Metacognition in action: The importance of implementation intentions

Peter M. Gollwitzer, Bernd Schaal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When people furnish their goal intentions ("I intend to attain the goal x!") with implementation intentions ("I will initiate the goal-directed response y when situation z arises!"), the initiation of goal-directed responses becomes automatized. As this type of automaticity stems from a single act of will, it is referred to as strategic automaticity. We report various studies demonstrating that strategic automaticity leads to immediate and efficient responding, which does not need a conscious intent. In addition, the situational cues specified in implementation intentions seem to be easily detected and readily attended to. Further research indicates that the strategic automaticity induced by implementation intentions also helps resist temptations and fight bad habits. Following Nelson's (1996; Nelson & Narens, 1994) model of metacognition, we suggest that goal intentions and, in particular, implementation intentions are important components of the metacognitive control of action geared toward its initiation, continuation, and termination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)124-136
Number of pages13
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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