Home » News » Are Backup Plans Helpful or Harmful?
Are Backup Plans Helpful or Harmful?

Are Backup Plans Helpful or Harmful?

Is it wise to invest time and energy into backup plans, or is it better to focus all of your energies on trying one way to achieve a goal?

In a new study, psychologists from the University of Zurich developed a theoretical model to study the use and usefulness of backup plans.

“Our model is based on a straightforward idea: Backup plans change the way you pursue your goal, even if you aren’t using them, and even if you never use them,” said Dr. Christopher Napolitano, first author of the paper.

“Sometimes, having a backup plan may boost your confidence,” said Dr. Alexandra Freund, co-author and chair of Developmental Psychology, “but other times, having a backup plan might distract you, or limit how hard you work using Plan A.”

How much you invest in developing a backup plan could determine its effect.

“Of course, it’s a good idea to spend some time and effort developing your backup plans, so you go into complex and important situations with a safety net in place,” said Napolitano.

However, according to Napolitano and Freund’s model, investing too much in making backup plans could create a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy where one is especially likely to use especially well-developed backup plans, and thereby undermine sufficient investment into succeeding with a Plan A.

Thus, perhaps the take home advice is that backup plans are helpful but do not spend too much time on a second case scenario as it could obfuscate obtainment of your primary goal.

Study findings will appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Source: University of Zurich/EurekAlert
Woman thinking about her future plans photo by shutterstock.

Are Backup Plans Helpful or Harmful?

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. (2018). Are Backup Plans Helpful or Harmful?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 2 Dec 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.