How do consumers revise their unreachable goals?

Aug 10, 2011

Most consumers spend their lives setting -- and revising -- goals. Authors of a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research have unveiled a new model that captures the dynamics of goal revision.

"People set goals to regulate their weight, their spending, their eating, their alcohol and cigarette consumption, and many other things," write authors Chen Wang (University of British Columbia) and Anirban Mukhopadhyay (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology). But just as soon as people set goals, they start readjusting them.

The authors explain this process by introducing Wally, who would like to lose some weight. Wally starts out by first establishing a goal to lose 20 pounds in the next month. But what if, a few days in, Wally realizes that losing 20 pounds is too difficult? Or what if his goal had been to lose five pounds and he loses it within two weeks? Both of these situations involve adjusting goals.

"As they strive toward their goals after setting them, people often recalibrate the original goal," the authors write. Such adjustments can be downward (when a goal is too far out of reach) or upward (when more challenge is desired.)

The authors investigate and explain the dynamics of goal revision. They created a model that incorporates four principles of goal revision. Monotonicity and diminishing sensitivity state that the amount of goal revision (in either direction) is proportional to the between the achievement and the in the previous time period. maximization and performance satisficing state that the of the goal (whether it comes from within or is external) determines whether people aim higher each time they set a goal and how responsive they are to failure and success.

"We believe this is a complete model of goal-directed behavior that encapsulates pursuit, achievement, failure, and abandonment," the authors write. "It can be used to help people set goals more effectively, and guide them toward reaching their goals. It can help infer why people set the goals they do, and can advise what goals are unreachable and should be disengaged from."

Explore further: The nostalgia effect: Do consumers spend more when thinking about the past?

More information: Chen Wang and Anirban Mukhopadhyay. "The Dynamics of Goal Revision: A Cybernetic Multi-Period Test-Operate-Test-Adjust-Loop (TOTAL) Model of Self-Regulation." Journal of Consumer Research: February 2012 (published online June 13, 2011). ejcr.org

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How to Set Achievable Wellness Goals

Dec 11, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Small decisions, made throughout the day, are reflected in overall health and wellness. These decisions help achieve countless goals every day. Wellness goals can be as small as “I’m going to get eight ...

Your view of personal goals can affect your relationships

Nov 16, 2010

whether it's to improve yourself or to do better than others—can affect whether you reach those goals. Different kinds of goals can also have distinct effects on your relationships with people around you, according to ...

Does seeing overweight people make us eat more?

Apr 19, 2011

Consumers will choose and eat more indulgent food after they see someone who is overweight—unless they consciously think about their health goals, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Recommended for you

Awarded a Pell Grant? Better double-check

8 hours ago

(AP)—Potentially tens of thousands of students awarded a Pell Grant or other need-based federal aid for the coming school year could find it taken away because of a mistake in filling out the form.

Perthites wanted for study on the Aussie lingo

16 hours ago

We all know that Australians speak English differently from the way it's spoken in the UK or the US, and many of us are aware that Perth people have a slightly different version of the language from, say, Melbournians - but ...

User comments : 0