Numbers and Units Affect Goal Pursuit Organization and Motivation

Christophe Lembregts, J Pena-Marin

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Goals are one of the most ubiquitous drivers of behavior. Despite the wealth of research on goal pursuit, less is known about how individuals organize their goal pursuit in the first place. This manuscript represents one of the first studies to provide insight into quantitative goal organization, proposing that the unit/numerical value in which a goal is described influences goal pursuit organization. Specifying a superordinate goal in units with larger numbers (e.g., studying for an examination for 120 min per week), rather than with smaller numbers (2 hr per week), leads to a goal pursuit structure that consists of more, but smaller subgoals. We also find that units with larger compared to smaller numbers tend to have a positive effect on goal motivation (i.e., more likely to start the goal earlier and to finish it). Finally, this positive effect on goal motivation is attenuated when consumers focus is on the number of subgoals left (rather than completed) while pursuing the overarching goal. We believe that changing units may be an easy-to-implement nudge for anyone (e.g., marketers, managers, public policymakers, behavioral therapists) who wants to increase the likelihood that individuals use a particular goal pursuit structure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-54
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Consumer Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

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Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors Journal of Consumer Psychlogy published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society for Consumer Psychology


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