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The Psychology of Action - Gollwitzer

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The Psychology of Action - Gollwitzer
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11/29/14 7:22 PM
The Psychology of Action - Peter Gollwitzer

This book is excellent and covers the psychology of different parts of actions and goal seeking. It has many authors for each chapter based on science experiments.

Some of it is obvious and some of it is counter-intuitive especially with the way motivation is sold in most books and in motivational speeches. They actually decrease motivation precisely because of how they make us feel.

Different goals:
  • Theories often ignore “why” a goal is pursued.
  • The “what” is the content of goals. The “what” affects consequences. A pro & con analysis would be good here.
  • Whether goals are internally motivated or externally motivated they have differing results on personality.
  • Benefits of autonomy:
    • Greater creativity
    • Greater cognitive flexibility & depth of processing
    • Higher self-esteem
    • Positive emotional tone
    • Greater satisfaction & trust
    • Better physical & psychological well-being
  • Level of motivation is less from an external pressure.
  • When people view external rewards as valuable it can seem internally produced.
  • Even uninteresting tasks improve in quality when autonomy was supported externally.
External pressures (Stress descreases as there is more integration):
  • External regulation – External rewards & punishments.
  • Introjected regulation – Doing things based on self-esteem.
  • Identified regulation – Accepting the goal’s value as personally valuable & meaningful.
  • Integrated regulation – The whole self accords with the external values.
Psychological needs:
  • Autonomy
  • Competence
  • Relatedness with other people
  • When these needs are not met the goals will likely be superficial external validations like money, fame, or good looks to get attention from other people.
Intrinsic goals:
  • Personal growth
  • Satisfying relationships
  • Contributing to one’s community
  • If people pursued money too much they lost vitality, and gained anxiety, depression, and narcissism. 
  • Parenting style had a huge effect on children’s goals. Cold, controlled parenting vs. Autonomy parenting had predictable results.
Moods affecting goals:

Obvious: Pleasant circumstances = positive emotions; Unpleasant circumstances = negative emotions
Emotions are an indicator of what we need to respond to.
Different strategies:
Trial and Error strategies are used more often with positive moods, and more systematic strategies are used for neutral and negative moods more so.
  • Sad people can criticize in more detail & elated people are more credulous.
  • Sad people use more pro & con analysis when deciding to help people or not.
  • Elated people help people more often even without a pro & con analysis.
  • Clinically depressed people lose all advantages that sad people attain.
  • Skills offset some of the downsides of positive moods.
  • Elated moods could differentiate between strong or weak arguments when specifically told to.
  • People with elated moods were more open to persuasion to use a systematic style, than sad people to use a trial & error style.
  • Individuals may use their current feelings as a basis of judgment unless it's called into question.
  • Moods can effect the steps in the action sequence.
Willpower:
  • Reminding oneself of the benefits of delayed gratification helps a person wait.
  • Even better was to distract oneself while waiting.
  • Imagining representations as real made waiting worse, due to hot vs. cold features. Eg. A cold feature is a concept of a cookie. A hot feature would be imagining the enjoyable experiences of chewing on a cookie.
  • Intentions to avoid distractions help.
  • Repression of the distraction did worse than task-facilitating plans.
  • Key: Imagining rewards makes it more difficult while we’re passive but is okay when we know we are required to perform active instrumental behaviors to get the reward.
Mental Simulation:
  • Mental simulations make events seem real or true.
  • Mental simulations yield plans by imagining how events are going to take place.
  • Imagining positive and negative events have emotional consequences especially when they are detailed and vivid.
  • Simulations enhance the probability of an action occurring, contain an implicit plan, and invoke specific emotions to motivate the action.
  • Simulations work even better with the process in mind, but reminders of the goal work in conjunction with the process.
  • Mental simulation can often be a coping mechanism.
  • Those thinking about the end goal seem more motivated but the process-oriented do more work and get more results.
  • Committing to implementation intentions is in result to process simulation. Eg. Implementation Intentions = "If this happens I will do this"
  • There is implications in habitual processing of intentions Eg. Thoughts in the shower, driving to work, going to an appointment, and taking a nap.
  • Positive fantasies need high expectations of success to turn into a goal and negative reflections on the necessity of acting. Expectations are a belief that a goal can be attained. Positive fantasy is imagining as if is happening or already happened.
  • Planning does help with motivation, and especially helps with ruminative people. Action people ward off distractions much easier.
  • Goals have to have a personal meaning to add to a sense of subjective well-being.
  • Intentions are affected by attitude which includes basic like or dislike of something, societal pressures to act a certain way, and the perceived ability to act.
  • Having implementation intentions in steps really helps with readying the person, mobilizing the action, and then finishing the task. It helps with distractions, and unrealistic doubts.
  • In dealing with distractions telling yourself “When [this distraction happens], I will ignore it.” Saying "I will ignore it" for unknown reasons did better than saying "I will have a goal of staying with the work" or "I will stay on task."
So for better goal orientation:
  • Find goals that conform to your internal values as best as you can.
  • Make sure the attitude is positive. If the goal is based on your internal values it should be easier.
  • Positive attitudes are helped by a pro & con analysis plus realistic expectations that the goal can be achieved, based on the pro & con data.
  • Make realistic plans and use implementation intentions to deal with distractions.
  • Delay gratification by first using cold features for your imagination of the goal and distract yourself with useful work.
  • Simulate in your imagination the process towards the goal before you start a task. Too much positive goal fantasies create short-term motivation that decreases long-term motivation and real work output. So keep goals to yourself and don't celebrate them like they've happened already.
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHopJHSlVo4
  • It would make sense to simulate the hot details of the process to counter all the other juicy distractions.
  • Intentions are strongest when you think you can do the task, society pressures you to do it, and if the attitude is positive. It's hard to get this balanced but that's what it is.

RE: The Psychology of Action - Gollwitzer
Answer
1/10/16 12:55 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Nice.  Implementation intentions: Strong effects of simple plans (Gollwitzer, 1999) is also a good read in the context of setting an intention at the start of a sit.  Here's the abstract:

When people encounter problems in translating their goals into action (e.g., failing to get started, becoming distracted, or falling into bad habits), they may strategically call on automatic processes in an attempt to secure goal attainment. This can be achieved by plans in the form of implementation intentions that link anticipated critical situations to goal-directed responses ("Whenever situation x arises, I will initiate the goal-directed response y!!"). Implementation intentions delegate the control of goal-directed responses to anticipated situational cues, which (when actually encountered) elicit these responses automatically. A program of research demonstrates that implementation intentions further the attainment of goals, and it reveals the underlying processes.

RE: The Psychology of Action - Gollwitzer
Answer
1/11/16 11:09 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Richard,

Thanks for taking the time to put together this synopsis. Very helpful.

-Kyle

RE: The Psychology of Action - Gollwitzer
Answer
1/11/16 6:43 PM as a reply to Incandescent Flower.
Cue cards can be used for implementation intentions. Question on one side: "When this happens" Answer on the otherside "I'll do this."