Effects of Deliberative and Implemental Mind-Sets on Illusion of Control

Peter M. Gollwitzer, Ronald F. Kinney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Subjects completed a contingency learning task that involved estimating the degree of personal control exerted over target light onset. In Experiment 1, subjects worked on two identical apparatuses in an attempt to turn on the target light by pressing or not pressing a button. Both apparatuses produced noncontingent onsets of the target light either frequently or infrequently. Half of the subjects were told to alternate working on the two apparatuses before deciding on which apparatus they would be more successful in achieving target light onset. The other half were asked to first decide on a particular sequence of alternation between the two apparatuses and then try to achieve as many target light onsets as possible. The former showed rather accurate control judgments for both frequent and infrequent light onset conditions, whereas the latter subjects showed accurate control judgments in the infrequent light onset condition but inaccurate illusionary judgments in the frequent light onset condition. In Experiment 2, the first experimental group was asked to complete a mental exercise that requested the deliberation of an unresolved personal problem, whereas a second experimental group was requested to plan the implementation of a personal goal. Subjects in both groups were then asked to find out how to turn on the target light on an apparatus that produced frequent noncontingent outcomes. A control group worked on this contingency task without any pretreatment. The control judgments of the first experimental group were much more accurate than those of the second experimental group or the control group. Overall findings suggest that people who are trying to make decisions develop a deliberative mind-set that allows for a realistic view of action-outcome expectancies, whereas people who try to act on a decision develop an implemental mind-set that promotes illusionary optimism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)531-542
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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