Working for the Best or Bracing for the Worst? Approach and Avoidance Motivation in Planning
Journal article, Peer reviewed
MetadataShow full item record
Original versionCollabra: Psychology. 2021, 7(1), 21173 10.1525/collabra.21173
Even though planning is generally helpful in goal pursuit, people do not always choose to plan. The inclination to plan might depend on whether we focus on what we seek to approach or what we seek to avoid. In two pre-registered experiments, we tested the relative effect of approach versus avoidance motivation on willingness to plan (total N=1349). With outcome framing as the experimental manipulation, participants were randomly assigned to either an approach or an avoidance condition, and then indicated their willingness to plan their study activities before an upcoming exam. Contrary to predictions, the results showed no significant difference in willingness to plan depending on condition in either experiment. There was mixed support for the importance of anticipated affect and perceived distance as process mechanisms: While Experiment 1 showed that participants who experienced the day of the exam as closer in time were more willing to plan their study preparations (regardless of condition), we found no mediational effects through perceived distance or anticipated affect. In Experiment 2, anticipated affect intensity mediated the association between motivation and willingness to plan, where participants induced to approach motivation predicted greater intensity of anticipated affect upon achieving their goals, and thus were more willing to plan, than participants induced to avoidance motivation. However, such mediational effects without a main effect remain ambiguous and should be interpreted with caution. Seen as a whole, the results suggest that the effect of different motivation types on the willingness to plan may be different than previously thought: They may not influence this aspect of goal striving.