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Abstract Thoughts Help Goal Attainment

Abstract Thoughts Help Goal AttainmentA new study suggests people who focus on how to achieve a goal may have a harder time achieving their aims than people who think abstractly about why they want to do something.

“Imagine a person who has a goal to save money. The person forms a plan to save money by purchasing fewer clothing items at the mall,” University of Chicago researchers write in the study.

“We investigate how this plan influences the person’s response to other money-saving opportunities. For example, would the person be more likely to order a cheaper meal at a restaurant, avoid making an impulse purchase, or combine errands to save money on gas?”

The study is found in the Journal of Consumer Research.

The authors found that when people focus on concrete aspects of how they want to achieve goals, they become more closed-minded and less likely to take advantage of opportunities that fall outside their plans.

And, in contrast, people who focus on the why are more likely to consider out-of-plan opportunities to achieve their goals.

The authors conducted four experiments to examine consumer behavior when it came to the goal of saving money. In one study, people were asked to list a specific plan to save money, whereas others were not asked to plan.

Then some people were asked to focus on why they wanted to save money. Subsequently, all participants were given the opportunity to buy candy.

Consumers who were thinking concretely and formed a specific plan were less able to avoid the candy purchase then those who had not formed a plan. However, among the abstract thinkers, those who had formed a plan were better able to avoid the candy purchase.

“Planning is more effective when people think abstractly, keep an open mind, and remind themselves of why they want to achieve a goal,” the authors write.

“This strategy is especially effective when the plan turns out to be infeasible (cheaper restaurant is too far away, gym is closed today for a holiday) or when other goal-directed activities become available (walk instead of taking a cab, eat a healthier meal).”

Source: University of Chicago

Abstract Thoughts Help Goal Attainment

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Abstract Thoughts Help Goal Attainment. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 26, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/05/19/abstract-thoughts-help-goal-attainment/13934.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.