If-then planning helps school-aged children to ignore attractive distractions

Frank Wieber, Antje Von Suchodoletz, Tobias Heikamp, Gisela Trommsdorff, Peter M. Gollwitzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Can children improve shielding an ongoing task from distractions by if-then planning (i.e., by forming implementation intentions)? In an experimental study, the situational and personal limits of action control by distraction-inhibiting implementation intentions ("If a distraction comes up, then I will ignore it!") were tested by comparing them to simple goal intentions ("I will ignore distractions!"). Goal intentions were sufficient to successfully ignore distractions of low attractiveness. In the presence of moderately and highly attractive distractions, as well as a distraction presented out of the children's sight, however, only implementation intentions improved children's task shielding, as indicated by faster response times in an ongoing categorization task and shorter periods of looking at highly attractive distractions presented out of their field of vision. These findings held true regardless of the children's temperament and language competency. Implications for research on planning and developmental research on self-control are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-47
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2011


  • Development
  • Goal intention
  • Implementation intention
  • Resistance-to-temptation
  • Self-control
  • Task shielding
  • Temperament

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Psychology


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