Pre- versus postdecisional deliberation and goal commitment: The positive effects of defensiveness

Gergana Y. Nenkov, Peter M. Gollwitzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Building on Gollwitzer's (1990) mindset theory of action phases, it is proposed that the effects of assigned balanced deliberation on subsequent goal commitment are moderated by people's pre- versus postdecisional status. A balanced deliberation and impartial assessment of pros and cons is expected to reduce goal commitment in predecisional individuals, whereas a distortion of the assigned balanced deliberation and a partial focus on the pros of goal pursuit should defend and strengthen goal commitment in postdecisional individuals. Indeed, in Study 1, assigned deliberation on the pros and cons of pursuing a focal goal promoted stronger reported goal commitment in participants who had decided to pursue this goal, but reduced goal commitment for people who had not yet made such a decision. In Study 2, the same pattern of results emerged when goal commitment was indicated by planning to act on the goal. Study 3 replicated findings using a different decision status manipulation and goal persistence as a measure of commitment. Finally, results of Study 4 suggested that the increase in commitment produced by defensive postdecisional deliberation is consequential as it was found to drive real-life behavior by promoting goal-directed action. Moreover, Studies 2, 3, and 4 explored the underlying process and provided evidence that it is the partial focus on the pros of goal pursuit, meant to defend existing goal commitment, that drives postdecisional deliberation's strengthening effects on goal commitment. Implications for mindset theory, goal commitment theory, and decision making are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-121
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Defensiveness
  • Deliberation
  • Goal commitment
  • Postdecision action phase
  • Predecision action phase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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