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human motivation article notes

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McGill University
PSYC 471
Richard Koestner

Motivation Article 3: Implementation Intentions When people encounter problems in translating their goals into action (e3x: failing to get started, becoming distracted, or falling into bad habits), they may strategically call on automatic processes in an attempt to secure goal attainment. This can be achieved by plans in the form of implementation intentions that link anticipated critical situations to goal-directed responses (“whenever situation x arises, I will initiate the goal-directed response y”). Implementation intentions delegate the control of goal-directed responses to anticipated situational cues, which (when encountered) elicit these responses automatically. Studies based on Ajzen’s theory of planned behaviour demonstrate that strong intentions are reliably observed to be realized more often than weak intentions. However, the correlations between intentions and behaviour are modest; intentions account for only 20% to 30% of the variance in behaviour. As well, the strength of the intention-behaviour relation varies drastically with the type of behaviour that is specified, and people’s past behaviour commonly turns out to be a better predictor than their intentions. Forming good intentions or setting goals is understood as committing oneself to reaching desired outcomes or to performing desired behaviours. But even if people make goal commitments, the distance between goal setting and goal attainment is often long. Successful goal attainment requires that problems associated with gett8ing started and persisting until the goal is reached are effectively solved. How can goals, once set, be made more effective? 1) It matters how people frame their good intentions or goals. Better performances are observed when people set themselves challenging, specific goals as compared with challenging but vague goals. This goal-specificity effect is based on feedback and self-monitoring advantages, as is also true for the goal-proximity effect (proximal goals lead to better performances than distal goals). Goal attainment is also more likely when people frame their good intentions as learning goals rather than performance goals or when they frame their intentions as promotion goals (focusing on the presence or absence of positive outcomes) rather than prevention goals (focusing on the presence or absence of negative outcomes). 2) Successful goal pursuit also depends on self-regulatory skills in initiating goal-directed behaviours and bringing them to a successful ending. It matters whether one can shield an ongoing goal pursuit from distractions (transcendence). How a person copes with conflicting goals is also important: integrations are the most effective. Preparing Goal Pursuits Goals can be attained in many different ways. This flexibility is a blessing when people have to cope with failures on their way to goal attainment, because they can usually switch to alternative routes. However, this flexibility of goal pursuit is a curse when it comes to swiftly acting on one’s goals, because people have to decide how. In-situation decisions primarily scrutinize the suitability of the present situation and the behaviours appropriate to the present situation. Anticipative decisions, to the contrary, are less restricted because they allow for incorporation of the whole array of possible opportunities and instrumental behaviours. A person thus can select the most effective behaviours and the most suitable opportunities. When goal pursuit is planned, goal-directed behaviours can be initiated immediately once a relevant situation is encountered. Because effortful deliberations in situ are no longer required, action initiation should be efficient in the sense of demanding few cognitive resources. Action initiation may even occur without a conscious intent. This automatization of goal implementation through predeciding, however, not only should be useful to the swift seizing of good opportunities, but should also help a person protect goal pursuit from tempting distractions, bad habits or competing goals. Goal Intentions Vs. Implementation Intentions Gollwitzer has conceptualized the predeciding of the when, where and how of goal implementation in terms of forming implementation intentions that are distinguished from goal intentions. Goal intentions specify a certain end point that may be either a desired performance or an outcome. Goal intentions have the structure: “I intend to reach x.” By forming goal intentions, people translate their noncommittal desires into binding goals. Implementation intentions are subordinate to goal intentions and specify the when, where and how of responses leading to goal attainment. They have the structure of “When situation x arises, I will perform response y,” and thus link anticipated opportunities with goal-directed responses. Implementation intentions serve the purpose of promoting the attainment of the goal specified in the goal intention. By forming implementation intentions, people can strategically switch from conscious and effortful control of their goal-directed behaviours to being automatically controlled by selected situational cues. Implementation Intentions and Action Initiation Problems of goal attainment are manifold. One set of problems involves getting started. When people are highly absorbed in an ongoing activity, wrapped up in ruminations, gripped by an intense emotional experience, or simply tired, chances are high that they will not seize an available opportunity to act on their goals, simply because the opportunity fails to attract attention; attention is focused on other things. Even when people search for appropriate opportunities in a given situational context, they may not detect them. The initiation of goal-directed actions becomes a problem when people let opportunities that present themselves slip them by. Implementation intentions should be a very effective self-regulatory strategy when it comes to alleviating problems of getting started on one’s goals. Starting to strive for a goal facilitates goal completion. When action initiation is easy to begin with, automatization through implementation intentions has a strong facilitating effect when action initiation in difficult. Implementation intentions promote goal attainment by helping people get started. Implementation Intentions and Unpleasant Goal Pursuits Data suggests that strong goal intentions produce drastic changes in behaviour only when they are accompanied by implementation intentions. Implementation Intention Effects in Critical Populations Drug addicts,
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