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Motivation is a pivotal factor in psychology and beyond, yet it often doesn't receive the attention it deserves. My work in this field has spanned various topics, focusing primarily on two central strategies: Mental Contrasting and Implementation Intentions.

Mental Contrasting involves comparing a desired future with the current reality to stimulate motivation. It helps individuals identify potential obstacles and triggers problem-solving strategies to overcome them.

Implementation Intentions, on the other hand, are "if-then" plans that connect a specific situational cue with a response, which helps individuals act on their intentions more effectively.

In one series of studies, we examined the effects of implementation intentions on social projection—the tendency to believe others share our attitudes. Our findings suggested that individuals who form "if-then" plans were less likely to perceive others as sharing their attitudes, indicating that implementation intentions can regulate biases.

Currently, I'm pursuing several research projects. One investigates how extrinsic motives might impede creativity and higher-order cognitive tasks. Another project seeks to ascertain the actual motivational value of widely-used motivational quotes.


Relevant Publications

Gollwitzer, A., Schwörer, B., Stern, C., Gollwitzer, P. M., & Bargh, J. A. (2017). Up and down regulation of a highly automatic process: Implementation intentions can both increase and decrease social projection. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 70, 19-26.

Summary: Two studies found that implementation intentions, or "if-then" plans, can impact social projection - the tendency to assume others share our attitudes. Participants forming implementation intentions were less likely to perceive others as sharing their attitudes (Study 1, N=120). The findings were replicated in Study 2 (N=268), which also showed that implementation intentions can increase social projection. This suggests that implementation intentions can both decrease and intensify automatic processes, providing dynamic control over biases.

Duckworth, A. L., Kirby, T. A., Gollwitzer, A., & Oettingen, G. (2013). From fantasy to action: Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions (MCII) improves academic performance in children. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4, 745-753.

Summary: This intervention aimed to improve academic performance in economically disadvantaged children using a metacognitive self-regulatory strategy called Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions (MCII). In a study with 77 5th graders, those who learned MCII showed significant improvements in report card grades, attendance, and conduct compared to a control group. These findings suggest that MCII holds promise for enhancing academic performance in disadvantaged middle school children.

Gollwitzer, A., Oettingen, G., Kirby, T., Duckworth, A. L., & Mayer, D. (2011). Mental contrasting facilitates academic performance in school children. Motivation and Emotion, 35, 403-412.​

Summary: Two brief intervention studies examined the effects of teaching students to mentally contrast their desired future with their present reality. German elementary school children (N=49; Study 1) and US middle school children (N=63; Study 2) from low-income neighborhoods showed improved academic performance in learning foreign language vocabulary words. These findings have implications for enhancing academic outcomes in low-income areas.

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