Although goal pursuit may often be a deliberate process started in motion by conscious will, recent research provides evidence that goals can also be automatically activated by the environment, and be pursued without awareness, intent, or control (for a review, see Chartrand & Bargh, in press). The dominant theory of nonconscious goal pursuit is Bargh's (1990) auto-motive model, which posits no differences between conscious and nonconscious goal pursuit, other than their source of activation. Once put into motion, the auto-motive model claims that conscious and nonconscious goals operate identically, producing similar effects (Bargh & Ferguson, 2000). The current application seeks to build a more nuanced understanding of nonconscious goal pursuit by exploring potential differences between nonconsciously and consciously activated goals. Specifically, the moderating rote of goal importance will be examined. lt is hypothesized to modulate the pursuit of conscious, but not nonconscious, goals. By definition, nonconscious goal activation removes the opportunity for an individual to choose to pursue an important goal, or to disengage from an unimportant goal. This key variable is predicted to play a significant role throughout all stages of the goal pursuit process, influencing initial goal pursuit (Hypothesis 1), affective responses to goal success and failure (Hypotheses 2 and 3), post-goal self-enhancement (Hypothesis 4), and subsequent performance (Hypothesis 5). Seven laboratory experiments will be conducted to test these hypotheses. In these studies, participants will be primed with a goal, given the same goal explicitly, or given no goal. This allows direct comparisons between conscious and nonconscious goal pursuit. Goal importance will also be manipulated in various ways. Finally, outcome variables will include (a) the extent to which participants pursue one goal over another, (b) participants' reported mood state upon succeeding or failing at a conscious or nonconscious goal, (c) their subsequent self-enhancement and stereotyping, and (d) their performance at a later task after succeeding or failing at an initial conscious or nonconscious goal. The findings will have wide-ranging implications, illuminating the ways in which nonconscious and conscious goal pursuit differ and affect our well-being, judgments of ourselves and others, goal striving, and performance.
|Chartrand, Tanya L; van Baaren, Rick B; Bargh, John A (2006) Linking automatic evaluation to mood and information processing style: consequences for experienced affect, impression formation, and stereotyping. J Exp Psychol Gen 135:70-7|
|Cheng, Clara Michelle; Chartrand, Tanya L (2003) Self-monitoring without awareness: using mimicry as a nonconscious affiliation strategy. J Pers Soc Psychol 85:1170-9|
|Lakin, Jessica L; Chartrand, Tanya L (2003) Using nonconscious behavioral mimicry to create affiliation and rapport. Psychol Sci 14:334-9|
|van Baaren, Rick B; Maddux, William W; Chartrand, Tanya L et al. (2003) It takes two to mimic: behavioral consequences of self-construals. J Pers Soc Psychol 84:1093-102|