6 Sharing Intentions & Motivation

Based on Research by Peter M. Gollwitzer, Ph.D. Psychology Science Minute written by Juanita Baker, Ph.D.

Psychology Science Minute brought to you by the School of Psychology at Florida Institute of Technology, I’m Dr. Sarah Arnett.

If I make a new year’s resolution to write a paper, lose weight, or stop smoking, will announcing my intention to my friends and colleagues encourage me to meet my goals?  Would sharing my goals with others pressure me to complete my goal in order to avoid feeling guilty in front of my friends?

Certainly studies show that the stronger the intention, the more likely an act will be carried out.  However, Peter Gollwitzer, and colleagues have studied different aspects of publically revealing one’s intentions and found that if they are revealed, then people are less likely to work towards them.  This means that when you share a goal you get the same satisfaction as if you actually achieved it giving you a “premature sense of completeness.”

So the simple matter of telling others your general intentions especially before you’ve started on a specific goal and shown commitment and success, may undermine your goal completely. So when taking on a new goal announce it as commitment instead of an accomplishment like “I want to get back into the gym so I can fit into my skinny jeans again. Could you get after me if I don’t?”

That’s your Florida Tech Psychology Science Minute. I’m Dr. Sarah Arnett.


Fishbach, A., & Dhar, R. (2005). Goals as excuses or guides: The liberating effect of perceived goal progress on choice. Journal of Consumer Research, 32, 370–377.

Gollwitzer, P.M. (1999). Implementation intentions: Strong effects of simple plans. American Psychologist, 54, 493–503.

Gollwitzer, P.M., & Sheeran, P. (2006). Implementation intentions and goal achievement: A meta-analysis of effects and processes. In M.P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology. (Vol. 38, pp. 69–119). San Diego, CA: Elsevier.

Gollwitzer, P. M., Sheeran, P., Michalski, V., & Seifert, A. E. (2009). When intentions go public: Does social reality widen the intention-behavior gap? Psychological Science, 20, 612-618.

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