Motives and Goals. Fishbach, Toure-Tillery. Book chapter, NOBA 2013.


  1. A goal is a cognitive representation of a desired state <a couple of references>
  2. Motivation, on the other hand, is “… the psychological driving force that enables action in the pursuit of that goal (Lewin 1935).”
  3. Goals can be very concrete ex/walk on mars, or more abstract or vaguely defined and may never be concretely completed ex/eat healthy food
  4. Motivation can be extrinsic or intrinsic, depend on personality, cues can prime goals
    1. Activation of motivation can be conscious or nonconscious
  5. Goal commitment derives from the expected utility of undertaking the goal (goodness of success, likelyhood of success)
  6. “In memory, goals are organized in associative networks, which connect each goal to corresponding means (i.e., activities or objects that contribute to goal attainment …).”
    1. Being fit may be associated with spending time with someone who you exercise with
  7. “Soon after goal priming, the motivation to act on a goal peaks, and then slowly declines after some delay, as the person moves away from the prime or after she pursues the goal (…)”
  8. Activation of goal and motivation levels have impact on many aspects of behavior, and even perception
  9. Self regulation split into two phases:
    1. Deliberative: deciding what goals to undertake.  Encourages consideration of high-level options, but also inhibits action
    2. Implemental: “planning specific actions related to the selected goal.”  In this stage there is a focus on achieving a goal “…through immediate action…” but can lead to people being overly-optimistic about costs in achieving goal
  10. Two orientations during pursuit of goal are:
    1. Prevention: focus on safety, “views goals as ‘oughts'” (risk averse)
    2. Promotion: views goals as “ideals,” more aspirational
  11. Cybernetic process of self-regulation:
    1. “Self-regulation depends on feelings that arise from comparing actual progress to expected progress. During goal pursuit, an individual calculates the discrepancy between her current state (i.e., all goal-related action completed so far) and her desired end state, and then directs action toward closing that gap (Miller, Galanter, & Pribram, 1960; Powers, 1973).” <Read these>
    2. Is a sort of self-regulating process.  Making faster than expected progress leads to positive feelings and “coasting,” whereas slower than expected progress leads to negative feelings and harder work to achieve goal <I suppose the point being you end up finishing pretty close when you expected to regardless of what happened in the interim because of this form of regulation>
  12. Completing actions influences self-regulation:
    1. Commitment: based on the expected utility of achieving goal
    2. Progress: basically s’-s
  13. When previous actions are interpreted as a sign of commitment to goal, they tend to focus more energy on that goal.  On the other hand, when it is interpreted as progress, generally less effort is placed on achieving the goal it is related to (and may focus on other goals)
  14. Self-control is necessary when achieving two goals conflict (often in terms of goals where one is near-term and one is long-term but more important)
    1. These conflicts must be conscious before self-control is used to deal with them
  15. Discussion of ego-depletion (self-control as limited resource) <but I don’t believe in this as it is often described>
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