Making sense of one's actions in an explanatory vacuum: The interpretation of nonconscious goal striving

Elizabeth J. Parks-Stamm, Gabriele Oettingen, Peter M. Gollwitzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Previous research has found that performing norm-violating behaviors based on a nonconsciously-activated goal elicits negative affect (Oettingen, Grant, Smith, Skinner, & Gollwitzer, 2006). In the present research we explored whether this negative affect is eliminated when an earlier conscious goal with congruent behavioral effects can be used to explain the norm-violating behavior. Our findings suggest that applicable conscious goals are indeed used to interpret nonconsciously-activated goal striving (Study 1), and that this interpretation occurs reflexively rather than reflectively (Study 2), with implications for interpersonal behavior (Study 3). The role of social norms, applicable conscious goals, and negative affect in the interpretation of nonconscious goal pursuit is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)531-542
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume46
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2010

Keywords

  • Automatic
  • Explanatory vacuum
  • Nonconscious goals
  • Social norms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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