Asking "why" helps action control by goals but not plans

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The present research investigated whether asking “why” concerning the pursuit of one goal can affect the subsequent pursuit of a previously chosen goal. Asking “why” should activate cognitive procedures involving deliberation over the pros and cons of a goal (why-mindset). This mode of thinking should spill over to subsequently pursued goals, with different consequences for goal striving guided by goal intentions and for goal striving guided by implementation intentions (if-then plans). As goal intentions guide behavior by effortful top-down action control processes motivated by the expected value of the desired outcomes, being in a why-mindset should induce defensive postdecisional deliberation and thereby promote goal pursuit. In contrast, implementation intentions guide behavior by automatic bottom-up action control processes triggered by the specified situational cues; in this case, being in a why-mindset should eliminate the effects implementation intentions have on goal pursuit. Performance on a handgrip self-control task (Study 1) as well as on a dual-task (simultaneous go/no-go task and tracking tasks; Study 2) supported these predictions: why-mindsets reinforced goal intention effects and impaired implementation intention effects on handgrip and dual-task performance. Implications for effective goal striving are discussed.

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ISO 690WIEBER, Frank, Lisa A. SEZER, Peter M. GOLLWITZER, 2013. Asking "why" helps action control by goals but not plans. In: Motivation and Emotion. 2013, 38(1), pp. 65-78. ISSN 0146-7239. eISSN 1573-6644. Available under: doi: 10.1007/s11031-013-9364-3
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@article{Wieber2013Askin-26276,
  year={2013},
  doi={10.1007/s11031-013-9364-3},
  title={Asking "why" helps action control by goals but not plans},
  number={1},
  volume={38},
  issn={0146-7239},
  journal={Motivation and Emotion},
  pages={65--78},
  author={Wieber, Frank and Sezer, Lisa A. and Gollwitzer, Peter M.}
}
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