The Control of the Unwanted

Peter M. Gollwitzer, Ute C. Boyer, Kathleen C. McCulloch

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Intentions to do more good and less bad are reliably associated with actual efforts in the intended directions. However, the link between intention and behavior is modest, largely due to the fact that people, despite having formed strong intentions, fail to act on them. Given this predicament, one wonders what people can do to facilitate the translation of intentions into behavior. This chapter argues that people should engage in a second act of willing by making if-then plans (implementation intentions) that specify how the (goal) intention is to be realized. It asserts that such plans produce automatic action control by intentionally delegating the control of one's goal-directed thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to specific situational cues. Thus, by forming implementation intentions, people can strategically switch from conscious and effortful control of their goal-directedbehaviors to being automatically controlled by selected situational cues. This type of automatic action control is strategic automaticity or instant habits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe New Unconscious
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199847488
ISBN (Print)9780195307696
StatePublished - Mar 22 2012


  • Automatic action control
  • Behavior
  • Feelings
  • Goal-directed behaviors
  • Implementation intentions
  • Instant habits
  • Intention
  • Strategic automaticity
  • Willing
  • situational cues

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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