Sunday, August 11, 2013

Implementation Intentions Pt. III - Mental Imagery Increases Goal Achievement

The previous posts on our theme of Goals have taught us that even with the proper motivation our intentions are often poor indicators of our actual behavior. In otherwords, there is little correlation between our intentions and our behavior. [1] We have learned that forming implementation intentions are a superior strategy for reducing our intention-behavior gap than “relying solely on motivation and willpower expressed in mere goal intentions.”[2] Today we embark on yet another strategy that is empirically shown to enhance goal achievement, mental imagery.

What is Mental Imagery?
In mental imagery, “individuals mentally mimic perceptual, motor, and emotional experiences, resulting in mental representations of the imagined objects, situations, emotions, and actions….[3]” Mental imagery enhances goal achievement because imagining an action activates the same areas in the brain as actually carrying out the same action[4]. To summarize, mental rehearsal of an action makes an individual more “behaviorally ready” to act[6].

Using Mental Imagery to Increase Goal Achievement of Your Implementation Intentions
Mental imagery and implementation intentions, although similar, are two distinct strategies.  Implementation intentions do not require visualization of the steps to be performed. Often implementation intentions consist of only creating verbal commitments such as “If/then” or “When/Where/How.” However, adding imagery by visualizing these commitments produces greater goal achievement[7]. This is because imagery-enriched implementations make the situational cues (the If, When, or Where) more cognitively assessable[8].

In conclusion, when used in conjunction implementation intentions and mental imagery produce increased rates of goal achievement than each could individually[9]. So do not just verbally form your implementation intentions, vividly visualize them as well!

[1]Barbel Knauper et al, Using Mental Imagery to Enhance the Effectiveness of Implementation Intentions, (2009), 181. In pertinent part. In pertinent part,
Meta-analyses of studies across a wide range of domains have shown that the average correlation between intentions and behaviour is only r=.53, that is, intentions on average account for only 28% of the variance in behavior.
[2] Id.
[3] Id. at 182.
[4] Id.
[5] Id.
[6] Id. at 183.
[7] Id. at 184.
[8] Id. at 182
[9] Id. at 184

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