triggered by a situation and can
stimulate the pursuit of long-term investment goals over short-term hedonic goals. Applying
the principle of situating interventions leads to a set of recommendations for applying goal
primes effectively, which are illustrated with examples from various domains.
Goal priming 3
Goal priming refers to the activation of a goal by external cues, which can affect
information processing and behaviour in an attempt to pursue the primed goal1. Here, a goal
is a state or behaviour that has reward value and therefore motivates a person to pursue it.
Goal priming effects have been shown in a variety of domains. Priming the goal of
impression formation leads to better memory organization and recall compared to a mere
memorization goal2, priming the concept of drinking can increase soda consumption when
participants are thirsty3, and priming “achievement” can increase motivation and effort at
difficult tasks among achievement-motivated individuals4. A recent meta-analysis has
demonstrated that priming participants with cues of religion increases pro-social behaviour,
especially among religious participants, thus among participants for whom the primed
concept has motivational significance5. A meta-analysis across domains has shown that the
exposure to goal-related words can reliably trigger goal-directed behaviour, and again
especially if the primed outcome is strongly valued by individuals6. Building on these
findings, I suggest here that priming outcomes that individuals value can be used to stimulate
the pursuit of long-term goals, and thus benefit individuals and society.
How does goal priming work? What are some of the mechanisms by which a simple
external cue, for example words or images representing a certain concept, can affect a
person’s behavior without the need for conscious reflection and intention? Through their
repeated pursuit, often in similar situations, goals are associated both with situational cues,
and with effective means for pursuing them. As a result, a situational cue can serve as a
prime to activate goal representations, which in turn can lead to goal-directed behaviours,
without the need for conscious intentions or awareness7–12. To the degree that the
representation of an outcome or behaviour is indeed desirable and thus associated with
reward, additional cognitive resources are recruited to support its pursuite.g., 11,13, for example
to keep the goal active in mind until a suitable opportunity for goal pursuit arises, and to
Goal priming 4
inhibit temptations that would interfere with goal pursuit9. In addition, nonconscious goals
are supported by seeing the world in ways that facilitate reaching them, for example by
perceiving relevant external stimuli as bigger in size, allocating more attention to them, and
evaluating them more positively when they serve an active goalfor a detailed review, see 9. Thus,
fundamental processes of learning and information processing are involved in facilitating the
effective pursuit of those things that individuals value, without requiring conscious intentions
and awarenesssee also 12.
The need for nonconscious intervention tools
The fact that external cues can trigger goal-directed behaviour without conscious
intentions has sparked interest in this aspect of nonconscious self-regulation among
researchers studying behaviour change, for example in the domain of health. Typically,
attempts to modify behaviour that rely on social psychological principles have been built
heavily on conscious intentions, such as in protection motivation theory or the theory of
planned behaviour14,15. More recently, however, we have clearly seen the limits of intentions
for behaviour changee.g., 16, with researchers requesting to “retire” the theory of planned
behaviour17 and to increase the focus on automatic, non-intentional processes e.g., 18–22.
Why do conscious intentions only have limited effectiveness for behaviour change?
Our current living environments tend to expose us to cues that activate well-ingrained habits
and short-term hedonic goals, such as indulging in tempting food or drink that provide
immediate pleasure, or spending financial and environmental resources on a fun new gadget.
Indeed, the exposure to a tempting stimulus is likely to trigger simulations of interacting with
it and enjoying it, making thoughts of a competing long-term goal less accessible10,12,23–25.
Especially under conditions of low inhibitory control and in busy and demanding
environments, the pursuit of long-term goals is then increasingly unlikely26–29. As a result,
pursuing short-term hedonic goals often comes at the cost of long-term investment goals,
Goal priming 5
such as one’s health later in life, or the maintenance of the planet for future generations30–33
even if we form conscious intentions to pursue them16. In order to enable the pursuit of a
long-term goal in such tempting environments, interventions should change the initial
responses to the critical situation such that the long-term goal is (re-)activated. This can be
achieved by situated interventions tools such as goal priming.
Situating intervention tools
I propose that intervention tools are situated if they take into account the cognitive
processes that are typically triggered in the critical situation in which behaviour change needs
to take place, and attempt to change these. Recently, I have suggested that such interventions
typically take the form cueing interventions, that modify which cognitive processes are
triggered by situational cues (e.g., goal priming, nudging), or of training interventions, that
modify the cognitive processes themselves (e.g., implementation intentions, approach-
avoidance retraining)21. In practice, an intervention can be situated by directly integrating it
into the critical situation, so that the situation is physically present during the intervention, as
in many goal priming interventions. Alternatively, an intervention can be situated by
integrating features of the critical situation into the intervention, so that a mental
representation of the situation is evoked while the intervention takes placesee 34, as is
sometimes done in training interventions. Critically, a situated intervention recognizes that
the behaviour that needs to be changed is influenced by cognitive processes triggered by the
situation, so that changing behaviour can only be achieved by changing the cognitive
responses that are activatedsee 21. Given the strong effects of situational cues on our
behaviour, especially through processes that occur outside of conscious awareness and are
therefore hard to control, I propose that situated interventions are more likely to be effective
for behaviour change than nonsituated interventions.
Goal priming 6
With regard to priming, a goal priming intervention can be considered situated to the
degree that primes activate a long-term goal representation directly in the critical situation.
This would be the case, for example, in a priming intervention where environmentally
conscious consumers are reminded of their goal of conserving resources by a banner on a
website, while they are in the process of deciding between holiday destinations reachable by
train or by a long-distance flight. If, however, the goal prime was included in an email
message that is read long before entering the holiday decision process, this intervention
should not be considered situated, as this procedure would make it less likely that the prime
actually changes the cognitive responses and resulting behaviour triggered by features of the
critical situation.
I will now discuss research on health goal priming, showing that goal primes can
function as situated intervention tools in both laboratory and field settings. Then, I will close
by discussing some important principles for applying goal primes as a situated intervention
tool, illustrated by examples from various domains.
Situated health goal priming
Controlled laboratory experiments have shown that exposing participants to cues
related to long-term health goals can trigger goal-directed behavior. Fishbach and colleagues,
for example, have shown that priming diet-concerned individuals with diet-relevant words or
images while they are making a food choice increases choices of healthy items35. More
recent work has shown that seeing or consuming healthy foods can reduce subsequent
unhealthy eating, mostly among dieters36–38. Similarly, viewing dieting advertisements while
snacking, compared to control or indulgent food advertisements, can prevent overeating on
unhealthy foods39–41 – whereas priming with food advertisements can conversely increase
snack intake42. Similarly, functional health claims on attractive foods can activate a health
goal, and therefore reduce consumption43. Even though this research was conducted in
Goal priming 7
controlled laboratory environments, goal primes were used in a situated manner as they were
integrated into the situations in which the critical behaviour took place. Further studies into
the underlying mechanisms of these effects suggest that priming participants with personal
long-term goals, including health goals, inhibits thoughts about short-term hedonic goals that
would interfere with the pursuit of their long-term goals and limits visual attention to cues for
such goals35,44,see also 45. Thus, goal primes may work by directing attention to information that
is congruent with the long-term investment goal46, at the expense of cues for conflicting
short-term hedonic goalssee 9,31.
Findings from field settings are largely consistent with those from situated laboratory
tests of goal priming. Papies and Hamstra47 placed a poster announcing a low-calorie recipe
on the inside of the glass door to a butcher store, which included words like “slim figure”,
“extra slim”, and “weight”. Compared to a control condition without such a poster,
customers who had been primed with the goal of healthy eating and dieting by means of the
poster consumed fewer of the freely available meat snacks, but only if they endorsed the goal
of dieting. This finding was later replicated conceptually in a restaurant, where the primes
were integrated into the menu and led to healthier menu choices among dieters48 (e.g.,
ordering a salad instead of a burger). In a recent study with a similar set-up, a poster priming
health or slimness next to a vending machine increased the sales of healthy items49. Finally, a
field experiment in a grocery store showed that while overweight customers bought more
unhealthy snacks in the control condition than normal-weight participants, their purchases of
such foods were strongly reduced when they received a flyer that included health and diet-
related words when entering the store50. Together, these studies show that goal primes can
effectively modify behaviour in situations in which short-term hedonic goals typically
prevail, and facilitate the pursuit of long-term health goals among those individuals who
value these goals.
Goal priming 8
Applying goal primes effectively
In order to apply goal primes effectively in situations where behaviour change in
favour of investment goals is desirable, a number of principles should be consideredsee 21. In
general, a situated approach to goal priming implies that there is not one single effective
priming strategy for all situations, even with regard to the same goal. The best
implementation of a goal priming intervention is likely to vary with features of the behaviour
in question, the situation in which it takes place, and the targeted individualssee also 12. More
specifically, the nature of a goal priming intervention should depend on what can motivate
the target person in the critical situation to perform the desired behaviour, given the
constraints of the situation.
First of all, an effective goal priming intervention should identify a target group of
individuals who value the long-term investment goal, since research on priming has clearly
shown that goal primes are more effective when the primed concept is motivationally
relevant e.g., 5,6,11,50. This could be, for example, individuals who are motivated to protect the
environment, to improve their productivity at work, or to improve their relationship
behavioursee also 33. Second, goal primes should activate the long-term motivation of these
individuals with effective cues, and these cues should be presented close to the decision point
– while making a critical consumer decision, while getting organized in the beginning of a
workday, or while in a relevant interpersonal interaction. Finally, goal primes can only work
if the primed individual knows which goal-directed behaviour can be performed in order to
pursue the long-term investment goal, and has access to such a behaviour – such as
identifying and being able to choose a sustainable consumer product, an effective time
management plan, or a forgiving, rather than an escalating response to a partner. These
principles see 21, for a more detailed discussion illustrate that a goal prime is most likely to be effective if
it takes into account the characteristics of the individual, the critical situation, and the effects
Goal priming 9
of the situation on the individual34. This way, applying the notion of situating an intervention
leads to a systematic set of recommendations for effective use of goal primes – and most
likely, for other intervention tools, too.
Goal priming effects have been demonstrated in a wide variety of domains, provided
that the primed concept is motivationally relevant to the perceiver in the given situation.
Based on this general finding, I have argued that goal primes can be used as situated
intervention tools by integrating them into the critical situations, in order to change which
cognitive responses are activated by the situation and influence behaviour. This is
particularly important given our current living environment, where short-term hedonic goals
are much more likely to be activated and pursued in response to environmental cues than
long-term investment goals. While much recent debating has focused on conditions for
replicating priming effects, the current paper aims to put our advances in theorizing about
goal priming mechanisms to good use for the future51, and to make them available for
applications to benefit individual and societal health. Future research to further bolster this
approach should study in more detail the recommendations that were derived from applying
the notion of situated interventions to goal priming as outlined here, and should examine the
conditions under which priming can be used to stimulate beneficial goal pursuit over
extended periods of time.
Goal priming 10
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Goal priming 14
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Goal priming 15
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... A goal is a strong mental force behind one's cognition, emotion, and behavior (Papies 2016). Users' goal types when setting out to watch videos online would likely impact how they respond to pre-roll ads they unexpectedly encounter. ...
... Users' goal types when setting out to watch videos online would likely impact how they respond to pre-roll ads they unexpectedly encounter. According to the priming literature, goals can be momentarily activated, even unconsciously, by various cues, including an environmental cue (Papies 2016), visual cue, verbal cue, or targeted choice of behavior (Mattler and Palmer 2012). There are various channels through which viewers come to YouTube to watch videos to fulfill their goals (Google 2021a). ...
... According to the goal-priming literature (Papies 2016), once a goal (i.e., emotional versus informational) is adopted and activated in one's mind, one will more readily engage in its related mental activities. For example, viewers who have a primary goal of gratifying their emotional needs will be receptive to emotional content that requires emotional processing (Mondino, Thiffault, and Fecteau 2015). ...
Using an experimental tool that tracks viewers’ real-time ad-skipping behavior, the current research tested when and why a highly arousing emotional appeal ad that induces a set of complex discrete emotions can reduce the ad-skipping rate on social media platforms such as YouTube. Across three experiments, we showed the following results. First, the ad-skipping rate of emotional appeal ads was lower among consumers who had the goal of watching emotional (versus informational) videos. Second, ad-elicited empathy mediated this effect. Third, the effects of the emotional appeal ad on ad-skipping behaviors were contingent upon consumers’ predisposition to approach emotional experiences. Among consumers who were seeking emotional experiences, higher levels of empathy resulted in lower adskipping rates and longer ad-viewing duration when the emotional appeal of the ad matched with the emotional goal of video watching; in contrast, among consumers who were not seeking emotional experiences, the opposite effect was found.
... Goals are activated either consciously or unconsciously [8]. Goal priming is the activation of goals by external cues and influences goal-pursuit behavior toward the primed goal [24]. The meta-analysis showed that exposure to a goal-related word triggered a goaldirected behavior, and goal priming was particularly effective when the primed goal was perceived as important to the audience [25]. ...
... Since goal priming is a nonconscious motivational strategy [24], passive information touchpoints such as posters, leaflets, news, and advertisements could be implementation fields for goal priming. Print materials (e.g., leaflets, brochures, and posters) are the most practical way to provide information and, in some cases, print materials may be more effective in promoting physical activity than web-based messages [26,27]. ...
Full-text available
Physical activity has significant health benefits for the heart, body, and mind. However, the percentage of people engaging in exercise routines is low in Japan. Goals are important components of motivation. Scholars suggest that appropriately setting both subordinate goals of what to do and superordinate goals of why to do it may motivate the audience and promote behavior. However, it is not known what goals are presented in print materials that promote physical activity. Therefore, this study aimed to understand the presented goals by performing content analysis of those materials in Japan. We collected print materials such as leaflets, brochures, and posters via website search. The presence of subordinate and superordinate goals and topics for each goal was analyzed. A total of 224 print materials were systematically collected and analyzed. The results showed that 14.3% of the print materials did not present any superordinate goals, whereas 100% of them presented subordinate goals. For superordinate goals, healthy aging was frequently presented. For subordinate goals, 67.4% presented only exercise. There is a difference in presenting goals between the private and government sectors. Since goals affect motivation and behavior change, it may be beneficial to incorporate the findings of the goal theory in future print materials.
... Exposure to reminders of goals has been shown to affect the behaviour of individuals who are motivated to pursue those goals. In the domain of health, this phenomenon is typically referred to as health goal priming (e.g., Buckland et al., 2018;Papies, 2016aPapies, , 2016bWeingarten et al., 2016). ...
... In sum, the grounded cognition perspective on goal priming suggests that goal primes change which situated conceptualisations are cued by a given situation, and thus which potentially motivating outcomes are simulated and pursued (for more extensive discussions, see Papies, 2016aPapies, , 2016b. ...
Full-text available
Many of the key problems humans are facing today result from desires, habits, and social norms impeding behavior change. Here, we apply a grounded cognition perspective to these phenomena, suggesting that simulating the consequences of one's behaviors plays a key role in them. We first describe the grounded cognition theory of desire and motivated behavior, and present evidence on how consumption and reward simulations underlie people's representation of appetitive stimuli and guide motivated behavior. Then, we discuss how the theory can be used to understand the effects of habits, social norms, and various self-regulation strategies. We suggest conceptualizing behavior change as overcoming the simulations of hedonic and social reward that favor existing habits and behaviors, and as updating situated representations of motivated behaviors in their social context. We discuss how this perspective can help us understand the challenges that people experience in initiating and repeating new behaviors, and in high-impact decision-making in the face of the status quo. In order to move beyond the socially sanctioned, habitual behaviors that currently threaten human and planetary health, we must understand what motivates them, and how this motivation can be harnessed for the greater good.
... Exposure to reminders of goals has been shown to affect the behaviour of individuals who are motivated to pursue those goals. In the domain of health, this phenomenon is typically referred to as health goal priming (e.g., Buckland et al., 2018;Papies, 2016aPapies, , 2016bWeingarten et al., 2016). ...
... In sum, the grounded cognition perspective on goal priming suggests that goal primes change which situated conceptualisations are cued by a given situation, and thus which potentially motivating outcomes are simulated and pursued (for more extensive discussions, see Papies, 2016aPapies, , 2016b. ...
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Many of the key problems humans are facing today result from desires, habits, and social norms impeding behaviour change. Here, we apply a grounded cognition perspective to these phenomena, suggesting that simulating the consequences of one’s actions plays a key role in them. We first describe the grounded cognition theory of desire and motivated behaviour, and present evidence on how consumption and reward simulations underlie people’s representation of appetitive stimuli and guide motivated behaviour. Then, we discuss how the theory can be used to understand the effects of habits, social norms, and various self-regulation strategies. We suggest conceptualising behaviour change as overcoming the simulations of hedonic and social reward that favour existing habits and behaviours, and as updating situated representations of motivated behaviours in their social context. We discuss how this perspective can help us understand the challenges that people experience in initiating and repeating new behaviours, and in high-impact decision making in the face of the status quo. In order to move beyond the socially sanctioned, habitual behaviours that currently threaten human and planetary health, we must understand what motivates them, and how this motivation can be harnessed for the greater good.
... Systematic reviews and meta-analyses have found clear connections between visual food content exposure, e.g., through advertisement, and adverse eating behavioral outcomes, such as increased total food intake and weight gain [3,4]. Such "priming" activates respective mental representations, causing top-down alterations in attention, desire, and, ultimately, behavior [5][6][7]. In particular, food images suggestive of high energy density seem to be most readily attention-capturing [8,9]. ...
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Ubiquitous exposure to visual food content has been implicated in the development of obesity with both individual and societal costs. The development and increasing adoption of Extended Reality (XR) experiences, which deliver an unprecedented immersion in digital content, would seem to carry the risk of further exacerbating the consequences of visual food exposure on real-world eating behavior. However, some studies have also identified potentially health-promoting effects of exposure to visual food stimuli. One example is repeated imagined consumption, which has been demonstrated to decrease subsequent food consumption. This work contains the first comparison between imagined eating and actual eating, to investigate how the simulated activity fares against its real counterpart in terms of inducing satiation. Three-hundred participants took part in an experiment at a local food festival. The participants were randomized between three experimental conditions: imagined eating, actual eating, and control. Each condition consisted of thirty trials. Before and after the experimental manipulation, the participants recorded their eating desires and enjoyment of a piece of chocolate candy. The resulting data showed generally no difference between the imagined eating and control conditions, which stands in conflict with the prior literature. In contrast, the differences between imagined and actual eating were significant. These results may be explained by differences in the experimental tasks’ dose–response relationships, as well as environmental-contextual disturbances. Overall, the findings do not corroborate the efficacy of imagined eating within a real-life context.
... For example, placing attention-grabbing posters advertising the benefits of a vegan diet may remind people of their vegan dietary goals, thereby encouraging mindful displacement of old dietary purchasing habits with pro-vegan purchases. This same technique, which has been shown to shield people from temptations (Papies & Veling, 2013), is viewed as 'goal priming' by goal theorists, who would argue that it encourages the prioritisation of valued vegan goals over any conflicting goals that encourage non-vegan consumption (Papies, 2016). Alternatively, adopting self-regulatory techniques such as 'if-then' planning, whereby people mentally rehearse new responses to settings associated with old, unwanted behaviours, can prioritise performance of those new behaviours, potentially despite the presence of unwanted habits (Adriaanse et al., 2011). ...
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A vegan diet, which excludes all animal-derived products, has been associated with some improvements in health, while also conferring environmental benefits. Understanding the psychological determinants of successfully switching to a vegan diet will help to inform the design of interventions supporting long-term dietary change. Studies to date have tended to focus on reasoned motives underlying the decision to initiate such a dietary shift. Yet, focusing on reasons for switching may overlook the importance of a broader range of psychological factors that may help or hinder attempts to maintain a vegan diet. This qualitative interview study, the timing of which coincided with UK Covid-19 lockdowns, documented experiences of 20 young adults (17 female; mean age 22y) who attempted to adopt a vegan diet in the past nine months and had or had not successfully maintained this change. Reflexive Thematic Analysis identified five themes surrounding initiation and maintenance. A theme of ‘motives, expectations and cues to switching’ showed that switching was motivated by ethical or health concerns, and cued by Veganuary, lockdown or health issues. ‘The effortfulness of switching’ captured experiences of the perceived burden imposed by adhering to the diet due to, for example, a perceived lack of accessible vegan options. The ‘flexibility of dietary rules’ theme showed that many found the ‘no animal products’ rule clear but restrictive, so allowed themselves occasional non-meat animal products. ‘Social acceptability concerns’ captured the importance of acceptance from vegan and non-vegan family and friends, and ‘satisfaction with the switch’ described the perceived benefits that sustained maintenance for many. Our findings suggest that interventions should seek to support people to overcome potentially unforeseen practical and social challenges to adhering to a vegan diet.
... Finally, participants selected what type of behavior they thought they would be more likely to choose to emit in the future given the consequences of energy saving and energy wasteful behavior they just stipulated themselves. This intervention builds on several well-supported intervention techniques established in (psychological) science [50][51][52][53][54] , to nudge the inference that they would engage in energy saving behavior because it helps them achieve desired outcomes. Participants in the control and action inference nudging condition performed the same task about an unrelated topic (drug use). ...
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Effective behavioral interventions are essential to address urgent societal challenges. Over the past decade, nudging interventions (i.e., arranging the environment to promote adaptive behavioral choices) have surged in popularity. Importantly, effective application of the nudging approach requires clear guiding principles with a firm basis in behavioral science. We present a framework for nudging interventions that builds on evidence about the goal-directed inferential processes underlying behavior (i.e., processes that involve context-dependent inferences about goals and the actions available to achieve these goals). We used this framework to develop nudging interventions that target context-relevant cognitive inferences. We examined the effectiveness of these inference nudging interventions for promoting two important types of societal behavior: pro-environmental actions and adherence to COVID-19 guidelines. As predicted, two online studies revealed that inference nudging interventions successfully increased energy conservation (Study 1) as well as social distancing during the COVID-19 crisis (Study 2). A field experiment found that inference nudging interventions increased hand disinfection in a real-life store during the COVID-19 crisis (Study 3). Our findings highlight the importance of applying state-of-the-art insights about the (inferential) determinants of behavior in behavior change interventions. 3
... The second theory is goal priming (Papies, 2016). The priming activity may have unintentionally helped engineers set a goal to achieve greater sustainability on the project. ...
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Green infrastructure is the application of nature-based solutions like bioswales, rain gardens, and permeable pavements to reduce flooding in urban areas. These systems are underutilized in the design of the built environment. A barrier to their implementation is that design engineers tend to discount the tangential benefits of these greener systems and overweigh the associated risks. This study tested whether priming engineers to think about the environmental and social sustainability benefits of green infrastructure can influence what attributes engineers consider and how they weigh these attributes during the design decision-making process. Forty engineering students trained in stormwater design were asked to evaluate the implementation of a conventional stormwater design option and a green stormwater design option. Their preferred design option was recorded and the changes in their neuro-cognition were measured using functional near infrared-spectroscopy. Half of the engineers were asked to first consider the potential outcomes of these options on the environment and the surrounding community. Priming engineers to first consider environmental and social sustainability before considering the cost and risk of each option, significantly increased the perceived benefits the engineers believed green infrastructure could provide. The priming intervention also increased the likelihood that engineers would recommend the green infrastructure option. The engineers primed to think about environmental and social sustainability exhibited significantly lower oxy-hemoglobin in their ventrolateral, dorsolateral, and medial prefrontal cortex through multiple phases of the judgment and decision-making process. The intervention appears to increase cognitive representativeness or salience of the benefits for green infrastructure when engineers evaluate design alternatives. This relatively low-cost intervention, asking engineers to consider environmental and social sustainability for each design alternative, can shift engineering decision-making and change neuro-cognition.
In light of a European harmonized Front-of-Package (FOP) labelling system, an integrated “Eco-score” should overcome the multitude of sustainability labels on food. However, several established sustainability-related food attributes, like organic standards or the product’s origin, are typically also considered pro-environmental attributes by consumers. This coexistence might require trade-offs with the new Eco-score during food choices. Further, the need to activate pro-environmental goals amongst consumers while making food choices has increasingly been expressed, as an improvement or addition to merely awareness-increasing approaches. This study evaluated Belgian consumers’ (N = 300) preferences for available vegetable supplies through a discrete choice experiment (DCE) with attributes on seasonality, localness, organic label, Eco-score and a monthly price. Furthermore, using a 2 × 2 between-subject split, various ways of priming pro-environmental goals through sustainable self-views have been evaluated. Overall, Eco-scores were found equally important as price and localness, while organic was found least important. In addition, in situations of conflicting Eco-scores and origins (i.e. local with poor Eco-scores and vice versa), more importance was attached to the most beneficial attribute. Furthermore, strong aversions towards longer term commitments to seasonal vegetable consumption were observed. Lastly, making people think of themselves as sustainable yet too confidently, might backfire. With more uncertainty, sustainable self-views might induce more positive preferences for seasonal vegetables and better Eco-Scores. The challenges and opportunities revealed by these insights should guide future policymaking for a more effective labelling system.
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Recent research has shown the limited effects of intentions on behavior, so that novel methods to facilitate behavior change are needed that do not rely on conscious intentions. Here, it is argued that nonintentional effects on health behavior, such as the effects of habits, impulses, and nonconscious goals, occur through the activation of cognitive structures by specific situations. Interventions should therefore be situated to change these effects, either by changing the critical cognitive structures (training interventions), or by changing which cognitive structures get activated (cueing interventions). The current article presents this framework for situated interventions, as well as examples of interventions of each type. Then, it introduces goal priming as a cueing intervention tool to activate health goals and thus facilitate healthier behavior, even in tempting situations that typically activate short-term hedonic goals. Following a review of empirical evidence, five principles for the effective application of health goal primes are proposed, namely 1) to target individuals who value the primed goals, 2) by activating their specific motivation 3) through effective cues 4) that attract attention at the right time. Finally, 5) an effective goal-directed behavior needs to be known and accessible to the primed individual. These principles are illustrated with examples of different health behaviors in order to facilitate their application for successful behavior change.
The theory of situated conceptualization is introduced, including its core assumptions about the construction and storage of situated conceptualizations, the production of pattern completion inferences in relevant situations, and the implementation of these inferences via multimodal simulation. The broad applicability of the theory to many phenomena is reviewed, as is its ability to explain individual differences. The theory is then applied to social priming, showing that the theory provides a natural account of the diverse forms it takes. The theory also explains why social priming is difficult to define, why it often reflects modulating factors, and why it can be difficult to replicate. The importance of studying pattern completion inferences in the context of meaningful situated action receives emphasis.
Six studies explore the role of goal shielding in self-regulation:by examining how the activation of focal goals to which the individual is committed inhibits the accessibility, of alternative goals. Consistent evidence was found for such goal shielding, and a number of its moderators were identified: Individuals' level of commitment to the focal goal, their degree of anxiety and depression, their need for cognitive closure, and differences in their goal-related tenacity. Moreover, inhibition of alternative goals was found to be, more pronounced when they serve the same overarching purpose as the focal goal, but lessened when the alternative goals facilitate focal goal attainment. Finally; goal shielding was shown to have beneficial consequences for goal pursuit and attainment.
An increase in the package size of food has been shown to lead to an increase in energy intake from this food, the so-called pack size effect. Previous research has shown that providing diet-concerned individuals with a reminder, or prime, of their dieting goal can help them control their consumption. Here, we investigated if providing such a prime is also effective for reducing the magnitude of the pack size effect. We conducted two experiments in which the cover of a dieting magazine (Experiment 1) and diet-related commercials (Experiment 2) served as diet goal primes. Both experiments had a 2 (pack size: small vs. large) x 2 (prime: diet vs. control) x 2 (dietary restraint: high vs. low) between participants design. We measured expected consumption of four snack foods in Experiment 1 (N = 477), and actual consumption of M&M’s in Experiment 2 (N = 224). Results showed that the diet prime reduced the pack size effect for both restrained and unrestrained eaters in Experiment 1 and for restrained eaters only in Experiment 2. Although effect sizes were small, these findings suggest that a diet prime motivates restrained eaters to limit their consumption, and as a result the pack size has less influence on the amount consumed. We discuss limitations of this research as well as potential avenues for further research and theoretical and practical implications.
This study rested the idea of habits as a form of goal-directed automatic behavior. Expanding on the idea that habits are mentally represented as associations between goals and actions, it was proposed that goals are capable of activating the habitual action. More specific, when habits are established (e.g., frequent cycling to the university), the very activation of the goal to act (e.g., having to attend lectures at the university) automatically evokes the habitual response (e.g., bicycle). Indeed, it was tested and confirmed that, when behavior is habitual, behavioral responses are activated automatically. in addition, the results of 3 experiments indicated that (a) the automaticity in habits is conditional on the presence of an active goal (cf. goal-dependent automaticity; J. A. Bargh, 1989), supporting the idea that habits are mentally represented as goal-action links, and (b) the formation of implementation intentions (i.e., the creation of a strong mental link between a goal and action) may simulate goal-directed automaticity in habits.
A meta-analysis assessed the behavioral impact of and psychological processes associated with presenting words connected to an action or a goal representation. The average and distribution of 352 effect sizes (analyzed using fixed-effects and random-effects models) was obtained from 133 studies (84 reports) in which word primes were incidentally presented to participants, with a nonopposite control group, before measuring a behavioral dependent variable. Findings revealed a small behavioral priming effect ( dFE = 0.332, dRE = 0.352), which was robust across methodological procedures and only minimally biased by the publication of positive (vs. negative) results. Theory testing analyses indicated that more valued behavior or goal concepts (e.g., associated with important outcomes or values) were associated with stronger priming effects than were less valued behaviors. Furthermore, there was some evidence of persistence of goal effects over time. These results support the notion that goal activation contributes over and above perception-behavior in explaining priming effects. In summary, theorizing about the role of value and satisfaction in goal activation pointed to stronger effects of a behavior or goal concept on overt action. There was no evidence that expectancy (ease of achieving the goal) moderated priming effects. (PsycINFO Database Record
What was noted by E. J. Langer (1978) remains true today; that much of contemporary psychological research is based on the assumption that people are consciously and systematically processing incoming information in order to construe and interpret their world and to plan and engage in courses of action. As did E. J. Langer, the authors question this assumption. First, they review evidence that the ability to exercise such conscious, intentional control is actually quite limited, so that most of moment-to-moment psychological life must occur through nonconscious means if it is to occur at all. The authors then describe the different possible mechanisms that produce automatic, environmental control over these various phenomena and review evidence establishing both the existence of these mechanisms as well as their consequences for judgments, emotions, and behavior. Three major forms of automatic self-regulation are identified: an automatic effect of perception on action, automatic goal pursuit, and a continual automatic evaluation of one's experience. From the accumulating evidence, the authors conclude that these various nonconscious mental systems perform the lion's share of the self-regulatory burden, beneficently keeping the individual grounded in his or her current environment.