The "more is less" effect in equifinal structures: Alternative means reduce the intensity and quality of motivation

Jocelyn J. Bélanger, Noa Schori-Eyal, Gennaro Pica, Arie W. Kruglanski, Marc André Lafrenière

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prior research in a multifinality context has demonstrated a dilution effect whereby the number of goals connected to a means is inversely connected to the perceived instrumentality of each means (Zhang, Fishbach, & Kruglanski, 2007). In the present research, six studies tested whether the dilution effect would also occur in an equifinality context where more than one means serves a single goal. The results corroborated this hypothesis. Presenting additional means (Study 1) and having participants self-generate multiple means (Study 2) led, as expected, to a reduction in perceived effectiveness of the means. The effect was stronger when the means within the set were seen as distinct rather than similar (Study 3). Increasing the strength of association between one means and the goal led to a reduction in the associative strength of the other means within the set and to a decrease of its perceived effectiveness (Study 4). The dilution effect was found to influence means selection and the magnitude of means engagement (Study 5). Lastly, presenting additional means to attain a goal reduced the perceived effectiveness of the means, which in turn reduced participants' intrinsic motivation to pursue it (Study 6). Overall, the present work demonstrates that the presence of alternative means to a goal reduces the quality and intensity of engagement in a given means. Broad implications of these findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-102
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015


  • Associative network
  • Dilution
  • Goal-systems
  • Self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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