Motivated perception for self-regulation: How visual experience serves and is served by goals

Shana Cole, Emily Balcetis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Meeting and managing goals can be difficult. Self-regulatory success often requires that people enact strategies to combat the challenges of goal pursuit. Whereas existing research and theory have focused primarily on cognitive processes that implicate shifts in judgments and decisions, we identify and document an additional process that aids self-regulation: motivated visual perception and attention. We argue that, because vision is primary, trusted, flexible, and effortless, motivated visual perception maintains a unique ability to serve self-regulation. We propose a novel theoretical perspective—Goal-Promoting Perception Theory—and review empirical work from our labs and others' that suggests motivated perception aids in three aspects of goal pursuit: goal planning, goal striving, and goal shielding. In addition, we articulate avenues for future research and outline testable hypotheses to strengthen the links between motivated perception and self-regulatory outcomes. Ultimately, this chapter draws together two largely distinct fields of study to suggest that people see the world in a biased manner to help them manage and advance goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Experimental Social Psychology
EditorsBertram Gawronski
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
Number of pages58
ISBN (Print)9780128245798
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Publication series

NameAdvances in Experimental Social Psychology
ISSN (Print)0065-2601


  • Goal pursuit
  • Motivation
  • Self-regulation
  • Visual perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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