When intentions go public: does social reality widen the intention-behavior gap?

Psychol Sci. 2009 May;20(5):612-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02336.x. Epub 2009 Apr 6.


Based on Lewinian goal theory in general and self-completion theory in particular, four experiments examined the implications of other people taking notice of one's identity-related behavioral intentions (e.g., the intention to read law periodicals regularly to reach the identity goal of becoming a lawyer). Identity-related behavioral intentions that had been noticed by other people were translated into action less intensively than those that had been ignored (Studies 1-3). This effect was evident in the field (persistent striving over 1 week's time; Study 1) and in the laboratory (jumping on opportunities to act; Studies 2 and 3), and it held among participants with strong but not weak commitment to the identity goal (Study 3). Study 4 showed, in addition, that when other people take notice of an individual's identity-related behavioral intention, this gives the individual a premature sense of possessing the aspired-to identity.

MeSH terms

  • Aspirations, Psychological*
  • Association Learning*
  • Female
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Intention*
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Identification*
  • Social Responsibility*