Saturday, August 3, 2013

Increase Goal Attainment Pt. II - Power in Planning: Why Implementation Intentions Increase Gain Attainment

In the previous post we learned that forming implementation intentions, as opposed to mere goal intentions, increases the rate of goal attainment. Today we are going to explore why the planning of implementation intention aids goal achievement.

Transfer of Action Control from Goal Intention to Situational Cue
Implementation intentions aid goal achievement in two ways. First, forming implementation intentions increases the accessibility of the situational cue (the “if” or “when” part of the plan).[1] And second, an implementation intention automates the initiation of the planned response (the “then” part of the plan).[2] So to summarize,

…planning creates a strong cognitive association between a situational cue and the goal-directed behavior, so that this planned behavior may be triggered and initiated automatically when the cue signaling the specified situation is encountered.[3]

Therefore implementation intentions transfer action control of a specified behavior from the self to a situational cue.[4] The mechanism for initiating desired behavior is switched from a conscious effortful mode to one of stimulus cue and automatic response.[5] Therefore the cognitive effort required to initiate the task is preserved, allowing more cognitive resources available for engaging in the desired behavior.[6]
Implementation Intention Are Instant Habits
If/then or when/then plans control the behavioral response in an automatic manner more akin to habits than repeated conscious acts of will. Therefore implementation intentions are often called “instant habits.[7]” However unlike habits, implementation intentions are formed on the spot through an initial conscious act of will.[8] Thereafter, situational cues and automatic response control in the pursuit of one’s desired goal in a manner analogous to habits. 

Like this post? For more on increasing goal attainment see Increase Goal Attainment – Form Implementation Intentions Not Goal Intentions.

[1] Paschal Sheeran, Thomas L. Webb, and Peter Gollwitzer, The Interplay Between Goal Intentions and Implementation Intentions, Society for Personality and Social Psychology (2005), 88.
[2] Id.
[3] Esther K. Papies, Henk Aarts, Nanne K. de Vries, Planning is for doing: Implementation intentions go beyond the mere creation of goal-directed associations, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (2009), 1148.
[4] See Sheeran, supra note 1.
[5] Id.
[6] Id.
[7] Id. at 96.
[8] Id.

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