From weighing to willing: Approaching a change decision through pre- or postdecisional mentation

Peter M. Gollwitzer, Heinz Heckhausen, Heike Ratajczak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In order to investigate what makes people feel closer to making a change decision, female undergraduates were asked to employ mental exercises on two unresolved personal problems, one being easy to implement (e.g., subscribing to a newspaper) and one being difficult to implement (e.g., breaking up with a boyfriend). In an exhaustive predecisional exercise subjects deliberated on the expectancies and values of making a change decision. Two less exhaustive predecisional exercises required that subjects imagine enjoying the incentives of having made a change decision either in a realistic or fantasy-like manner. In an exhaustive postdecisional exercise subjects had to come up with a plan on how to implement the decision not yet made and were to imagine themselves executing it. Two less exhaustive postdecisional exercises required subjects either to imagine the execution of one single implemental action, or to deliberate solely on various possible action steps. Both the exhaustive pre- and postdecisional exercises were found to be more effective in increasing subjects' perceived proximity to the act of a change decision than the respective nonexhaustive exercises. This effect was not less pronounced for difficult-to-implement problems than for easy-to-implement problems. In both exhaustive cases, the facilitative effect was not mediated by increases in outcome value or outcome expectancy. For the exhaustive postdecisional exercise, however, the effect was mediated by the formation of implemental intents. Results are interpreted in terms of a phase model of action which conceives of decisions as volitional acts that propel the individual from a deliberative state of mind (weighing) to an implemental state of mind (willing).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-65
Number of pages25
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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